Monday, October 31, 2011

Pizzeria Mozza (Newport Beach, CA)

Pizzeria Mozza
800 W Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Mon 10/31/2011, 06:45p-09:00p

It's rather unfortunate that the most anticipated opening of the year in OC is merely a transplant of an existing restaurant in LA (and as of December 2010, Singapore). Nevertheless, Mozza is sort of a big deal, and this southern outpost of the Batali/Bastianich/Silverton empire was certainly worth a visit. After some issues attaining a liquor license, the eatery debuted at the start of September, and Matt Molina from the first Mozza returns as Executive Chef, while Chef de Cucina duties are handed off to Emily Corliss, a veteran of the original location as well.

Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Interior
Mozza sits on the ground that was formerly home to Dolce Ristorante Italiano, though Batali and company decided to tear down that building and start from scratch. Newport maintains the warm, earthy vibe of the original, as well as its predecessor's pizza oven-facing counter, and also adds a full bar, something missing from the Los Angeles location (as Osteria Mozza next door has one).

Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Menu Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Menu Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Menu
Mozza's menu, as expected, reads familiarly, and you'll find almost all your favorites from the Melrose eatery. Click for larger versions.

Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Wines by the Glass Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Wine List Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Wine List Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Cocktail & Beer List
Appropriately, wines here are Italy-centric and reasonably priced. The vini is complemented by a handful of beers, while cocktails (by Lucas Swallows of Carnevino/Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group in Las Vegas) will arrive when the restaurant receives its full liquor license. Click for larger versions.

Grissini bread sticks take the place of normal bread service.

Arancine alla Bolognese
Arancine alla Bolognese [$12.00]
We kicked off the meal with an octet of arancini, which are basically risotto balls coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They were nice, with a mild rice-y savor deftly augmented by the meaty, tangy Bolognese sauce.

Mussels al forno
Mussels al forno [$12.00]
Mussels were impressive, showing off a lovely salinity that was perfectly countered by the dish's spicy, peppery base, while the toasted bread served to moderate the course.

Ricotta with artichokes, pine nuts & currants
Ricotta with artichokes, pine nuts & currants [$12.00]
Next up was the most complex course of the night flavor-wise. Reading its description on the menu, I wasn't too keen on it initially, but really the dish was pretty interesting. The ricotta definitely grounded things with its cool creaminess, serving as a stage on which the slight vegetal tang of the artichoke, the earthiness of the pine nuts, and the sweetness of the currants could really shine. Lovely mintiness from the herbs, too.

Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale
Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale [$9.00]
Rounding out our appetizers was a plate of bruschetta, topped with chicken liver. The aggressive relish of the fegato del pollo was moderated in part by the piquant bits of caper interspersed within, while the guanciale added a well-placed salty smack to the mix. I'd think twice about ordering this if you don't count yourself as a fan of liver though.

Margherita with mozzarella, tomato & basil
Margherita with mozzarella, tomato & basil [$14.00]
The margherita is sort of the de facto order when trying out a new pizzeria, and tonight was no exception: when all you're dealing with is tomato, mozz, and basil, there's nothing to hide behind. Though not strictly napoletana in execution, the pizza was tasty nonetheless, with the tangy tomato working in concert with the cheese to great effect, all punctuated by overarching notes of peppery basil. As for the crust, it's baked for a relatively long time at a relatively low temperature, making for a crisp, toasty, puffy-edged character that I rather enjoyed.

Egg, bacon, Yukon Gold potato & Bermuda onions
Egg, bacon, Yukon Gold potato & Bermuda onions [$19.00]
Egg, bacon, and potato, three of my favorite ingredients, all on one pizza? This was definitely a must-order. Our server likened this to a "breakfast pizza," and it did not disappoint, showing off a profound savoriness from the bacon and a gorgeous bit of lusciousness from the runny egg that went perfectly with the potato, onion, and cheese. You can't go wrong here.

Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach Dessert Menu
Desserts at Mozza Newport are the charge of Pastry Chef Sarah Asch. Click for a larger version.

Chocolate Nougatine Tart, black walnut gelato, shortbread, agrodolce
Chocolate Nougatine Tart, black walnut gelato, shortbread, agrodolce [$10.00]
A chocolate nougatine tart actually was rather tart, thanks to the agrodolce. The sweet & sour notes of the sauce countered the sugariness of the chocolate nicely, and I appreciated the restrained savoriness from the walnut gelato as well. Lovely crunch from the nougatine to boot.

Butterscotch Budino, Maldon sea salt, rosemary pine nut cookies
Butterscotch Budino, Maldon sea salt, rosemary pine nut cookies [$10.00]
Naturally, we had to end the evening with Mozza's famed budino, which, really, was as strong as ever. The interplay of the unabashedly saccharine pudding with the Maldon is a perfect example of mixing sweet and savory flavors, with the salt doing a fantastic job in balancing out the weight of the butterscotch. The cookies, meanwhile, added the fragrant tang of rosemary into the mix, and also served to provide some textural variation to the dessert. Very nice, as always.

Two months after opening, Mozza Newport seems to be humming along just fine, dishing out straightforward, satisfying fare in a relaxed setting. I really have no complaints, save for the hassle of actually trying to get a reservation to the place. In the end, the restaurant is pretty much a carbon copy of the original up in LA, which really isn't a bad thing and probably already miles ahead of most Italian eateries in Orange County.


Anonymous Franklin said...

Awesome. Glad that they kept it the same. OC did need to step up their Italian cuisine and it looks like they will fit right in.

Thursday, November 03, 2011 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Yesi said...

Kevin!... thanks for the blog... the aranice (risotto balls) sounds like a dish I make at home, so those are a must try and of couse the pizza!

Do you recommend trying the original Location in LA, or the new OC?? (im half way in between, so whichever is better)

Thursday, November 03, 2011 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I have heard some very unfortunate reservation horror stories for Mozza. Like The Exorcist horror stories but minestrone instead of pea soup.

Whether they were entirely true or not, I wish them the best!

I am personally more partial to the Osteria. Worth the extra hour drive. ;)

Thursday, November 03, 2011 2:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Marian the Foodie said...

I've been to the OC spot a few times. I love sitting on the pizza bar chairs :)

Their pizza is good here but I also love Pizzeria Ortica's pizzas

Friday, November 04, 2011 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger Rodzilla said...

Very envious, I'm yet to be to a Mozza spot but I hear another one is being built in La Jolla. Hopefully it's ready by the time I come back.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 8:59:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Franklin: Indeed. Do you have any other Italian recommendations for OC? Nothing really comes to mind for me.

Yesi: If distance isn't an issue, I'd say go to the LA one. It's the "original," and seems to have less issues with service at this point (though our service was fine).

Michael: What have you heard??? For me, it was just a matter of them not having availability. I do need to get back to the Osteria some time, though.

Marian: How's Ortica holding up now that Matt and Zack are at Sotto? Ortica's pizzas were always more authentically Neapolitan I believe.

Roddy: Yeah I saw that on Communal Table. When are you planning to head back to Cali?

Monday, November 07, 2011 2:27:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Kevin: Yelp has some pretty consistent personnel gripes.

You are correct, sir! You do need to get back to The Osteria. ;)

So, what's on the schedule for Friday night?

Monday, November 07, 2011 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

My wife and I went last night and it was pretty awesome. Bone Marrow al forno was awesome. Margherita was awesome. Beer was great (from San Diego).

I am surprised you didn't get the pane.

(Still partial to Osteria Mozza.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 9:51:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

You mean Friday as in today? Probably going to meet up with an old friend for a casual dinner and some beers. What about you?

Glad to hear that you enjoyed yourselves here though--I had the marrow at the original Mozza and liked it too. Why the surprise about the pane though?

Friday, November 11, 2011 1:10:00 AM  

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