Saturday, December 10, 2011

Milo and Olive

For me, any which way you slice it, pizza can do no wrong. Wether it is the 3a.m. microwavable abomination at the gas station, or a pie hand tossed by Wolfgang Puck himself, if there is melted cheese on some form of bread, I am a fan. Admittedly, I am not the toughest of customers. However, after tasting Milo and Olive’s version of the pizza pie, it had me asking myself, “Do you think that piece of cardboard and mozzarella you had delivered the other night is still acceptable?”

To be fair to the ma’ and pa’ pizza parlor, or even Domino’s for that matter, Milo and Olive is not the place to call if you need ten large cheese and ten large pepperoni’s delivered to your house Super Bowl Sunday. Nor is it the ideal place to bring 15 screaming little leaguers after a big victory. It is a pie of a higher calling. Being from the same folks that brought us the popular Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon restaurants, if you have of heard of these two places, you will know what I mean.

For owners Josh Loeb and his wife Zoe Nathan, the idea behind opening up a third restaurant on Wilshire meant two things. For Josh, it was to bring a better pizza to the Westside. For Zoe, it was to have the ability to bake a higher and wider variety of breads which was not doable with their limited space at Huckleberry. Josh and Zoe’s proverbial move to the suburbs put them in a larger property with bigger ovens, and a sizable yet inviting dining area too. The new space which is outfitted with a large convection oven, rotating deck oven, and wood burning oven, is ideal for firing up plenty of pastries, breads, and of course pizzas.

Zoe, a seasoned baker, collaborated with Rustic Canyon’s Executive Chef Evan Funke, who specializes in rustic Italian cuisine, to come up with Milo and Olive’s menu. This translates to an eclectic mix of homemade bagels, baguettes, and breads in the morning and a handful of daily pizza offerings in the afternoon, and well into the evening. Of course they focus on locally made cheeses, farmer’s market produce, and small wine and beer bottlers showing that life long Santa Monica resident Josh Loeb knows how to keep it real.    

My first bite of their mixed mushroom pizza conjured a mixed bag of emotions.  The first being the kind of happiness only melted cheese and crisp chewy crust can deliver.  Nostalgia set in because of how the oils from the melted fontina and parmesan cooked the crust rendering it quasi-fried similar to the fried dough my grandmother used to make years ago. Finally jealousy reared its ugly head by the perfection of the crust in both flavor and texture. To elaborate on my spite, a passion of mine has always been pizza making and for years now I have toiled with different recipes, techniques, and ingredients. It was explained to me that after much experimentation their pizza dough recipe it all came together two weeks before their grand opening in the beginning of December.  Thrown off by the wood burning oven the pizzas are not Neapolitan style. Neapolitan pies are super thin and cook super fast which can result resulting in crust like a politician, no integrity and soggy in the middle. Conversely, it is a slow bake dough resulting in a magical sweet spot of not too thick, thin, crispy, or soft crust. I suppose I should leave the real pizza making to the experts, and I will stick to eating it.

For Josh and Zoe, it appears the trilogy of restaurants on Wilshire is complete. I asked Josh what was the next venture, sushi, fondue, Brazilian BBQ?  In which he responded, “rest.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Locanda del Lago

With the holiday season underway The Third Street Promenade gets even more crazy with a flurry shopping madness. Locanada De Lago, which is situated in the middle of the mayhem, is offering some pretty enticing drink specials that are certain to appeal to weary shoppers looking for a little break in the action. The deal is, come into the restaurant with a receipt proving that you bought something in or around the Third Street area that day, and get a discount on any of restaurant’s seasonal cocktails. High end drinks with designer names are the general theme for this promotion. Wether it is the mixed berry mojito called The Versachi, or a pumpkin vanilla martini named The Prada, just show the receipt and get a drink for $9 instead of $14, or a 1 liter carafe for $20 instead of $34. Buy a pair of Dockers, and wash it down with a Gucci. With each libation offering up ingredients bought from vendors at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, and the deal being based off people buying local, it is good business for everyone. And with the high levels of shopping commotion, finding solace in a $20 carafe is not a bad option. Armani, Gucci, Missoni, take your pick. Rest assure these drinks are no knockoffs, not to mention Locanda De Lago has been cooking up great Northern Italian inspired cuisine for 20 years plus.