Mozza Moments: Spring Peas & Yogurt Cheese, Caramel Copetta with Marshmallow Sauce

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If California falls into the ocean some day, and I find myself living back in New York, you might think that Pizzeria Mozza would be the last place I’d miss with Franny’s and Roberta’s and all the other individual pie places (Motorino, Co., etc.) that would fill that gap. You’d be wrong, though, because Mozza is a lot more than a pizza restaurant. As Amateur Gourmet reader (and Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera”) Kyle Barisich said to me recently on Twitter, “I really think Mozza is LA’s finest restaurant.” Can’t say I disagree.

I mean, check out that dish above. Our favorite bartender at Pizzeria Mozza (and we almost always sit at the bar) turned us on to it: “The pea dish is my absolute favorite right now,” he said. We were on our way to ordering the roasted asparagus dish, but we made a sharp left turn towards peas when he made his pronouncement. And thank God he did because that dish, as simple as it looks, is one of the best things I’ve had in a long time. A combination of fresh farmer’s market peas, slivered sugar snaps, olive oil, lemon zest, and mint, all underneath a mound of yogurt cheese (which is really just strained yogurt). I don’t know what kind of witchcraft is going on in the Mozza kitchen, but spring itself was sitting there in that dish and if there were an endless bottom to it, I’d still be sitting there eating it.

Then we shared the magnificent (and less seasonal) little gem salad with blue cheese dressing, dates and red onions.

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It’s Nancy Silverton’s take on the iceberg wedge salad, only better. It’s probably my favorite salad at Mozza (though the others are strong contenders too).

Then it was pizza time. I’ve long been curious about Nancy Silverton’s long-cooked broccoli (a recipe from one of her books where you cook broccoli for a really long time with olive oil, garlic, and anchovies; Food52 has written about it)…here it is on a pizza.

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It’s amazing how easy it is to eat all that. Looking at it now, it almost looks like a loaf of bread; but that whole loaf of bread is now living inside my body and I’m a better person for it. I love the crust at Mozza; salty, chewy/crispy, complex from slow fermentation. There are definitely Mozza naysayers who say this pizza isn’t pizza, it’s foccaccia. Those people should be shot.

Our bartender (dammit, why don’t I remember his name?) paired our pizza with this wonderful Italian red.

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I love having people who know more about wine than I do (which is pretty much everyone) choose wine for our meal. This one was the perfect choice.

Now for the grand finale. You can’t go to Mozza without ordering dessert; that’s basically a criminal act worthy of NSA-surveillance. The one to get (and I may have written about this before but I don’t care) is the Caramel Copetto with Marshmallow Sauce and Spanish Peanuts.

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This is the only dessert I’ve ever experienced in my life that made me want to cry, it’s so good. Chef Naomi Pomeroy, of Portland’s Beast, chimed in on my Instagram, “My fave ever.”

What makes it so good? Salt. And the bitter flavor that develops when you take caramel right to the edge. So think bitter, salty, and sweet and you’ll understand this dessert. It’s worth buying a plane ticket to L.A. right now to experience it.

So thank you, Pizzeria Mozza, for existing. You make living in L.A. a food lover’s dream come true.

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