820 Wilshire Boulevard (@ 8th Street)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
By no means am I a pizza connoisseur – for how could I be when my first real pizza-gasm was only a few months ago? I can only say “first real” since before that come-to-Jesus moment at Abbot’s, certainly I had eaten pizza, everything from Gino’s East and Giordano’s in Chicago to the barbecue chicken at CPK (yeah, I know, that doesn’t really count as pizza) and even given some of them an “mmm, this is good!” But never before had I actually, well, you know *wink* over a slice.
But in the last few months, I have been in some strange pizza-eating twilight zone diet. Where I used to only eat a slice if I it were the only thing in front of me and I had not yet eaten in twenty eight hours and it wasn’t delivered by a plebeian chain, now I am craving pizza of any brand, any crust, any topping at 7:49 am or 11:27 pm, and am eating pizza at least once a week. More than likely, it's twice. Perhaps this is what happens when you quit nasty habits, swear off Benito’s, starve yourself so you’ll only look like a pert little tangerine instead of giant awkward cantaloupe, lose control of your life to Mom and bridezilla, and decide that pizza is what you will obsess over from now on. Yes, that is what must be happening.
Before I moved to LA, I knew pizza first as pizza! pizza! and other national delivery chains, then as the big fat pizzas of my college days on which I OD’d. They weren’t the only explanation of my Freshman Fifteen, but Fat Slice (no wonder the name), Blondie’s, and Zachary’s were pretty generous contributors. Alright! *sigh* 3 am Chinese food was that additional five pounds that made it my Freshman Twenty, okay?! *blush* I also learned about Shakey’s and mojo potatoes dipped in Ranch because that was almost always the “catering” for club meetings, and then about Papa John’s because that was an accounting case study.
Go figger, it wasn’t until I moved to LA that I was introduced to NY-style pizza – pies the size of a schoolbus steering wheel, cut into huge slices, with thin, floppy crust that is still crunchy on the edge. I think it was LaMonica’s in Westwood. Then I met him and graduated to Mulberry Street Pizza because that was within walking distance of his house in 90210. I’m not bragging – Beverly Hills, yes, but we walked. And to pizza. Beverly Hills, my plastic ass ;) And now I can’t imagine eating anything else. The delivery chains, well, as always, are plebeian, and as much as I love bread, thicker crusts just seem so...dough-y. Oy, have I been South Beach brain washed?
In my neighborhood, it’s Frankie & Johnnie’s, which I love mostly because it’s in the neighborhood. Plus, I think the owner is Korean, and I’ve got to give love to my people. *beats chest with peace sign* But there are quite a few NY-style pizza places on the Westside, including Dagwood’s. It's not good for late night, since they close at 10 pm, but both locations of this mini-chain are on my way home after Happy Hour some-many-wheres along Main Street in Santa Monica. Dagwood’s isn’t horrible, but the crust is slightly thicker and chewier than my preference. And since I’ve never tried making NY-style pizza myself at home, I wasn’t sure if the cheese was simply lower quality, if it had been cooked incorrectly, or if it was something else, but it was yellower and drier (not oozing) than I am used to. It was spread fairly thin on top, leaving holes that show the red sauce underneath and pock marks filled with a lot more oil than normal. Oh, so that’s what “pizza-face” means. ;)
I’m not a connoisseur yet, especially with this strange pizza-monster phase I am in, because everything tastes good to me. But I can see myself in the weeks following the w-thing going one of two ways. Either I will completely forget about pizza altogether and go back to Benito’s, or else I will suddenly make it my personal mission to try every single New York style pizza place on the Westside. I can’t wait. I win either way.