In this town, when someone says 'Nancy,' they're either talking about a Reagan, a Sinatra or a Silverton. The ends of her lips often curl up in a coy smile, even when she's speaking with authority about the restaurant world. She created an international, multimillion dollar bread business, sold it, and then, in a moment of extremely bad luck, lost everything in the Madoff scandal. She's the author of many best-selling books. She's won nearly every award a chef can win. And when asked why she opened Pizzeria Mozza, Nancy Silverton says only that it is because she "wanted to learn how to make a great pizza."
Naturally, Nancy herself was unavailable for an interview. After many calls and emails, Matt Molina made time to speak with Eater about Mozza's pizza. Except, that after only a few questions, he said, expectantly, "This is all in the book, you know..."
Can't really blame him. The other day, Molina burst through the restaurant's front door, beaming. He had, of course, just returned from New York where he'd just won a James Beard award for Best Chef: Pacific. The dining room greeted him with applause.
This week in Eater's Pizza Masters posts, we've been highlighting the people in the city who are making some of the most widely respected pies around. To level the playing field, we've focused on the classic pizza Margharita.
Meanwhile, Molina couldn't stop gushing about the pizzas on Mozza's menu that are made with Mozzarella di bufala. He's proud of Mozza's Margharita, but is quick to point out that the pizzas on the menu that are topped with buffalo mozzarella are so much better. The $20 Mozzarella di bufala with tomato, Genovese basil & extra virgin olive oil and the $17 Fennel Sausage pie are the most requested, by far. But why isn't the pizza Margharita as well-loved?
Mozza's pizza Margharita is nothing if not a beautiful pizza. Stark white and red, with perky leaves of baby basil, it's surrounded by a puffy, slightly sour, slightly sweet crust with crisp, hollow bubbles. The dough contains yeast and a bit of malt. The simple tomato sauce ("we call it a passato because it's just tomatoes passed through a food mill with garlic and salt," Molina explains) contains a "just a touch!" of sugar. The mozzarella is Galbani brand and the baby basil is, of course, locally grown. Before it goes in the oven, the crust is brushed with Monini olive oil, giving it an alluring sheen. It's a particular style of pizza. Molina describes it as more Roman than Neapolitan. Many, many Angelenos describe it as their favorite. Respect. Nancy rules this town.
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