DeSano Pizza in East Hollywood

DeSano Pizza’s are hand-made (each made to order) by an authentic (and charming) Italian Pizzaiolo named Massimiliano Di Lascio. The East Hollywood pizzeria is serving up Neapolitan-style pies with imported ingredients like fresh Mozzarella di Bufala (flown in each week) from Naples.

DeSano PizzaThe four, MASSIVE wood-burning ovens are truly the focal point of the room and each are named after a saint.

From DeSano’s website:

Our four ovens are imported from Italy and each weigh 6,000 lbs. We bake our pizzas at a temperature as high as 1000 degrees, so the cooking time is between 75 and 90 seconds. Baking at this temperature makes that charring on the edges and bottom that is so familiar with Neapolitan pizzas.

Peter and I tried a few different pizzas recently and the San Gennaro (photo below) is now a favorite. It’s topped with Salciccia sausage, caramelized onions, garlic, buffalo mozzarella and charred peppadews. Fatty and tart, all in one bite.

Mangia!

DeSano Pizza
Italian Pizzaiolo Massimiliano Di Lascio.

DeSano Pizza
San Gennaro with sausage and peppadew being made.

Chef Maximino Luna at DeSano Pizza
Desano’s Chef Maximino Luna.

San Gennaro Pizza at DeSano Pizza
San Gennaro Pizza: Sausage, Peppadew, Garlic, Buffalo Mozzarella, Caramelized Onions.

Diavola Pizza at DeSano Pizza
If you like it spicy, go for the Diavola Pizza. It’s made with spicy salame, pepperoni, Calabrian peppers buffalo mozzarella.

Margherita Pizza at DeSano Pizza
In the mood for something simple and perfect? Try the classic Margherita Pizza with San Marzano tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, garlic.

DeSano Pizza
Don’t forget dessert: Pistachio Cannoli.

DeSano Pizza
I  loved being able to watch all the action, from the dough-kneading to pizza creations. Left: Massimiliano Di Lascio, Right: Maximino Luna.

DeSano Pizza
Another shot of the glorious ovens.

DeSano Pizza
Imported salt.

General Manager Marino Monferrato, DeSano Pizza
Make sure you say hello to General Manager Marino Monferrato. You may recognize him from his years at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood.

All my DeSano photos on flickr

Read more about DeSano at L.A. Times, Zagat and NomsNotBombs

5 Tools DeSano Pizzaiolo Massimiliano Di Lascio Can’t Live Without by L.A. Weekly

5 Questions For Marino Monferrato of DeSano Pizza by L.A. Weekly

DeSano PizzaDeSano Pizza and Bakery
4959 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323-913-7000
website

Open: Monday through Sunday,
11:30 am until the dough runs out.
FREE PARKING

Follow Desano Pizza on Twitter and FaceBook

This meal was gratis.

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ATTICA Restaurant, Melbourne

Chef Ben Shewry’s Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, is the ONLY Australian restaurant in S. Pellegrino 2014 World’s 50 Best list. Located in Ripponlea (a suburb of Melbourne) the restaurant has won several other awards including Age Good Food Guide’s Restaurant Of The Year and Chef Of The Year.

Attica in Melbourne, AustraliaTo be honest, I hadn’t heard about the restaurant until Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer-Prize winning L.A. Times food critic) emailed me, writing, “if you’re going to Melbourne, you MUST eat at Attica. Dainty Sichuan in Chinatown is worth a visit too.”

On my first day in Melbourne (invited by Tourism Australia), I headed straight to Chinatown, finding myself lost in narrow alleys and laneways, but eventually tucked into Dainty Sichuan’s numbing Chongqing Chili Sichuan Chicken. But finding a coveted reservation at Attica, ranked (at that time) 21st in THE WORLD? … Not a chance.

Until I started begging. Politely begging mind you, but still, it was shameless begging. Anytime a representative from the tourism board asked if there was anything I needed, I would mention Attica. I also noted that I would happily pay for this tall order myself, and even offered to rearrange my travel schedule (on my own dime) in case a reservation became available while I was Down Under.

