Have you ever heard of anything so wondrous as a mozzarella bar? At Osteria Mozza, the more expensive and slightly more formal big sister to Pizzeria Mozza, the long marble counter wraps around a corner in the center of the room, giving patrons a birds eye view of their mozzarella-based crostini and small plates being prepared. Before visiting the Osteria, I thought the pizza bar at Pizzeria Mozza was fabulous, but truly, it's got nothing on this.
We were a party of five, and thus unable to sit at the bar, but we made sure to order a few things off the mozzarella bar section of the menu. This was the amuse bouche that arrived first. Crostini with fresh, creamy ricotta cheese and tapenade with basil chiffonade. When I tasted it I knew we were in for a treat.
Most of the mozzarella bar menu items are composed crostini, with layers of savory and sweet ingredients and some form of fresh cheese, such as burrata, burricota, fior di latte, bufala mozzarella or sweet fresh ricotta.
I have a feeling it's difficult to go wrong, but the two we ordered to share were amazing. We had the burrata with leeks vinaigrette & bacon, pictured above, and...
The burricotta with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto. Each one was meticulously designed so that each ingredient complimented the others. I couldn't begin to tell you which one was my favorite, but I do know I want to go back and try everything on that menu, pronto.
For my next course I chose the Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. These are a local, seasonal specialty, with a sweet flesh reminiscent of lobster. I may or may not have moaned when I tasted the meat, after pulling it out of the tail and swiping it through the mint pesto butter on the plate.
James chose the roasted octopus on our server's recommendation. So often this type of octopus preparation is rubbery and tough or overly charred, but this was delightfully tender and flavorful.
The best dish of the evening though (and it had some competition, let me tell you) was James' Sweetbreads Picatta. This dish was a stunner. Everything on the plate was perfectly harmonious, from the slightly crisp but tender sweetbreads to the tangy and rich (but not too much so) lemon butter sauce.
My gnocchi with duck ragu standing alone would have been wonderful - but it paled by comparison with the other dishes on the table. One friend had the grilled beef Tagliata with rucola - sliced flank steak with arugula salad - which featured a tender and flavorful piece of meat, and another ordered the Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard, which our server said was one of their most popular dishes. It was simple - just the orecchiette and a sausage ragu with chard chopped up in the sauce - but so delicious I couldn't stop eating it.
We shared these dishes so everyone could try everything, and by the end of the meal we were far too stuffed for dessert. Our server let us in on a little secret though - we could buy the butterscotch budino (aka pudding) in little pre-packed to-go cups at their Mozza 2 Go shop to eat later. I was curious to see the place, so we walked around the corner. There was a class in session at the Scuola di Pizza, where they teach pizza classes (for a cool $150. per person) on Monday nights, and offer dinners and Sunday lunches for $75.00 per person.
The tiny little shop next door is outfitted with a few Italian specialty items, a bakery counter and a refrigerated case for the salads and budino cups, pictured below.
We walked out with two budinos and a bag of bakery items, and loved each one more than the last. The mini Torta della Nonna was my favorite (eaten out of hand after coming home from a concert at 2 AM.) I found the recipe online and I'm looking forward to trying it out. The budino is also every bit as swoonworthy out of a plastic cup as it is in the restaurant - they even include thecaramel sauce and little dollop of sweetened creme fraiche on the top. It gets a little smashed by the lid, but it doesn't matter - since you're not sitting in the middle of a restaurant, you can just lick it right off!
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA
recommendations: Anything from the Mozzarella bar, the Sweetbreads Piccatta, Orecchiete with Sausage and Swiss Chard, Torta della Nonna, butterscotch budino and pastries from the Mozza to Go shop.
A few more photos can be viewed here.
Read my recent post about Pizzeria Mozza here.