Okay, so maybe LA isn't as pizza-barren as I presumed when I moved here. We've found some suitable pies, but that doesn't mean we've stopped looking for the real standouts. On a recent Sunday we strolled over to 3rd street hoping to be wowed by Bradford Kent and his wood-burning oven at Olio Pizzeria & Cafe.
Inside is a small cafe centered around the oven (below). The oven (a craigslist find, believe it or not) is not only the focal point of the restaurant - with temperatures that reach into the thousands, this wood-burning monster also has a stake in nearly everything on the menu.
It was early when we arrived and that meant wood-fired breakfast calzones and bialys were still coming out of the oven. But there wasn't any question behind our intentions. We were here for the pizza. The fire-roasted shisiito peppers (below) were a nice way to kick things off, though. They come tossed in peanut oil and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. The distinctive oven char is evident, but the peppers could've used some seasoning. Luckily, a shaker of sea salt was close by and solved the peppers' problem accordingly.
Our first pie was the Sausage and Swiss Chard (below). All out of sausage, ours came instead with pancetta (we were told prosciutto, but I think the server was mistaken). No worries, the pancetta mingled gracefully with the fresh cherry tomatoes and sautéed chard. The fresh toppings all worked really well. The crust, a mixture of three separate doughs, is clearly made by someone who knows his stuff.
Our Hawaiian pizza smartly swapped out the ham with delicious prosciutto. This pie came topped with tomato sauce which was a little sweet and a nice compliment to the juicy chunks of pineapple. Somewhat missing was the trademark char of the wood-burning oven. Comparing our pies to pictures of other Olio pies leads me to think ours were a little more undercooked than usual.
Certainly good, and worth coming back for, the pizzas were a little bit of a let-down. Some of the inconsistencies also seemed to trickle into the service. While friendly, the staff seemed like it could've used an extra employee. By our count, in the hour that we were there, four different parties walked out because it was taking too long to get acknowledged or place an order. We stuck it out and managed a pleasant lunch in spite of this.
Pretty stuffed from scarfing two whole pizzas, we opted for a dessert on the smaller side. These little bite-sized bacetti treats (below) were filled with pine-nut ice cream and enveloped by dark chocolate.
All the right pieces seem in place. The pizza crust boasts caputo flour from Italy. The oven is apocalyptically hot. Yet, somewhere an ingredient seemed missing. Olio has been open since last fall, so I'm a little worried that they don't seem to have worked out all the kinks. I still haven't my found rave-worthy LA pizza, but Olio may have risen towards the top of the group. With the recent openings of Sotto and Mother's Dough in Los Angeles, along with Pitfire and Pizzeria Ortica, I'm still optimistic that there's a lot more promising pizza yet to be tasted.