Am I Crazy or Is Pitfire Pizza Not Terrible? (Even By New York Standards!?)
I distinctly remember my very first New York burrito. It was at a cheap dive called La Paloma in Hell’s Kitchen, and after a few years of living in L.A. (preceded by 9 years of eating at the very worthy Anna’s Taqueria in Boston) I pretty much thought it was terrible. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I never had a great burrito in New York. That is a “real” burrito, which to me means a giant tightly wrapped nugget in tin foil, eaten with your hands, and usually stuffed with delicious carnitas. (That’s how I do it.) Some people call it “mission style”. Or “dry” (because it doesn’t have sauce poured over the top.) I just call it a burrito.
But as time went on (I spent 5 years in New York) I could feel myself gradually becoming more accepting of New York’s burrito offerings. And by the end of my time there, I even called certain burritos “decent”- even though they probably weren’t half as good as that original burrito from La Paloma (which I claimed to hate.) Now that I’m back in L.A. I’m guessing the same thing is going to happen with pizza. Because as everybody knows, the pizza here is as bad as the Mexican food in NYC. I don’t doubt that there are decent slices to be had in Los Angeles, and of course there is now Mozza and Antica and even Bottega Louie. But those aren’t Midtown Lunches. Where do us cheap bastards go for a decent pizza lunch!?
Pitfire Pizza? Seriously?!
I had some crazy low expectations for Pitfire… after all, not only did I just move here from NYC but the place seems like it might have been the result of a CPK and a Starbucks having a baby who was then raised by Nancy Silverton. And once you consider the fact that one of my last (and most memorable) meals in New York City was a pilgrimage to Di Fara’s in Brooklyn, maybe it’s not fair that I try L.A. pizza so soon after moving. But Pitfire just opened a new location in “Culver City” (or Mar Vista or Culver West or whatever the hell you want to call it) and it’s not really New York pizza, unless by “New York pizza” you mean the pizza that is all the rage in New York City right now. Just like Mozza here in L.A.- Motorino, Keste, Company, and Franny’s in NYC are all serving the quickly cooked, slightly charred, “individual” pizzas with “farm fresh” toppings you get at Pitfire. (A kind of hybrid of California and Neapolitan styel pizzas.) And I have to admit, I’m kind of into it.
But there’s one major difference between all of those spots and Pitfire… Pitfire is doing it for under $10, and it’s perfect for a quick lunch since you order at the counter instead of from a waiter. They have four locations in L.A. (Downtown, North Hollywood, Westwood, and the newest location in Culver City), and last week I found myself in the Westwood spot trying out a couple of their pies.
I love runny egg on everything, so Green Eggs & Ham was a natural choice. Sure it’s 25 cents over the ML price limit (at $10.25) but whatever. Runny egg! The crust doesn’t puff up as much and is not as flavorful as the more expensive spots, but it’s not terrible (and nothing a little salt couldn’t fix.) And the toppings are clearly quality. Cheese + proscuitto + greens + egg = tasty treat!
In addition to their menu of 9 pies, they also have daily specials. I’m a big fan of the salty and sweet combo so we tried the pumpkin pizza special with wild greens and roasted pumpkin seeds. I was down with this one as well (you might say the secret ingredient was oil!) although once again the pizza could have used some salt.
I’m not really a pizza expert, although if I learned one thing from my go-to pizza aficionados over at Slice it’s that you always take an upskirt shot. I like a little char on the crust, but not too much… also like my slices to be a little floppy- so in that regard Pitfire was right on with these two pies. I checked in with Slice Grand Poo-bah Adam Kuban, and he agreed that it looks like they cook their pies at a low temperature for longer- so you don’t get that chartastic bubbling that you get at a spot like Motorino in NYC or even Mozza- where it lives in that beautiful space between undercooked and overcooked. But you’re also paying a lot less money. And it doesn’t taste bad.
The problem with this method was exposed on my second visit (which was to the new Culver City location) to try their basic pie (the margherita) for $9.25. The guy working the oven left it in way too long, and what I ended up with was like a cracker. Apparently the pies with toppings (like the runny egg) spend less time in the oven, so the margherita will end up a little crunchier (although they did admit that mine was cooked a little more than usual.)
So, was Pitfire Pizza amazing? No. But I will definitely be back. It’s a decent lunchtime pizza spot. Could it be that my extraordinarily low expectations helped me to like Pitfire more than it deserves? Possibly. But the fact that I just moved here from New York City, and didn’t completely hate it, says a lot. Don’t you think? (Now, about that $2 slice of real New York pizza. Where should I be going for that?)
- I love this style of pizza, but don’t want to pay Mozza prices!
- I really like farmers market ingredients on my pizzas, like pumpkin and a sunny side up egg
- They change their menu up all the time with seasonal specialties so you don’t get sick of the same pies
- They leave the pies in too long sometimes (especially the ones that don’t have toppings)
- The dough is not as flavorful as it should be
- I want *real* New York pizza. Not this Neapolitan/California style hybrid!
- So what if these pies are $15 at other places. Or $18 in New York City. I’m not paying $10 for pizza.
- Yo dude… where’s the freakin’ salt!?!
Pitfire Pizza (Four Locations)
- Downtown: 108 W 2nd St (nr. Main St.), 213-808-1200
- West L.A.: 2018 Westwood Blvd (btw. Olympic & Santa Monica), 310-481-9860
- Culver City: 12924 Washington Blvd. (nr. Beethoven), 424-835-4088
- North Hollywood: 5211 Lankershim Blvd (nr. Magnolia), 818-980-2949