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Early Bite: Pitfire Pizza Opens Saturday in Culver City

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With their fourth location poised to open this weekend, Pitfire Pizza hosted a preview tasting event at their almost-ready Culver City digs last week. Pitfire and I have something in common: we've both been in North Hollywood since the late 90s, which is why I've been enjoying watching the brand expand slowly over the last decade, finding success in Downtown and West L.A., and hopefully now in Culver City.

Pitfire's concept has been described as a fast-casual restaurant that happens to serve "slow-food," meaning that while you may dine in at or take out from the convenient, affordable, and consistent restaurant, the food you're getting is fresh, locally-sourced, and made to order. Following a consultation phase from local chef Mark Gold (now onto his own delicious endeavor, Eva) the Pitfire menu was revamped recently, and the changes do well to reflect the philosophy of its owners as well as some of the best artisan pizza in town.

Up for tasting at last week's hosted preview were four pizzas: The Burrata (burrata, caramelized onion, arugula, hazelnuts, peston); Field Mushroom (fontina, creme fraiche, mushroom jus, flat leaf parsley); Pepperoni (Zoe's natural pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, torn basil); and a Margherita (mozzarella and basil). My favorite was the Burrata, with the gooey, pliant, salty-sweet burrata, the earthiness of the hazelnut and the sharp bite of the arugula, with the Pepperoni a surprising runner-up, since I rarely indulge in or enjoy meat on pizza. The slight spice of the sauce combined with the thin slices of pepperoni and the beautiful counterpoint of the fresh basil made this a much-loved bite. All of the pizzas we sampled are priced under $10.

No matter the toppings, however, the crust itself is wonderful, providing the perfect balance of crunch, softness, and airiness. There is a similar balance found in their flatbread, which was served with a creamy ricotta perfect for slathering on and topping with fresh herbs and olive oil ($6). But it was the produce that outshone the carbs beyond the pizza, as we feasted upon plates piled high with a rainbow of farmers' market veggies, roasted to sweet, tender perfection ($9.95). Cheeky halves of brussel sprouts beckoned with their yellow-green folds, next to oven-browned cuts of carrot, parsnip, and onion.

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To drink are affordable, high-quality wines, and co-owner Lawrence Rudolph obliged us with a tour of the ordering area, where soon diners can contemplate their choice of beers courtesy of a full-view display of the taps along one of the restaurant's walls. In addition to stocking sodas, like those made by Boylan's, which are made with natural sugar, Pitfire makes a killer Cucumber Mint Lemonade, which is sweet-sour, robust, and refreshing. For dessert they will soon be serving up their special soft-serve, but for us had freshly baked giant chocolate chip cookies.

Pitfire Pizza's Culver City location, at 12924 Washington Boulevard, is scheduled to open on Saturday, January 23.