When the great Jonathan Gold says I MUST eat at a restaurant… I simply MUST.

As luck would have it, Nyree Mcfarlane, a writer from New Zealand (where Chef Ben Shewry grew up) also requested a visit to Attica and joining forces (more begging), a few days later… WE WERE IN.

Jo Bites Oz, Part Five - An Extraordinary Meal at Attica

Born and raised in rural North Taranaki on the rugged west coast of the North Island, New Zealand, Ben believes that food can have a deeper meaning than just another item to consume; it can be evocative, emotional and thought provoking, appealing to all of the senses. Of course the key to all this is that it tastes of the purity of its ingredients and is something delicious to eat.

For inspiration, he often draws from his childhood; from the volcano, rivers, ocean, and native bush that make up Taranaki, as well as his current Australian surroundings. (Attica Website)

"Leaves From Our Garden", Attica
“Leaves From Our Garden”. Spicy Ruby Red Steak Mustard Leaf dipped in the Fermented Corn Juice topped with Alpine Pepper and Forest Anise.

Fermented Corn Juice
Closeup of the Fermented Corn Juice topped with Alpine Pepper and Forest Anise.

Hand-Churned Jersey Cow Butter
Hand-Churned Jersey Cow Butter w Salt Flakes (Whipped Olive Oil in background), served with wattle seed sourdough rye (no photo).

Whipped Olive Oil
Whipped Olive Oil topped w Black Sea Salt.

The Walnut
The Walnut dish is brought to the table.

The Walnut
Inside The Walnut (Biodynamic walnut) is a walnut purée with shavings of pine mushrooms and rosemary flowers.

Pickled Jerusalem Artichoke
Pickled Jerusalem Artichoke (turmeric, honey & cider).

"Lance Wiffin Watches His Mussels"
“Lance Wiffin Watches His Mussels”: Sea Bounty Blue-Lip Mussels Flash-fried in Rye Crumb and Sea Succulents with hand-painted portrait (on mussel shell) of Lance Wiffin. About Sea Bounty’s Lance Wiffen.

Steamed Crab & Sorrel, Wild & Cultivated
Steamed Crab wrapped in Sorrel, Wild & Cultivated.

Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat
Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat being poured over the Marron & Kale.

Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat
Closeup: Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat.

"A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked In The Earth It Was Grown" at Attica
“A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked In The Earth It Was Grown” with smoked goat curd, coconut husk ash, salt bush, ground coffee.

Just a potato right? No. This was one heck of a potato and all these months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. Watch a video of the chef making it here. It will help you understand why it’s such a special dish. I also love what Adam Sachs wrote about it (and Ben Shewry) for Bon Appetit:

Today is his day off, and we’re up early to “lay a hangi” in a friend’s yard. A hangi, for the uninitiated, is a New Zealand Maori ritual in which vast amounts of food are buried over searingly hot rocks in the ground and steamed to perfection in that slow cooker called Planet Earth.

Waiting for the bonfire to die down, I ask him about something I’d eaten at Attica the night before. On the menu, it’s listed as A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked in the Earth It Was Grown.

Chang (David Chang), who recently tweeted that Shewry’s potato in dirt was one of the best things he’d eaten last year, tried to describe why. “It’s hard to explain, but Attica’s a very personal dining experience,” he told me. “When I eat there I feel like I’m eating what Australian food should taste like.”

The dish is a hangi in miniature and essential Shewry: a humble potato, buried in dirt and shrouded in personal narrative. (Read the full article)

Cucumbers, Holy Flax, Sauce of Burnet at Attica
The dinner continued with Cucumbers, Holy Flax, Sauce of Burnet.

King George Whiting In Paperback
King George Whiting with Butter & Lemon Myrtle In Paperback

Flinders Island Wallaby, Scorched Macadamia, Ground Berry
Flinders Island Wallaby (tasted like venison to me), Scorched Macadamia, Ground Berry.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
WOW. “Plight of the Bees” dessert (New Zealand honey) arrived in a beehive box made of Tasmanian oak. One for each of us.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
Opening the lid to “Plight of the Bees”. Two types of New Zealand honey combined with meringue, frozen lemon, wild thyme. The honey comb pattern was created with freeze-dried apple on top of the thin layer of pumpkin.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
Digging in… “Plight of the Bees”. Again, WOW.

Native fruits of Australia
Native fruits of Australia (Plums, Muntries, Riberries, Lime, Quandongs) with Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt & Native Currant Shaved Ice.

Vinegar Ice Cream at Attica
Apple Vinegar Ice Cream with Candied Oats.

The Pukeko's Egg by Chef Ben Shewry, Attica in Melbourne, Australia
Along with our Attica menu, we each received a copy of Ben Shewry’s artwork. On the back he explained why he is inspired by the Pukeko:
“The New Zealand Pukeko is quite a character and has often provided my family with first class entertainment… Like me, Pukeko are often seen foraging for food beside roadside ditches, but unlike me they had been forced to adapt because their natural habit, the swamplands, have almost disappeared with human proliferation.”

The Pukeko's Egg
The Pukeko’s Egg: Hand-painted, Chocolate & Salted Caramel Eggs.

Attica in Melbourne, Australia
Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria went above and beyond to make this meal happen. Many thanks to Madeleine Blake (above left) for organizing the phenomenal evening for myself and Nyree McFarlane.

Read Nyree’s fantastic piece on Ben Shewry here.

Read more about Ben Shewry on Bon Appetit.

Marshmallows in the garden with Chef Ben Shewry! Attica in Melbourne, Australia (Nyree Mcfarlane and Madeleine Blake)How to Get a Reservation at Attica in Melbourne, Australia by Eater

Attica
74 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea, VIC 3185
Website
Bookings: +61 3 9530 0111

This meal was paid for by Tourism Victoria.

Jo Bites Oz, Part One

 

 

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Guerrilla Tacos

Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
I’ve known Chef Wes Avila for a few years, but had YET to try his award-winning Guerrilla Tacos.

Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
What a wonderful surprise to see the Guerrilla Tacos truck set up for Ruth Reichl’s recent book party!

Salmon Crudo w Avocado & Grapefruit, Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
Salmon Crudo Taco with Avocado & Grapefruit.

Lamb Shank Taco, Guerrilla Tacos
Lamb Shank Taco.

Pork Shoulder Taco, Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
Pork Shoulder Taco.

Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
My favorite (meatless even!) was the Sweet Potato with Oaxacan Cheese Taco. Wes makes it with Japanese sweet potatoes, plugra butter, thyme salt and pepper, white wine braised leeks, don Francisco Oaxacan cheese plus crushed corn nuts, scallions and almond chile. WOW. 

Read Jonathan Gold’s review here

Ruth Reichl on Guerrilla Tacos

Taco Of The Year

Guerrilla Tacos
Website (with schedule)

Follow Chef Wes Avila on twitter

Follow @GuerrillaTacos on twitter

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My Delicious Summer Read

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS
I first read it on my iPad (the moment it was released)…

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS
Then again when the hardcover arrived…

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS!
At a recent book signing, I picked up another copy as a gift…

Wes Avila's Guerrilla Tacos
Where I inadvertantly discovered my new favorite taco

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS!
It was a magical (though scorching) afternoon sipping chilled rosé with the author

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS! Book Party
and a few friends

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS
I even got to discuss my “fantasy cast” (Emma Stone should play Billie Breslin!)…

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS
And talk about how the book hit so close to home…

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUS
Delicious! A Novel by Ruth Reichl is a wonderful, heartwarming and FUN summer read (and yes, I’m reading it again)!

More photos from the book party.

About the book:

Ruth Reichl's DELICIOUSBillie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills. (more on RuthReichl.com)

Follow @RuthReichl on twitter

Purchase Delicious! the novel

Download on iTunes

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POT

The BOOT KNOCKER (photo below) is a dish made with a long list of ingredients including SPAM, corned beef hash, spicy sausages and instant ramen. It’s POT restaurants’s version of Korean budae jjigae, which means “army stew”.

"Boot Knocker" at Roy Choi's POT RestaurantI know what you’re thinking, that it looks like something you’d eat ONLY when you’re drunk, or possibly to cure that wicked hangover the next morning.

Recently I tried it at lunch, unquestionably sober, and sat gleefully picking out flavors from my childhood.

SPAM always takes me back to my early years in Okinawa, where food was rationed during the Vietnam War. Corned Beef Hash was a regular on my American grandfather’s breakfast table, and I still eat it every once in awhile, cooked almost burnt, with a fried egg on top – just like grandpa made it. And like most, Top Ramen was a life-saver in my early 20s, when I was flat-broke between paychecks. The BOOT KNOCKER tastes like my childhood in a bowl and I loved reliving each bite.

So, which C.I.A.-trained chef would dare serve this on his new L.A. menu? Well, Chef Roy Choi of course. The same genius behind Kogi BBQ, A-Frame, Sunny Spot and Chego. He also wrote “L.A. Son”, a heartfelt immigrant story that I’ve read twice so far.

POT restaurant (named for Korean hot pots and maybe weed) is located at the new, swank LINE HOTEL in Korea-town. Check out a few photos of the hotel here.

Uni Dynamite Rice Bow, Roy Choi's POT Restaurant
If the BOOT KNOCKER isn’t your type of comfort food, there’s always the decadent Uni Dynamite Rice Bowl. My server said they regularly run out of this dish, so grab it when you can.

Noodle of the Day, Roy Choi's POT Restaurant
The NOODLE OF THE DAY was a Chilled Somen Noodle w Various Raw & Pickled Vegetables, Chili Paste, Shredded Beef, Hard Boiled Egg.

BBQ Spicy PORK, Roy Choi's POT Restaurant
If you love pork as much as I do, then a must-order is the SPICY BBQ PORK.

Choi is also a co-producer on Jon Favreau’s new film called (appropriately), “CHEF”. I haven’t seen the movie yet but here’s a link to the trailer. You can also check out details at my friend Eddie Lin’s blog. Warning: SPOILER ALERT.

If you’re a fan of the film and near Korea-town on Thursday May 15th, Roy is hosting a popup at POT (serving Cubano sandwiches) to celebrate the movie.

Roy Choi's POT RestaurantPOT Restaurant
(Inside The Line Hotel)
3515 Wilshire Blvd
Koreatown
Los Angeles
213-381-7411
website

Follow Chef Roy Choi on twitter

Follow POT on twitter

All my POT photos here, including some serious drunk-eats at the Line Hotel Cafe.

 

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Tipple & Brine

My latest Jonathan Gold scouting report is up on L.A. Times! Tipple & Brine is a terrific new spot in Sherman Oaks. Read my report (with photos) here.
My Tipple & Brine scouting report for Jonathan Gold, L.A. Times (5/1/14)

All my Tipple & Brine photos here.

Links to my other scouting reports here.

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SPAGO

It may be a surprise to some, but I don’t attend very many hosted (free) dinners. Like most food writers, I get email invites from restaurant PR firms often, and if I wanted to, I could eat gratis (lunch AND dinner) practically every day of the week.

SPAGO, Beverly HillsThe fact is, Peter and I are happy to pay for good food and love supporting chefs and restaurants, especially here in Los Angeles.

From a local burger joint to the best restaurant in town, we enjoy (and usually pay for) it all. We don’t have children (except our pups of course!), so our disposable income goes towards food and travel.

Throughout the year we’ll attend a few “friends and family” meals (restaurant pre-opening dinners), grand openings and the occasional new menu preview. In exchange for blog coverage (more importantly, twitter coverage), we have the pleasure of sharing a beautiful meal at the courtesy of the restaurant. NOTE: We ALWAYS make sure to leave a hefty tip for the staff.

