8384 West 3rd St West Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Map); 213-763-6123; the-churchill.com www.cloverjuice.com
Pizza type: NY-Style
The Skinny:Great ingredients that sometimes yield a good slice, but usually fall short.
Price:$2 for a slice, +$1 per topping
In March, an odd and unused window on the side of The Churchill took on new life as the food and cold-pressed juice purveyor, Clover Takeaway, set up shop. Tucked away at the bottom of their menu is the NYC Cheese Pizza Slice, at a tempting $2.00—a steal given the talent and ingredients on hand in The Churchill's kitchen. For another dollar, you can add a topping of pepperoni, mushrooms, or extra cheese. And while the up-charge is on the steep side for a single slice, it's still one of the best deals in town.
That is, if you get one of the good slices.
My very first slice of "NYC Style pizza" was fantastic. It's not quite NY-style—the sponge-started, overnight-fermented crust has more finesse than your average New York doughs, and the simple DiNapoli tomato sauce is free of dried herbs. But tucked under a blanket of bubbling aged mozzarella, covered in a light oily sheen, the slice hits an even balance of crispness, sweet acidity and oil. The bottom of the slice didn't droop, folding easily into a that classic New York pose. Even better, Clover Takeway is cooking up these pies in The Churchill's wood-fired oven.
I slipped on my shades and leaned back on the hood of my car, casually enjoying my NY-style slice in the California sun. It was a perfect moment of cultural fusion.
Sadly, my next visit told a completely different story. For starters, my order was clearly forgotten. Left standing on the sidewalk for 40 minutes, I sustained myself on apologetic Clover juice samples until someone finally slapped together some dough, sauce and cheese into a pizza-like blob. It felt like the kitchen was giving the Clover Takeaway window the shaft. They generously offered me the entire pizza, but the pale, misshapen slices were completely off balance. Worse, the lava-like flow of extra cheese—which, to be fair, I did request on one of my slices—turned out to be a nauseating sight.
If my prior visit hadn't been so promising, I would have cut my losses and walked away. But I was determined to relive that first wonderful slice, so I kept on trying.
Thinking that perhaps a $1 topping would improve the pizza, I got a slice of pepperoni and a slice of mushroom. The Zoe's pepperoni delivers some decent heat, once you plod through the puddles of paprika-colored oil. But if you're going to spend the extra money on a topping, the wild mushrooms are far and away the best choice. Tender chanterelles, generously applied, offer a delicate flavor that helps cut through the blubber of cheese.
But on the topped slices, the moisture and oil caused the sauce and cheese to meld into a glossy pink base. It still tasted good, but it was a wholly unappetizing sight.
When the pies are on point, Clover Takeaway's NYC Slice is one of the best pizza bargains in town. The crisp-tender crust holds up to gently sweet tomato sauce and a smattering of mozzarella. But when the execution flounders, the pizza is quickly downgraded to a sloppy if affordable lunch. If you have the time—and enjoy a good gamble—it's worth your $2. But if you want guaranteed success, you'll have better luck dining at The Churchill and ordering a whole pie.