Antica Pizzeria

If you read the top few Google links for Antica Pizzerria in Marina Del Rey you'd think that I'd be in for a night of pizza purgatory. I'm happy to report that nothing could be farther from the truth. I'd heard about Antica Pizzeria previously in the context of an occasional skirmish in the pizza wars. I remember comments mostly along the lines of, "Oh, the pizza Margherita is good", which seemed to imply that the rest of the menu was not.

For those not in the know, it's LA's only certified VPN pizzeria (not counting its other LA outpost closer to downtown). It's located in a mall in Marina del Rey, incongruously located next door to a Souplantation. Three of us dined there last night and had a wonderful experience.

We started with Antipasto Misto dal Deli, a selection of vegetables (in our case carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and rapini), cooked and seasoned to perfection to showcase their wonderful flavors. My favorite of the bunch was the rapini (aka broccoli rabe) which had a smoky taste. I'm not too familiar with this vegetable, but I'm sure it will make an appearance on my kitchen table in the near future. Maybe it had been wilted in their wood fired pizza oven?

Throwing caution to the wind, we didn't order the pizze Margherita. Instead we moved on to two excellent pizzas, the pizze Bianca al Prosciutto ($11.95 - Mozzarella, parmesan, prosciutto and arugula) and the pizze Quattro Formaggi ($11.50 - Parmesan, gorgonzola, smoked and regular mozzarella). Both were delicious.

The flavor combination on the pizza bianco was superb. The cheese, arugula, and proscuitto flavor balance and combination were inspired. Of course it's been around for years, but I'm thankful that I know about it now. I hadn't previously been an arugula fan, but like rapini you will find me buying some in the near future. Maybe it will make its way onto my own pizzas.

The pizza Quattro Formaggi was also excellent. The gorgonzola and smoked mozzarella didn’t overpower and the combination sung together in perfect four part harmony.

At least one poor review of this restaurant complained that pizzas were "inexplicably served without sauce." Hey, ignoramus! There's a long tradition of the pizza bianco (translation white, implying no tomato sauce) and anyone who thinks this is inexplicable has no business writing pizza reviews.

Some poor and so-so reviews of this restaurant criticized service but service was attentive throughout our meal and an early mix up with our drinks was quickly and efficiently rectified.

The one criticism that I've read of Antica Pizzeria that does hold an element of truth is that the crusts of the pizzas tend to get a bit soggy. Soggy's not really the right word, but they aren't cracker crisp on the outside, as you'd expect from an 800F wood-fired pizza oven. This didn't detract from the flavor, but the texture of the pizza near the middle wasn't everything it could be. Don't get me wrong, it was still delicious, but I think that the pizzas would benefit from being placed on a warm porous surface rather than the serving plates*. I've noticed a similar problem with my own BBQ-made pizzas: the crust is stupendous right off the BBQ, but gets a bit less crispy after a short time out of the oven.

* Theory: the pizzas re-condense some of their own moisture back into the crust when placed in contact with the colder serving plate. A warm porous serving platter would act as a sink for condensing moisture and keep the crust crispier.

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