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Pizzeria Mozza opens strong

Place

Pizzeria Mozza

789 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego

It was so easy to bear Pizzeria Mozza all the ill will in the world. For starters, people go bonkers over the one in Los Angeles, and, as any true San Diegan knows, nothing good comes out of LaLaLand. Then, there was the buzz surrounding the place, complete with the heavily Photoshop-filtered snaps of the dining room. Sorry, but hyping something up like that sets up disappointment 95% of the time.

And then there’s the other five percent; those rare occasions when something lives up to the hype and then some. Mozza, by the power of food alone, met the challenge of its own reputation.

Fried goat cheese atop a bed of lentils.

Nothing’s perfect, and the cramped dining room at Pizzeria Mozza, done with overzealous love for all things red, might as well be tacked onto a Midwestern Holiday Inn. The designers jammed too many tables into the narrow space, which would have all the charm of a Papa Johns if not for the nice linen napkins and well-dressed servers classing the place up.

But end the grouching there, because as soon as the food hits the table, it’s time to slip into a cocoon of gastro-bliss and forget that the next table is mere inches away.

Fried goat cheese atop a bed of lentils sets the bar high for rustic, Italian simplicity. How does one extract such flavor from mere lentils? By loading them up with veal (?) stock and cured pork, of course! The legumes swim in a succulent gravy of their own design, cut by the tang of goat cheese.

Toast piled high with chicken liver paté sets off alarms. Surely, such a mass of liver will be overkill, but Mozza’s paté transcends its ingredients. Fragrant chunks of garlic, salty guanciale, the green tang of parsley, and subtle hints of caper all work together in perfect harmony to form an intricate and exceptional dish that could be eaten with a fork, out of a jar, like candy. It’s almost disgusting how good the stuff is.

Chicken liver paté on toast.

And then there’s the pizza. The sauce could be tomato jam, reduced with loving affection to incredible, pungent flavor. The crust, flavorful and obviously loaded with olive oil, might as well be laced with heroin for all the difficulty in not overdosing on it and dying beswooned at your table.

A simple concoction — white anchovies, Fresno chiles, and red sauce — gets the fishy sweetness in perfect concert with a lemony tang and mild spiciness. It’s near-perfect balance at work.

“Breakfast” pizza with bacon, potatoes, and an egg puts simplicity forward. The slices of potato may have been soaked in a buttery ocean for all the fatty, salty flavor that they pack in. The egg, cracked atop the little ‘za and finished in the oven, spreads perfectly around the pizza. The bacon is, naturally, of the finest sort.

“Breakfast” pizza.

If there’s one complaint about the food, it’s that every dish seduces the palate by way of fatty, salty goodness. Sometimes, the vast quantities of olive oil drizzled on everything come off as just a bit much. It’s a small bit, however, and words like “great” and “awesome” come to mind. That’s “great” in the sense of Peter the..., and “awesome” in the sense of literally inspiring awe in the beholder.

The food is that good, and it manages with neither pomp nor posturing. Elegance happens because each dish takes a few elements and puts them in meticulous balance. That, right there, is the essence of Italian cooking at its very best.

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Place

Pizzeria Mozza

789 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego

It was so easy to bear Pizzeria Mozza all the ill will in the world. For starters, people go bonkers over the one in Los Angeles, and, as any true San Diegan knows, nothing good comes out of LaLaLand. Then, there was the buzz surrounding the place, complete with the heavily Photoshop-filtered snaps of the dining room. Sorry, but hyping something up like that sets up disappointment 95% of the time.

And then there’s the other five percent; those rare occasions when something lives up to the hype and then some. Mozza, by the power of food alone, met the challenge of its own reputation.

Fried goat cheese atop a bed of lentils.

Nothing’s perfect, and the cramped dining room at Pizzeria Mozza, done with overzealous love for all things red, might as well be tacked onto a Midwestern Holiday Inn. The designers jammed too many tables into the narrow space, which would have all the charm of a Papa Johns if not for the nice linen napkins and well-dressed servers classing the place up.

But end the grouching there, because as soon as the food hits the table, it’s time to slip into a cocoon of gastro-bliss and forget that the next table is mere inches away.

Fried goat cheese atop a bed of lentils sets the bar high for rustic, Italian simplicity. How does one extract such flavor from mere lentils? By loading them up with veal (?) stock and cured pork, of course! The legumes swim in a succulent gravy of their own design, cut by the tang of goat cheese.

Toast piled high with chicken liver paté sets off alarms. Surely, such a mass of liver will be overkill, but Mozza’s paté transcends its ingredients. Fragrant chunks of garlic, salty guanciale, the green tang of parsley, and subtle hints of caper all work together in perfect harmony to form an intricate and exceptional dish that could be eaten with a fork, out of a jar, like candy. It’s almost disgusting how good the stuff is.

Chicken liver paté on toast.

And then there’s the pizza. The sauce could be tomato jam, reduced with loving affection to incredible, pungent flavor. The crust, flavorful and obviously loaded with olive oil, might as well be laced with heroin for all the difficulty in not overdosing on it and dying beswooned at your table.

A simple concoction — white anchovies, Fresno chiles, and red sauce — gets the fishy sweetness in perfect concert with a lemony tang and mild spiciness. It’s near-perfect balance at work.

“Breakfast” pizza with bacon, potatoes, and an egg puts simplicity forward. The slices of potato may have been soaked in a buttery ocean for all the fatty, salty flavor that they pack in. The egg, cracked atop the little ‘za and finished in the oven, spreads perfectly around the pizza. The bacon is, naturally, of the finest sort.

“Breakfast” pizza.

If there’s one complaint about the food, it’s that every dish seduces the palate by way of fatty, salty goodness. Sometimes, the vast quantities of olive oil drizzled on everything come off as just a bit much. It’s a small bit, however, and words like “great” and “awesome” come to mind. That’s “great” in the sense of Peter the..., and “awesome” in the sense of literally inspiring awe in the beholder.

The food is that good, and it manages with neither pomp nor posturing. Elegance happens because each dish takes a few elements and puts them in meticulous balance. That, right there, is the essence of Italian cooking at its very best.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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