Pizzeria Mozza (Newport Beach, CA)

Pizzeria Mozza
800 W Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Dining date: 5/5/13

mozza exterior

After running 13.1 miles in the OC half marathon, a number of options were debated in which to offset our caloric deficit. Oxtail pho and Brodard’s famous nem nuong spring rolls were leading contenders, as well as dumplings and other comforting Asian soup noodles. However, in the end, Newport Beach’s own location of one of LA’s favorite pizzerias was the choice.

Much has been written about Pizzeria Mozza and its original location on Melrose & Highland in LA continues to be very popular. Opened in 2011, it’s actually the third location of the mini-chain, with the second being in Singapore.

Decor and menu are both very similar to the original, with the latter featuring a bunch of antipasti, a handful of meat, salad and panini dishes, and about a dozen pizzas.

mozza interior

oven

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Mario Batali @ Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica, CA)

Mario Batali at the Beach
Coast Restaurant
Shutters on the Beach
1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Dining date: 1/28/12

menu

Mario Batali needs no introduction. As one of the most famous chefs in the country, I’m sure he draws crowds whenever he’s doing a food event. When I heard he would be hosting a lunch in Coast Restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, my interest was piqued. When I heard it would be three courses (with wine pairing) for a seemingly-reasonable $65 per head, I jumped at the chance.

Batali was in town promoting his cookbook and this was one of his stops. The lunch was held at Coast Restaurant within Shutters on the Beach, a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica. It was a really nice day, and the window-covered restaurant maximized this to great effect. We dined on the sunlight patio, literally beach-side. Perfect!

shutters

Before the first plate was served, some appetizers made their rounds in the dining area. There were actually 5 different ones to choose from, but only 3 made it to our table (we didn’t get the white bean alla toscana or arancini with bolognese). Boo.

Fried squash blossoms with ricotta

squash blossoms

Prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks

prosciutto breadsticks

Roasted baby peppers stuffed with tuna

peppers with tuna

The fried squash blossoms were very familiar from trips to Pizzeria Mozza, and were just what I expected. Fried just right, they were light, crispy and creamy. The breadsticks were nice too, with the meaty proscuitto working in tandem with the crunchy breadstick. Finally, the pepper stuffed with tuna was perhaps the most interesting of all – the sweetness of the roasted pepper was a nice complement to the meaty tuna.

As the appetizers made their way around, so did the drinks. Prosecco and bellinis found their way onto our table time and time (and time and time) again.

Batali Bellini
Flor Prosecco NV

wine1

Patio seating on a nice day? Check. Nonstop sparkling wine? Check. We had the ingredients for quite an afternoon. After about half an hour of passed appetizers, we were served the first course.

Rabe, Potato and Ricotta Ravioli
Bastianich Friuliano “Adriatico” 2009

ravioli

wine2

Al dente pasta was filled with a creamy potato and ricotta filling, bathed in a sage butter sauce. I’m a sucker for fresh pasta, and these ravioli didn’t disappoint. The plating was surprisingly inconsistent though, with one person getting only two ravioli (while the others got three), as well as the sage garnish missing on one plate.

Next we were served the main course with a side dish, as well as a duo of wine pairings.

Braised Chicken with Sweet Onions and Parmigiano
Spaghetti Squash with Soft Herbs and Robiola

chicken

squash

La Mozza Perazzi 2009
Bastianich Vespa Bianco 2008

wine3

The chicken was braised then seared, giving the skin a bit of crispiness. I thought the thighs were perfectly cooked, tender and fairly juicy; however, the sauce of red onion and red wine didn’t have a lot of flavor. It was topped with fried diced pancetta (!) which added a slightly pork flavor with a delightful crunch. Some crusty bread was placed on the bottom to soak up any juices/sauce, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Finally, the squash side was a nice touch – it was sweet and sort of creamy, complemented by a creamy cheese.

I liked that there was a duo of wines to pair, one red and one white; while very different, they both paired with the chicken pretty well. I enjoyed both but preferred the red.

Orange-Scented Cannoli
Flor Prosecco Rosé NV

cannoli

wine4

Lastly, we were served dessert. The cannoli came out about as expected, with its light, orange-accented cream and crispy shell. Simple and satisfying.

Batali was in the restaurant the whole time, spending most of it mingling with guests. He made it a point to visit each table for a brief chat, and stayed after the meal to sign anything and everything people brought.

batali4

batali3

The lunch exceeded expectations and was a lot of fun. The food was good and the alcohol plentiful, however the interaction with Batali is what made this meal memorable. It was a pretty unique experience, and I thought the $65 was very reasonable given everything we ate/drank (as well as the Batali factor). I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a winter day in SoCal.

beach2
beach1