Los Angeles: The New California Style at Olio Pizzeria & Café
Olio Pizzeria & Café
8075 W 3rd St. Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Map); 323-930-9490; pizzeriaolio.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan-inspired California-style with a hint of Artisan bakery
Oven type: Wood-Fire
The Skinny:When executed right, Olio makes one of the best pizzas in Los Angeles
Praise continuously falls upon Olio Pizzeria & Cafe. Its popularity among the masses is shared by the media—it was ranked the 3rd Best Pizzeria in LA by LA Weekly and named a Critic's Choice in the LA Times. Then again, we Slice'rs—who study pizza day in, day out—take such popularity with a grain of salt.
In Olio's case, though, the acclaim is entirely deserved.
I spend hours figuring out how to classify this pizza. The problem? In our pizza lexicon, the term "California Style" is long past due for an overhaul. California is no longer the land of wan crusts and crazy toppings. The pizza has grown out of its experimental teenage phase to become a deliciously refined adult.
New California-style crust springs forth from artisan bakeries—cooked in smokey,wood fire ovens at lower temperatures for longer periods—allowing the outer lip to rise dramatically as sugars brown into a crusty shell. Los Angeles's Olio is a fine example of this style. Though it's a straight wheat flour dough—not the blended grain doughs seen around town—the crust puffs up, golden brown and crisp, the tender innards displaying the pillowy structure of a fresh baguette.
The Margherita Plus ($13.99) is Olio's iconic pie. A lake of crushed central California coast tomato sauce—bright red and bursting with acidic tartness—dusted with Grana Padano. That's all that goes on the dough before it enters the Mugnaini oven. Just shy of a full cook (somewhere between 2 1/2 and 4 minutes), the pizza is pulled from the heat and topped with fresh basil and six generous dollops of burrata. It's returned to the oven for another 30 - 60 seconds, loosing up the creamy cheese and aromatic herbs. With a drizzle of basil-infused olive oil, the pizza is ready to serve.
The Margherita Plus is a simple formula, brimming with the best the kitchen has to offer: dough, sauce, cheese, and basil. It's an empirical favorite, probably because it reaches across the aisle and crosses pizza partisan lines. You would have to hate the very principles of pizza to not fall for the charm of this pie.
Olio's masterful use of burrata is also displayed in the Veggie Bianco ($15.99). A thick blanket of herbed ricotta is topped with fresh spinach, roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, and olive wood roasted yellow squash, and finished with dollops of pesto. Though it's much more colorful and complicated than the menu's other burrata pie, the Veggie Bianco's flavors are subtle, teetering on under-seasoned. Still, this beauty is another popular pie.
New to the restaurant, the Spicy Sausage and Peppers ($13.99) is the first pork sausage pie to hit Olio's menu in the 2 years since the pizzeria opened. The dough is coated in a thin paste of garlic caramelized onion sauce. Then, a thick base of "truffled cheese"—cubed mozzarella soaked in truffle oil—strewn with colorful slices of shishito peppers, calabrian chilies, and knobs of fennel pork sausage. It's less spicy than the array of peppers implies, delivering a lingering burn rather than a spike of heat.
There is one glaring issue at Olio: Consistency. The topping are always spot on—roasted in a controlled kitchen environment. The dough, the lightly fermented flavors coming through between 36 and 48 hours, is painstakingly prepared by a select team. But it's the line cook manning the oven who makes—and sometimes breaks—Olio's pizzas. When GM Brandon or owner Bradford Kent are at the helm, the pies are perfect. Every single time. The rest of the staff, most of whom are sincerely trying, have a tendency to under or unevenly cook the pizzas. The photo above shows a single pie: One half gorgeously singed, the other half anemically pale.
This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's gravely disappointing. Still, it's a risk I and many other fans willingly take.
A meal at Olio will never end on a low note when ordering the Apple Focaccia ($5.99). Roasted apples snuggle in a slathering of sweet ricotta. The crust is washed in a olive oil and covered in a heavy pour of raw sugar. Crisp and caramelized, it's my guaranteed happy ending to every visit.
About the author: After nearly a decade in Brooklyn, Kelly Bone landed back in Los Angeles where she writes The Vegetarian Foodie. She spends the rest of her time designing office cubicles... you might be sitting in one right now! Follow her on Twitter at @TheVegFoodie