A Review of Pizzeria Mozza, San Diego
by Linda Stewart
When three highly prestigious members of the culinary world join forces to open a restaurant, expectations run high. Pizzeria Mozza, created by Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich, did not disappoint. In fact, this innovative and extraordinary fare is among some of the best food I have ever tasted. The San Diego location in the historic Headquarters, near Seaport Village, is the newest member of the family, with other restaurants in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, and Singapore.
At the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association’s spring press lunch, Pizzeria Mozza’s Sommelier, LaMont Schroeder, greeted us with the Orchard Blossom cocktail. He explained that this was going to be their new, spring signature cocktail. This divine drink of ambrosia consisted of gin, peach schnapps, St. Germain, lime juice, and cinnamon bitters (made in-house), garnished with a twist of orange. The restaurant is committed to sustainability – following green practices, composting food waste, and purchasing comestibles locally when possible, including locally sourced beer, and small batch spirits.
Artisanal bread takes a starring role and it’s no wonder – Nancy Silverton is a co-founder and the original baker of the fabulous La Brea Bakery. The Pane Bianco comes to the table warm and dressed with a fragrant olive oil. Our antipasti is a marvelous Mozza caprese, perfectly slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and tender, creamy mozzarella. We were served two different kinds of bruschetta. The White beans alla Toscana with saba (a syrup made from grape juice, also called must) bruschetta was a thick and chunky hummus-like topping. The addition of saba gives it a pleasant, slightly fruity flavor. As a lover of chicken livers, I was more than pleased with the next bruschetta, finely chopped chicken livers with capers, parsley, pancetta, and roasted garlic piled generously high on top of a crisp crostino.
Pizzeria Mozza has an extensive, exclusively Italian wine list, including some wines from the vineyards of Joe Bastianich. When Sommelier LaMont Schroeder recommended a wine made by Trappist Nuns, Lazio Bianco “Coenobium” Monastero Trappiste Vitrochiano – Lazio 2010 for the adventurous, I was in. The wine was interesting. It was light yellow in color, with a subtle floral bouquet, flavors of apple and grapefruit with smoky mineral undertones, and a slight bite at the finish.
And, then of course, there is the pizza. It starts with a delicious foundation of Nancy Silverton’s pizza dough. Pastry chef Juli Sinning uses Ms. Silverton’s secret recipe, which is never written down, only memorized by a select few. The dough is handmade on the premises from a sourdough starter, twice a day, and allowed 14 hours to rise, proof, and rest. As the kale pizza makes its debut at our table, with a fresh from the wood-fired oven aroma, the anticipation is palpable. One bite and I am in pizza heaven. The crisp crust, with a delightful chewy center, is crowned with kale, coppa (pork shoulder cured with red chili flakes from Salumi, a salumeria in Seattle owned by Mario Batali’s father), ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano.
Pizzeria Mozza’s dessert offerings are inspired. Their Butterscotch Budino, Maldon sea salt with rosemary pine nut biscotti is a luscious caramelized brown sugar custard, with the sweetness balanced with the savory element of salt and the herbal essence of rosemary in the accompanying biscotti. I also sampled the gelato in two flavors: hazelnut and pineapple coconut. Both were exceptional. Pizzeria Mozza, with its innovative and inspired approach to food, has been added to my short list of favorite restaurants.
789 W. Harbor Drive, Suite 110
San Diego, CA 92101