Former Private Chef's New Brentwood Restaurant Pizzana Has Some Of The Best Pies In Town
In Brentwood, going out for dinner on a weeknight means eating among families and young professionals dressed in business casual. Opening a new restaurant here—in this coolness desert— tests the stereotypes of what attracts Angelenos to a new establishment. Do people go to a restaurant because it's good, or because other people tell them it's good and they want to be seen eating there?
Pizzana, the five-month-old neapolitan pizza spot in the neighborhood, is popular because it's actually good. Scratch that—it's fantastic. Its neighbors are a Yogurtland, Susiecakes cupcakes, and a nail salon, all along San Vicente Boulevard, but for the small pizza spot, location is actually irrelevant. After all, these are pizzas arriving straight from Naples and San Marzano by way of Chef Daniele Uditi's culinary background in Los Angeles. To land somewhere like downtown or in a Koreatown strip mall may have actually subdued the wonder of the food itself. In Brentwood, Uditi can cook in relative peace. And lucky for us, his culinary isolation has allowed him to build a pizza palace.
Uditi used to work as a private chef around town. Once,at a dinner at actor Chris O’Donnell's house, he met Candace and Charles Nelson of Sprinkles Cupcakes. They spoke about Uditi's desire to open a pizza restaurant, and a few years later, Pizzana was born.
The interior at the restaurant, while comfortable, accepts its role as the background to the dining experience—a few colored tile accents and industrial chandeliers lend a sense of taste, without demanding the diner's attention. All that really matters is sitting at one of those coveted tables, drinking a glass of reasonably-priced wine, and trying to pick the number of antipasto that would make sense to accompany a massive amount of pizza.
Here, the food creates a beautiful intersection of newness and familiarity, Los Angeles-cum-Italy, high quality with zero condescension. Here, the servers guide you but don't chastise whatever decision you decide to make. On the menu, the insalate shines even brighter than the antipasti; there's the caesar salad with the perfectly acidic dressing and freshly-baked bread for croutons, and the brussels sprout salad with an added crunch from thin apple slices and an abundance of pistachios. These set the stage perfectly for the pizzas to complete the meal.
The pizzas have become the objects of obsession, prompting hours-long wait times. This is largely because of Uditi's "slow dough" and slow movement through the pizza oven. Instead of a soft, bendy, almost soup-y center of traditional Neapolitan pizzas, Uditi's pizzas can be eaten by the slice. The crust has bubbled and crisped, and the center of the pizza still holds. Despite the neo-traditional cooking method, the flavors are pure Italy. Imported San Marzano tomatoes and crackly black pepper highlight it all. It's possible to get a classic Margherita, but opt for the Neo Margherita instead; Uditi has created a "basil crumb" to get a blast of the herb in every bite.
The Neo Margherita is the highlight of Jonathan Gold's review, and as such has become the go-to order in the restaurant. Treat it as a level one pizza, though— fantastic, but something to move past in order to get to the better and more exciting pizzas on the other side.
The more exciting options are the ones that have roots in pasta. Amatriciana sauce is usually served with bucatini, as is cacio e pepe. At Pizzana, though, they can also be found on the pizza; the cream and pepper in the cacio e pepe are so good you may as well forget ever wanting the pasta version. You can also go with Uditi's take on a meat-lovers pizza; the carnivoro includes soppressata, fennel sausage, and proscuitto cotto, which all sit on top of his amazing crust (and those San Marzanos).
And, lest you forget Pizzana was co-founded by the owners of Sprinkles Cupcakes, order the olive oil chocolate cake and taste the quality that turned Sprinkles into a global empire. Don't sleep on the caramel panna cotta, either. Topped with salty, crunchy pretzels, it's a lovely reminder of why some desserts have lasted the test of time.
Pizzana is located at 11712 San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood. It's open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended.