Gravity Heights (San Diego, CA)

CITRUS SHANDY gh pilsner, grapefruit, orange, lime

Gravity Heights is a strange fellow. Atop the hilly landscape of Sorrento Valley—a wise move to capture the tech workers trapped by the 805’s unholy rush hour traffic—clear glass walls bath the space in light, while maple veneer and sky blue upholstery keep the interior on trend.

The latest project of Whiskenladle Hospitality, Chef Keith Voight (formerly of Prep Kitchen Del Mar which was formally a part of the Whisknladle brand) helms the only vegan-friendly menu of the group’s portfolio.

Perhaps vegan-friendly is too effusive a term for the two options, but when you’re the single vegan in a sea of omni co-workers, the little “v” on the menu becomes your good time enabler.

From the west coast of India to the best coast of America comes Bhel Puri ($10.75). Delicate puffs of rice—not unlike the healthy hippy cereals that filled many of our childhood bowls—come tossed with roasted peanuts, diced tomato, cubes of sweet mango, bites of red onion, quinoa, and a side of tamarind date chutney (the mint cilantro chutney is not vegan). It’s a fleeting dish, growing softer by the minute, that balances tastes and textures in a respectful (albeit very sweet) fusion.

The Sundried Tomato N’duja Pizza ($14.5) comes speckled in char. Spread with a thin tomato sauce spotted with thick nugs of umami in the form of sun dried tomato paste, wilted basil, red onion, and dollops of cashew ricotta.

“It’s my favorite… and I’m not even vegan” exclaims our waiter as he places it before us. Digging our toes into the wood chips below the purple picnic bench, a whiff of smoke from the distance oven falls over us as we raise the first slice to our lips.

Gravity Heights 
9920 Pacific Heights Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92121
Instagram: @gravityheights

Vegan Friendly: Tribute Pizza in North Park

There are two types of people: Those that love a specific style of pizza, and those who love supreme examples of EVERY style of pizza. Tribute Pizza—where pizza topping combinations are inspired by all the American greats—is for people who love them all.

The cavernous hall of the old North Park Post Office seemed an audacious choice for a debut restaurant. But attention to detail and a sweeping love of pizza quickly attracted customers.

On most nights, the restaurant is packed.

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MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza (Los Angeles, CA)

“Menchie’s CEO to debut fast-casual pizza concept”

Yeah, that headline didn’t catch my attention either. Another businessman entering the quick service assembly line pizza game is old hat these days. Executive Chef Peppe Miele is another name I glossed over. Then I saw Senior Chef, Mario Vollera, and immediately booked my visit to MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza.

Mario and I met in the kitchen at Il Piccolo Ritrovo back in 2013. Standing over a mixer we talked dough hydration, tomato selection and fermentation times…  Later that year I ran into him again at his own pizzeria, South End, pouring outstanding wines and slinging one of my favorite pizzas in all of Los Angeles. In my experience, any restaurant where Mario Vollera is found makes a guaranteed good pie.

MidiCi is the first assembly pizzeria in Los Angeles to challenge 800 Degrees’ Neapolitan* domination. Hand stretched dough runs down the line on a wooden peel where topping—price per item, this isn’t an unlimited affair—are  selected from a colorful offering. Some of my favorites include purple kale, bosc pears (these are from the salad station, but work well on pizza), fingerling potatoes and pistachios . Midici offers a Udi’s gluten free crust (not vegan) and Daiya Mozzerella (vegan).

*Side note: I’ve done an unhealthy amount of  research into this trend and have come across three district styles of Assembly Line Pizzerias:
1) James Markham-style: Pressed Dough, unlimited topping (Mod, Blaze, Project Pie, Pieology, Pizza Rev…)
2) Family Style: Thick dough, unlimited topping (Uncle Maddio, Top That!)
3) Neapolitan: Hand stretched dough, wood fire oven, price per topping (800 Degrees, Persona, Firecrust)

“So, what makes MidiCi different from 800 Degrees?” we asked CEO Amit Kleinberger.

Kleinberger leans in, “Are you done with this pizza?” he asks, hand hovering over our half eaten pie.

“Um, yes?” I respond. He picks up a slice and hold it vertically, a tail of dough and topping dangling limply.

“You see that! If this was 800 Degrees all the topping would be sliding off.”

He is correct.

The interior of MidiCi is a standout. With a soaring wood beam ceiling, olive trees and brass accents throughout. But the high end touches don’t creep into the menu prices. A plate of wood fire-roasted vegetables is $5.00, the Red Marinara pizza is $6.50 (+$1 per topping) and the wine list runs between $6 to $9 a glass. With an aggressive franchiseing plan already in place, MidiCi is playing a trump card in the assembly line pizza game.

MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza
14612 Ventura Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 91403

All food hosted.

Del Popolo (San Francisco, CA)

From the very beginning, the food truck moment has seemed silly to me. Chasing meals-on-wheels which never seem to be anywhere close when you crave them. We mutually burn fuel in a roundabout run that rarely leaves my belly or either of our wallets satisfied. And nothing is as frustrating as trolling through twitter and poorly kept Facebook pages just to find out the truck was on your corner… yesterday. I avoid them all together, except in an exceptional case.

Del Popolo is an exceptional case.

The Death Star of the Food Truck World!

The heft and fuel needed to get this beast on the road is completely impractical. Almost immoral. But for a pizza this refined, with depth and complex flavors from minimal ingredients, I can get over myself.  Soft, with a tart funky sourdough crust, and topped with a blend of imported San Marzano and Biano DiNapoli tomatoes. This far exceeds any food truck food I’ve ever devoured.

They ran out of basil so topped my Margareta with Rabe


A “tortilla” bottom that doesn’t taste under cooked at all!

This really isn’t a food truck at all. It’s more akin to a pop up restaurant: no finite location, limited overhead, as fleeting as the San Francisco fog. But she’ll always roll back in, carrying uncompromisingly great pizza in her 28,000 pound belly.

Del Popola

Pizzanista (Los Angeles, CA)

Huge huge huge slices! Double the size I expected…

After 8 years in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy! Do or Die!), I kissed my favorite pizza good-bye and flew home to Los Angeles. A few months later I was hired at Slice. I didn’t know much more about pizza then the average NYC foodie. But that’s considerably more than the average LA foodie… and probably how I got the job. This past year I’ve devoured the Los Angeles pizza scene, learning a simple truth: There is awesome pizza in LA!

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Milo + Olive (Santa Monica, CA)

The First Pie

UPDATE: There is anchovy in the tomato sauce! What a bummer!

I eat a lot of pizza. So, when the internet gushes praise on a brand new pizza place, how cannot I not chime in? Today, Foursquare and Twitter blew up with love and attention for Milo + Olive’s pizza (most notable by The Unemployed Eater) so I got my butt over there ASAP. Thinking I could successfully avoid the lunch rush, I was still met with a completely packed restaurant. So I placed my to-go order—got an estimated 30 minute wait time—and hopped over to Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub where I nursed a Affligem Abbey Ale in anticipation.

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Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza (Los Angeles, CA)

Now, I know people hate chicken pizza... (outside of California)

So, what is Brazilian pizza? If Bella Vista Brazilian Pizza is a good representation, then it is a thin crispy crust with delicate, but a piecemeal collection of toppings. Bella Vista is an homage to the Bexiga neighborhood —AKA the “Little Italy” of São Paulo, Brazil— one of the biggest hubs of Italian culture outside of Italy. I invited the Serious Eats LA MeetUp group to this little spot. Though it doesn’t sound like a particularly excellent example of pizza, the abundance positive reviews intrigue.

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Motorino (Brooklyn, NY)

Oh the tragic beauty of wating for a table

If you have ears you’ve probably heard that the New York Times recently called Motorino the BEST PIZZA IN NEW YORK! Is it true? Well, the long answer is: Like yetis, Shangri-La and poo that don’t stink, there is no such thing as the best because blah blah blah… but the short answer is: Yes.

Like a Japanese Zen garden of happiness

For all the strengths of the pizza, the restaurant has always been a struggle to love. The overexerted waitstaff and pizza-paddle wranglers get pies on the table with impeccable timing, but the wine/water/salad service and general politeness suffer for it.

Upon entering the Grand St location, you bump into the first row of tables. Waitresses frantically wiggle though the isles as clumps of hungry hungry hipsters wearily scan for the elusive host. Since the NYT review, the mass consumable hysteria has spiraled into a full blown melee of middle aged Manhattanites. They suck in our youthful Brooklyn charm while sucking  up all the tables at Motorino. But hey, I was sucked in by the hype too, last year when Grub Street took Mario Batali on an multi-borough new pizzeria tour and he declared Motorion superior to all, I was running after his bandwagon. But back then this was still just a neighborhood joint. With NYT’s declaration, this place now belongs to anyone with a metrocard, cab fair, or driver.

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