Please don’t tell my wife, but I have fallen in love with a recent acquaintance. We met at a bar in Santa Monica a couple weeks ago and I have been thinking about her everyday since. The object of my affection is hot, enticing, earthy but sophisticated. In all candor, she’s also doughy and cheesy. She is a mushroom and truffle pizza; the best pizza I have ever had in LA and one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. I discovered this amazing umami white pizza, which has shaved Crimini mushrooms, gruyere, melted onions, black truffle, torn parsley, romemary and thyme, at Stella Rossa Pizza Bar, an exciting new restaurant which opened earlier this year.
The surprising thing about this pizza discovery is that I wouldn’t usually order a mushroom pizza; it was selected by my daughter who was dining with me. I almost always go for the meat and, accordingly, we also ordered the Housemade Organic Sausage Pizza with ground sausage made daily at Stella Rossa, tomato, fresh mozzarella, hand-picked oregano, fennel pollen and optional calabria chiles for extra heat. I loved the sausage pizza, but the mushroom pizza is the one that really blew me away.
The mastermind behind these amazing pizzas is a young genius chef named Jeff Mahin, who, at age 27, has already worked in three of best restaurants in the world – Arzak in Spain, Nobu in New York and my all-time favorite restaurant, The Fat Duck in England. The son of a scientist and an engineer, Mahin fashions himself a “food scientist” of sorts and has spent years researching and developing the perfect pizza. Although the quality and combinations of toppings on these pizzas are phenomenal, everyone knows that what makes a truly great pizza is the crust and the crust here is incredible. Chef Mahin uses a special blend he created of locally milled flour, filtered water, sea salt and fresh yeast and allows the dough mixture to ferment for at least 18 hours before assembling the pizzas and baking them in an ultra-hot 600 degree oven. The result is a crust which is golden and crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside. I am salivating just thinking about it.
Stella Rossa has other great offerings besides pizza. Their Oven Roasted Beet Carpaccio made with fresh burrata, toasted pistachios, aged balsamic and wild arugula, is an absolute must-have. I also like their Spinach & Purple Kale Salad with pecorino romano, medjool dates, shaved radishes and mustard vinaigrette. For dessert, I highly recommend the Salted Caramel Pot de Creme with Creme Fraiche; it’s a really delicious cup of pudding. The dimly lit restaurant, which plays great music and has a hip and relaxed atmosphere, also features a really great wine and beer list.
Stella Rossa Pizza Bar is located at 2000 Main Street in Santa Monica. UPDATE: Stella Rossa has changed its name to Stella Barra Pizzeria and has opened a second location in Hollywood.