I cannot recall a more widely discussed restaurant in recent years than La Pizzeria. It closed down. People went berserk. It reopened. People went berserk. After a few days it closed again. A week or two later it reopened. Oh, the drama!
It’s been quite a show, but I’ve waited for our friends on Monroe Street to get their feet under them, and now seemed as good a time as any to sneak in for a review. Mr. Bubble and I dropped in on a Thursday evening, requesting a not-so-romantic table, and settled on eating at the bar. Bubble opted for a house red, and I enjoyed a Back Forty Paw Paw’s Peach Wheat. What a refreshing beer. It isn’t as sweet as you’d think. Most wheat beers are served with some kind of fruit, but this one has the fruit built into it.
The bread they served came with a head of garlic, sliced open and roasted until soft. We were handed an oyster fork for fishing out the wonderful sweetness. Folks almost witnessed us fighting over it as we heard the specials for the evening, which were impossible to be ignored. How can you say no to Blue-fin Tuna Crudo ($13)?
The fish was so fresh and thinly sliced you could have flossed your teeth with it. Served raw with black radishes, these beauties were drizzled in Meyer lemon juice, olive oil, Italian parsley, shallots, sea salt, and a few turns from a pepper mill. I’d say they had my attention.
I felt it was important to sample an appetizer from the regular menu, and our waiter suggested the Parmigiano Risotto Torte ($9). Fried balls of mozzarella risotto with mushroom ragu and Parmesan make this the most popular appetizer La Pizzeria offers. It was amazing. There was a hint of sweetness to the sauce, and the risotto was of the melt-in-your-mouth variety. I could see me getting this every visit.
Mr. Bubble was so impressed with the pizza special that he couldn’t turn it down. Known for the evening as The Gulf Coast ($16), this thin crust pie marries mozzarella, in-season yellow tomatoes, arugula, and fried shrimp on a remoulade base. The fried shrimp hold up well with an extra crunchy batter, yet they aren’t overdone. It’s a unique flavor with the remoulade, but you know that going in. This pizza is a wonderful example of something different.
As great as the menu looked I had to try the fish special. Seared amberjack ($28) was served with a Quattro fruit and saffron glaze, smoked Gouda risotto, and gourmet carrots. The fish was perfectly cooked and the golden glaze had a sweet hint of melon. What could be better than expertly prepared risotto with smoked Gouda? Not much, for my money. The carrots were so tender I didn’t bother stopping at the tail end.
The theme of the meal was savory and sweet. From the lemon in the tuna and the yellow tomatoes on the pizza to the fruit glaze and carrots of the amberjack, every dish had that quality. Even the beer I was drinking hinted toward the same.
I am dying to try more of the regular menu, such as gorgonzola fries, salads with local lettuce from Cain Creek Farms and MARC, and a ton of entrees that piqued my interest. These include, but not limited to, the Wagyu Bolognese, the meatballs, and Al Pizzaiola. Skewers of pork loin and veggies make that a must try. Our waiter had me seriously considering the butter-basted ribeye. I counted 14 pizzas on the menu, as well as a build your own calzone. There just wasn’t enough room at the inn to try anything else.
It is for you, dear reader that I suffer. Strawberry cheesecake ($6) was the dessert for the ride home. Made in-house, this wasn’t your normal cheesecake smothered in strawberries. I found the strawberry flavor in the cheesecake. Despite the thicker-than-average crust, this one fell apart pretty easily. No matter. You’d just as soon drink it with a straw. Mr. Bubble was denied access to the cheesecake, as I can be a bit greedy.
So here is the odd schedule for La Pizzeria. Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., Friday lunch from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. That doesn’t total up to a lot of hours with the front door open, but if that is what keeps the magic coming then I am all for it.
Expect soup, salads, and sandwiches to accompany the pasta and pizzas for lunch. I am pleased to say that brunch isn’t some $25-a-head prix fixe menu. Shrimp and polenta, grillades, lox and bagel, and, of course, a breakfast pizza are but a few items you’ll find Sundays.
All of the bases seem to be covered, even in the drink department. A rotation of seasonal draft beers and an impressive wine list would be enough, but the cocktail menu is well worth mentioning. A Bulleit Sazerac, a Buffalo Trace mint julep and an Italian Margarita are mouth-watering libations. Be careful with the Killer Bloody Marys. They come either normal or with your choice of habanero or ghost chilies. If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will.
So we said our goodbyes when it came time to leave, we shook a few familiar hands and headed out with appetites satisfied by sweet and savory courses. I certainly didn’t want the evening to end on any hint of sweetness with Mr. Bubble, so we convinced ourselves to stop for bourbon, neat, where my normally intelligent friend asked someone if there were any seals in Sacramento … in the water … in Sacramento. Turns out there are not. From now on I will monitor his wine intake.
Welcome back, La Pizzeria. Keep up the good work.
1455 Monroe St.
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