Webisode #6: Back to Pizzeria Mozza

The Difference Between Good and Great

This webisode segment brings us back to Pizzeria Mozza, as we follow the dough from the La Brea Bakery, as shown in the previous two segments, to the waiting hands of Executive Chef Matt Molina and his team of pizzaiolos. So here's the thing: there really is a difference between good pizza and great pizza and in this segment you'll get few glimpses into that difference.

I've said many times that pizza, even average pizza, is still the most perfect of all foods. But here at Pizza Quest our notion of great pizza (as opposed to good) is defined by one word:

memorable.  There are, perhaps, a relatively small number of places in the world that make truly memorable pizza and the word itself can mean many things to many people. Whether it's the snap of the crust followed by a creamy, custard-like mouthfeel, the freshness and vibrancy of the sauce, the quality of the topping ingredients, or simply the location and friends you hang with--all of these things contribute to the experience that becomes memorable.  But, when I use the word, I’m referring to places that change your whole notion of how good pizza can be--that raise the bar and re-set the benchmarks, that change the paradigm. Places that make you want to return again and again, to bring your closest friends; places that you can’t get out of your head. I personally know of about ten such places in this country --there are probably more that I still haven’t yet experienced-- and the number of such places are growing, for sure. Pizzeria Mozza is one of those places I would place in the paradigm changing realm (as for the others--well, keep checking back here and eventually we’ll get to those). I hope you get a sense of the specialness of these pies as you watch this episode.

 


One of the most remarkable things about Pizzeria Mozza in particular is the sheer volume of pizzas that they turn out everyday at this benchmark level. As we saw in the LaBrea episodes, they make well over 500 a day; sometimes even 700. Yes, there are two other beautiful wood-fired ovens in the back kitchen to support the one in the open kitchen, but that’s still a lot of pizza and a lot of intensity. The relentlessness of working at that level for such extended periods of time is something that should cause us to ponder and gape in awe. As the saying goes, welcome to the NFL.


Note: We still have one more episode to show you from Pizzeria Mozza, where we sit at the table and talk with Nancy and some fellow pizza freaks about her vision. You saw a few snippets of this on Webisode #1,  but we have more to come. But that's next time; for now, enjoy Matt Molina and some pretty spectacular pizza!

 

 

Comments 

 
#1 Michael Wurzer 2011-02-03 02:24
I lived in Los Angeles when La Brea Bakery first opened. I would stop there on Friday mornings on my way in to work to pick up breads for the weekend. That was one of my best experiences living there, and I can't wait to return to try Pizzeria Mozza.

What really stands out for me watching the video is how crisp the crust appears, which stands in contrast to a lot of the knife and fork (dare I say, soggy) pies typical of Neapolitan places today.

On that note, I was just in NYC a few weeks ago and went to Donatella's and Motorino. Both were good but the crust at Motorino was more flavorful and slightly crispier; though not as cripsy as what the crust at Mozza appears to be from the video. Thanks for sharing!
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#2 Jim S. 2011-02-03 11:34
Another great episode. Thanks Peter! BTW, last weekend I made a batch of dough using the Mozza home baker recipe that they gave us at the pizza class. It really is good! Mine tasted much better than the batch they made at the restaurant. They have some unusual ingredients (e.g., wheat germ and dark rye flour) but the results are great!
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#3 Peter Reinhart 2011-02-03 21:42
Motorino, in NYC and Brooklyn (they have two locations) is really fabulous, as is Keste in Greenwich Village--both places do a very reputable, true Naples-style pizza. But Mozza, while in the Naples-style,, is really not like anyone else's, which is what I think Nancy had in mind. It's tricky to do a Naples style with a crispy crust that doesn't dry out, and they manage to pull it off at Pizzeria Mozza about as well as anyone. Chris Bianco, in Phoenix, manages the same feat. These are examples of what John Arena, in his guest column, called the third level--the artistic expression. I'd love to hear of any other places that our followers know of that fall into this category, or that exemplify a singular expression and create a memorable experience for their customers.
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#4 Michael Wurzer 2011-02-04 04:49
Peter, do you know what temperature Mozza has their ovens?
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#5 Peter Reinhart 2011-02-04 05:56
No, I can't recall, but it definitely isn't 800 degrees, as it would be in Naples. One of the reasons their crust is able to crisp up is that the baking time is longer than the one minute in Naples--more like 5 minutes, maybe longer. Don't know how they pull it off but it works!
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#6 Jim S. 2011-02-04 07:01
At the pizza class they told us their preferred baking temp. is 550. For home use they said 550 or 500 on convection setting.
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#7 Domenico Crolla 2011-02-04 08:05
momorable is the perfect word for the pizza at Mozza.
one of the best I have had in a long time,and I've tried most of them!
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#8 carolynn 2011-02-04 08:43
I just wrote the Mozza Cookbook with Nancy (out this summer), and Naples-style pizza was in fact not what she was going for. She was just going for delicious. Plain and simple. I think we said 550 degrees because that's as hot as we could ask people to put their ovens, but if yours gets hotter, by all means, get it as hot as you can. (Pizza ovens at the restaurant are near 900, if I remember right.) And... would it be pizzaioli??
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#9 Peter Reinhart 2011-02-05 05:43
Yes, I always struggle with those words, pizzaiolo and pizzaioli. They've only recently come into the American vernacular--I grew up with "the pizza guy." So now that pizzaiolo has become somewhat Americanized and part of the pizza freak vocabularly, I tend to revert to the Americanized "pizzaiolos" when speaking in the plural. But I'm sure you're right, Carolynn, that pizzaioli is more correct for the plural (and I assume that pizzaiola would refer to a female "pizza guy").
On the oven temperature, it's important, I think, to distinguish between temperature zones. For instance, in a WFO, the temperature in the upper dome area is going to be way hotter than the actual deck temperature, which is probably closer to 550 than to 900--I don't think a crust could survive for more than a few seconds at 900 without burning into a cinder (and I've burned my share!). So, for all who have been asking about oven temperature, it's a tricky thing to pin down and depends so much on the design of the oven and where the temperature reading is taking place.
Meanwhile, I can't wait for Carolynn's and Nancy's book--should be fabulous!
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#10 Jim S. 2011-02-05 08:17
Could I ask if you are responding to some comments that aren't getting posted? I can't see the posts you are responding to.
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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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