Wolfgang Puck’s legendary SPAGO restaurant went through a major remodel in 2012, so I was thrilled to get an invite for Peter and myself recently.

About the remodel (from Spago’s website):
Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff’s legendary, flagship restaurant features a completely new menu and design. The master chef, along with Executive Chef and Managing Partner Lee Hefter, has re-invented the entire menu with his signature farm-to-table philosophy, heightening the iconic California cuisine Puck catapulted to stardom. Spago’s new design from Waldo Fernandez complements the food with its clean and simple aesthetic, incorporating natural elements to add an organic feel.

The California Tasting Menu was, as expected, quite exquisite. My favorite dish was actually the one I was LEAST excited about when perusing the menu. If you’re dining at SPAGO and see “Savory Oatmeal” listed anywhere, please do not dismiss it like I did. I still can’t stop thinking about the comforting texture (from the wild nettle), the subtle spiciness (from the ‘Nduja) mixed together with the uni’s awesomely, creamy funk.

Hoping to spoil mom for Mother’s Day? Check out the incredible brunch menu (with over 25 choices) here. Dishes include Ricotta-Lemon Blintzes with Wild Huckleberry Compote (for her sweet tooth) and Veal Filet Mignon Tartare with Warm Tarragon Vinaigrette. The cost is $70 per person for three courses (a bargain at SPAGO!), $35 per child (under 9 years).  This is the only brunch scheduled for the entire year and begins at 11am until 2:30pm, Sunday, May 11, 2014.

My photos from SPAGO’s Spring “California Tasting Menu”

Bread Service at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Bread service includes the lavash cracker with pumpkin seeds.

Sterling Farm's White Sturgeon Caviar, SPAGO
Sterling Farm’s White Sturgeon Caviar with “Sunny side up egg” (egg white caviar, egg yolk jam), Rye Crisp, Potato Chip Espuma.

California Abalone, Nagatoshi Farm's Cucumber Sorbet at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
California Abalone, Nagatoshi Farm’s Cucumber Sorbet with Clarified Gazpacho.

California Abalone, Nagatoshi Farm's Cucumber Sorbet at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Closeup shot.

White Nettle Savory Oatmeal w Uni  at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
White Nettle Savory Oatmeal w Uni, ‘Nduja Sausage, Mushroom Emulsion, Garlic Flower.

White Nettle Savory Oatmeal w Uni  at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Another photo of the uni oatmeal.

"Arare" Rice Cracker Crusted Santa Barbara Spot Prawn at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
“Arare” Rice cracker-crusted Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, Thai Red Curry, Coconut Emulsion, Eggplant Compote, Cilantro Blossom, Basil Caviar. 

Hand Made Agnolotti  at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Hand Made Agnolotti with McGrath Farm’s English Peas, Parmigiana Reggiano.

Genmai Tea Smoked Liberty Duck Breast at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Genmai Tea Smoked Liberty Duck Breast with Burdock Root, Fava Beans, Wild Flowers, Miso Cured Egg Yolk Powder.

Sonoma Spring Lamb Rack at SPAGO, Beverly Hills
Sonoma Spring Lamb Rack and Braised Bell with Spring Vegetables, Cumin-Carrot Puree.

A few of the wines on Spago's Spring Tasting Menu
A few of the wines on Spago’s Spring Tasting Menu:
Caraccioli Brut Rose paired with abalone.
Wind Gap Trousseau Gris paired with savory oatmeal & uni.
Galerie Sauv Blanc paired with prawn.
Wenzlau Chardonnay paired with agnolotti.
Black Kite Pinot Noir paired with duck.
Araujo Cabernet paired with lamb.

Unfortunately I was too full for sweets! (Lucky Peter!)

SPAGO
176 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-0880
website

Dining date: 4/23/14

California (April 2014) Tasting Menu $145 pp
California Wine $75 pp

This meal was hosted.

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