And so the endless parade of new gourmet pizza places in West LA/Santa Monica continues. Despite the ever sluggish economic landscape, some people can't help but be successful. That is certainly the case with Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, who recently added pizzeria Milo & Olive to their Santa Monica empire along with Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, and Sweet Rose Creamery. M&O has been packing in the crowds since opening for lunch and dinner service last month.
We were eager to visit, but not so psyched about the idea of waiting in line for one of M&O's only 24 seats (split between two communal tables and eight seats at the bar). So we went at about 4:30 pm on a Saturday and within 10 minutes, managed to snag a couple of seats facing the calm and efficient operation of the open kitchen and the wood-burning Mugnaini oven. Within a few minutes of being seated, there was a line of eager and hungry pizza lovers crowding the entryway. To avoid lines altogether, take advantage of Milo & Olive's take-out option.
Happy to have avoided the wait but still hungry, it was almost impossible to narrow down our selections, especially when confronted with the mouth-watering looking dishes flying out of the open kitchen. To accompany our Mexican Coke (as in Coca-Cola, not cocaine, below, left), we settled on a salad of Coleman Farms lettuces, Fuyu persimmon, pomegranate, and pine nut gremolata. A gorgeously colorful and tasty mess of a dish, the salad balanced the sweetness of the jelly-like chunks of persimmon (which, being in season right now, seems to be on every menu these days) and pomegranate with the herby nuttiness of the gremolata and the fresh crunch of the greens. Difficult to eat, but worth the effort.
As is the case most times we visit a pizzeria for the first time, we started with a basic Margherita with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil and sea salt. The simplicity of the pie allowed us to focus on the crust, which was very good. Perfectly seasoned, M&O’s crust is slightly crunchier than we typically like with our pizzas (we both prefer a little doughiness), but still really nice. The generous glug of quality olive oil over the top really made this pizza shine, both literally and figuratively.
Obviously we ordered the house-made pork belly sausage pizza, with braised greens, tomato and fresh mozzarella. I mean, c’mon. Much messier and soggier than the Margherita, it nevertheless offered up tons of flavor and texture, especially from the still slightly crisp greens. The sausage was, to the surprise of neither of us, really delicious.
Fairly full at this point, the only sweet we could still fit in our stomachs was a chocolate chip cookie from M&O’s bakery, which serves pastries and coffee 7 days a week, starting at 7 am.
As I noted above, the only problem with eating at a seat facing the kitchen is that you are forced to see all the dishes you passed up. While devouring our own food, we greedily eyed the plates of crostini mounded with ricotta, sausage & grits and roasted pumpkin waiting to be delivered to other diners. Clearly a return trip will be necessary.