WeHo Pizza Showdown: Vito’s vs. Joe’s (Spoiler: White Pie Pulls Off the Upset)
Back in March I was shocked to discover how not terrible Pitfire Pizza was. With branches on the west side and Downtown, it comforted me to know that after 5 years of NYC plentitude, decent pizza would not be something that was super hard to track down here in L.A. But Pitfire is more like a poor man’s Mozza, not a go-to lunchtime slice joint… so my quest for a great lunchtime slice was nowhere close to being over. (And by “quest” I mean “excuse to travel around L.A. trying out slices of pizza”.) Lunch’er Wutzizname said in the comments that Vito’s vs. Joe’s was the classic comparison, and Slice included them both in their favorite pizzas in L.A. list, so when Profiled Lunch’er “Patricia” recommended the white pie at Vito’s last week as her goto lunchtime slice- I was kind of sold.
And despite what Wutzizname said, I’m not so sure the winner is “abundantly clear”.
I started at Vito’s, on La Cienega just south of Santa Monica Blvd. It’s a little joint, in a dingy strip mall (always a good thing, as far as I’m concerned) with a little bit of seating on the inside (but not much). During lunch they have a number of different pizzas available by the slice, including veggie, meatball margherita, the works, and two white pies (one with pesto, one without.)
A slice of cheese is $2.50, the absolute most a slice of plain pizza should ever be (unless you’re DiFara’s in Brooklyn), but it was a solid. Slightly crunchy, mostly due to the reheating process, it’s good if you like a little bit of crispness to your slice… but not so crispy that the crust is rendered inedible. I’m no pizza aficionado (I leave tip sag, and hole structure to our friends over on slice) but it had a nice sauce, with tasty cheese, that left a completely enjoyable sheen of oil on top of the slice.
On Patricia’s recommendation I also had to try the white pizza… and quite frankly the choice between pesto and no pesto is no choice at all. This slice was the big winner, with the gobs of sweet (yes, sweet!) ricotta cheese that magically turned this white pie into a pizza geared toward canoli lovers. I loved how the sugary ricotta played off of the garlicy pesto, and the crust was tad bit springier (but that probably had less to do with the pizza itself, and more to do with how long they reheated it?) Soooo good!
Then it was onto Joe’s Pizza, which has a location just up the street (on Sunset, just west of La Cienega.) Unlike the Santa Monica, which will literally transport you back to the Joe’s on Bleecker street, the Sunset location is… how should I say it… crappier. Not as good for nostalgia purposes, but it should affect the pizza right?
I can’t exactly say why I liked this plain cheese slice better than Vito’s but I did. Maybe it was the nicely browned cheese? The fact that was a tad less crunchy? I just liked it a tiny bit better… it’s crazy too, because it cost $2.75!? (Here’s where I refrain from sounding like and old man, and complaining about how expensive pizza slices are these days…)
Joe’s didn’t have as many pies by the slice as Vito’s (although in fairness I went to both between 1 and 2pm. Maybe Joe’s has more closer to Noon?) But they did have a white pie.
As good as the plain slice was, the white pie at Joe’s was put to shame by Vito’s. I wasn’t down with the spinach topping, and their ricotta was no match for the canoli pie from Vito’s. (Interestingly enough, it was 50 cents cheaper than Vito’s, even though their plain slice is 25 cents more.)
So, who wins? The office workers of West Hollywood, that’s who! Both options are totally acceptable… and when it comes to the plain slice it’s practically a dead heat (with Joe’s getting the slight edge from the nostalgia factor), but Vito’s was the clear winner when it came to ordering anything beyond a plain cheese slice. Obviously if you’re going to go the whole pie route it’s a completely different competition (Slice calls it for Vito’s), and apparently Joe’s fresh mozzarella pie is great (they didn’t have it when I went), but in the war of the lunchtime cheese slices you won’t be disappointed by either, and that pesto white pie from Vito’s is an outright victory!
Interestingly enough, after visiting both I discovered this old article written back in 2007 by “The Guru” who was also (embarrassingly) smitten with the pesto white pie at Vito’s. There’s nothing like a little validation from a pro!
Vito’s Pizza, 846 N. La Cienega Blvd. (near Santa Monica), 310-652-6859
Joe’s Pizza, 8539 Sunset Boulevard (near La Cienega), 310-358-0900