The Friday after Thanksgiving was a beautiful southern California fall day - bright blue skies and lots of sun so we took advantage of the nice weather to drive up the coast to Newport beach for lunch at the newish Pizzeria Mozza. We had made a reservation for 1:30 p.m. thinking that by that time, the restaurant would be emptying out but we were wrong. We arrived at 1:00 and the place was packed and still had to wait the half hour before an outdoor table was found for our group of six.
Pizzeria Mozza is the creation of the foodie trio of Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton and Joseph Bastianich. The restaurant is casual with wooden tables covered in brown paper place mats and set with a simple paper napkin and cutlery. The restaurant is not that big with a wine bar and counter near the entrance and another counter at the far end overlooking the wood-burning pizza oven. There is also a small covered outdoor terrace with a few tables set up near an iron-gate overlooking the busy Pacific Coast highway. As we had waited awhile, we had the chance to study the menu and were ready to order as soon as we were seated.
For starters, we shared several appetizers. From the Antipasti section of the limited lunch menu, we chose two hot appetizers: the bone marrow al forno (oven roasted split bone marrow served with garlic flavored olive oil, sea salt and crust bread) and the crispy goat cheese with Umbrian lentils (a slab of breaded and fried goat cheese on top of warm lentils. The bone marrow was delicious - hot bone marrow on toast with just a sprinkling of sea salt was fantastic. The lentils were tomatoey and soft and perfect with the crispy gooey mild goat's cheese.
From the Insalate section, we had the namesake Mozza caprese: mozzarella and vine-ripened tomatoes with crusty toasted olive-oil rubbed ciabatta. This salad has been overdone at all sorts of restaurants but it was the only time that I tasted what the big deal was with the classic Italian caprese salad. The mozzarella was incredibly fresh, creamy and delicious just smeared on top of the crunchy ciabatta - a true example of when fresh quality ingredients are all one needs for an amazing dish and probably why the restaurant is named after this deceptively salad.
The appetizers were followed by five pizzas to share amongst six (five adults and 1 child): the simple no-cheese tomato, olive oil and Sicilian oregano pizza; a Napolitana which is just a Margherita (tomato mozzarella and and basil pizza) with the added salty zing of olives, anchovies, chiles and fried capers; the all-meat pizza topped with bacon, salame, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato and mozzarella; the simpler Salume Salame pizza (fancy version of pepperoni) with tomato and mozzarella and finally the Bianca, an all cheese pizza of Fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere topped with crispy sage. The pizza crust was crisp and bubbled up on the edges and somehow the toppings didn't make the pizza all gooey and soggy. All the pizzas were very good but it was the Napolitana I loved, again a classic with just a few more simple ingredients to make it different yet delicious.
P.D. I was in Singapore last week and tried to take my husband and children to dinner at Pizzeria Mozza at the Marina Bay Sands mall. We hadn't reserved a table and the only seats they had for walk-ins were at the bar which was going to be difficult with the kids so we had dinner elsewhere.
800 West Coast Highway
(a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway)
Newport beach CA 92663
Telephone: +1 949 945 1126
*Open for lunch and dinner daily. Reservations recommended if you don't want to wait.
*Pizzeria Mozza is also in Los Angeles and in Singapore