Downtown LA: Bottega Louie
700 S Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90017; map); 866-418-9162; bottegalouie.com
Pizza Style: Neo-Neapolitan
Oven Type: Wood
The Skinny? This gleaming, upscale eatery serves up a decent enough pie but one wonders about the cost vis-à-vis the amount of pizza delivered
Price: All pizzas, $17
Let's get this out of the way: If you are looking for a completely authentic Neapolitan-style pizza made with ingredients airlifted in from Naples in sealed Styrofoam containers sealed with red, white, and green tape, you will be disappointed in Bottega Louie. The restaurant is not VPN-certified, and while the pies are priced as if they might be, they are larger in form than what you get in Naples. Not that the restaurant makes any claims to be "authentic." The pies in fact are not unlike a Hollywood remake of an artsy Italian film—bigger and bolder but less substantive, in the same way that the restaurant itself is a glitzy, upscale version of a neighborhood trattoria. That doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable, it is just that in the world of absolutes, a world that some Slice'rs live in, the prices at Bottega Louie do not add up to the way the pizza tastes. You are paying for more than the pizza.
And it is not just that all the a pie costs the same $17 whether you get the them plain or with toppings. The restaurant appears to be attempting to inject a little glitz and glamor in to the rather run down downtown area. The spotless tiled floor, the gleaming counters filled with ornate pastries and sandwiches that occupy the front of the restaurant, the fact that even in a half empty restaurant you will be made to wait for your table all lie in stark contrast to rough and ready nature of the rest of the neighborhood.
I ventured to Bottega Louie at lunch time. There were a lot of empty table, I could see them through the large windows as I walked down South Grand Street. Yet when I got to the reception the charmingly polite hostess (she looked not unlike Natalie Portman, which is to say she looked very good indeed) took my name and told me that a table would be available in a few minutes. I wasn't alone, there were several other parties milling about the reception area. I think we were actually unwitting extras in a play - designed to make the restaurant appear busier than it was.
After only about a minute or two, as if to confirm the sheer formality of the whole exercise, Natalie Portman informed me that my table was ready. She called me "Mr Solares" which threw me of because that's what my Dad is called, I am Nick. I was whisked to my table and promptly ordered a plain pie. It arrived in short order.
The cornichon had airiness within but was completely crisp externally - it did not dimple and reflate the way a Neapolitan pie would. The crust had a nice charring on the bottom but not on the cornichon. The dough was a little thicker than I thought it needed to be, making the whole affair a little on the bready side, and it was not especially flavorful.
The fresh, mild tasting mozzarella came generously applied directly to the dough and the sauce was then ladled on top. The cheese got pleasingly gooey and formed long strings when a slice was detached from the pie. The sauce which was indiscriminately dispersed over the pie was the dominant flavor on the pizza. It was both sweet and tart and spiked with basil, the Technicolor answer to the muted, restrained flavor of a simply prepared tomato sauce.
Over all the pie was fine but pricey. It is also rather cynically sized. While it is too big for one it is not really big enough for two forcing you order an additional pie if all you want to eat is pizza. Which if you are reading this blog probably applies to you. Also I am bothered that a tomato, mozzarella pizza cost the same as one with the same base and a meat topping. As I said, you are paying for more than the pizza.