SunCafé (Los Angeles,CA)

I rue the day I assumed SunCafé was a commonplace sandwich/salad/smoothie joint. It is so, so, so much more. The converted 1920’s ranch home (formally Zach’s Café) on Ventura Blvd extrudes warmth and comfort while the menu promotes whole food in comforting and familiar forms.

Chef Roy Elam—who shreds guitars along with carrots—heads the inventive menu of colossus salads, raw burgers, golden beet linguini and Reuben themed pizzas… but we had no room for those because we—Elana, Hanna, Alice and I—filled up just about everything else.

Sun Nachos—one of the most popular menu items—were the obvious starter. While debating whether to get the dish with baked blue corn chips or with raw thin-sliced jicama chips, the waitress chimed in “You can do a split order.” So that’s exactly what we did. Topped with “SunChorizo,” nacho cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeño, green onion and cashew sour cream this concoction makes the best vegan nachos I’ve had to date. Half of us loved the corn chips, the other half loved the jicama, so a split order is the perfect way to go! Me? I preferred the chips.

The Caesar Salad was not what we expected.  Crisp leaves of romaine lettuce and quartered cherry tomatoes are tossed in raw Caesar dressing with capers then lightly coated in garlic pecan crumble. Apparently there was also raw croutons in here… do you see them? I don’t. We asked the waitress and she swore they crushed up in there. Still, the subtly dressed salad refreshed the pallet; although I may eat my way through the rest of the salad menu before coming back around to the Ceasar.

Raw Cream of Mushroom Soup… I didn’t care for this one. The taste is subtle and refined, but the thick and frothy texture is not for me.

I had nearly given up on all vegan mac & cheese. From the ashes of the sloppy glue or watery plastic of most vegan versions rises the glory of SunCafé’s Mac & Cheese—and it’s gluten free to boot! Slender tubes of quinoa pasta are tossed with tiny diced tomatoes and then broiled in the smoothest-richest-most-perfect-ever cashew cheese sauce. Browned tips of pasta periscope up from the bubbling bath as chewy charred bits stick to the sides was we scrape it from the cast iron dish.

The Farmer’s Market Pizza was an unexpected pleasure. While the gluten free rice flour crust is mearly passable, the toppings sing. Market fresh figs sit atop white sauce (a blend of cashews, garlic, shallots, and nutritional yeast), with smokey tempeh bacon, peppery arugula, meyer lemon vin and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Owner Ron Russell approached our table as we debated who got the last slice. A tall (or so I think… we were sitting down) man with a beaming smile who accepted our raving compliments on the pizza but deflected them into the kitchen. “The kitchen suggested this combination… I wasn’t too sure about it. I mean figs? On a pizza…?” We all laughed. This moment of commodity distracted everyone as I stole the last slice.

I would have been happy to end the meal here, but most people love dessert. My friends are no exception. The loose, mouth-coating texture of cheesecake is one of my least favorite desserts ever; but cheesecake is the star of the menu here. I quickly learned why. The Cookie Dough Cheesecake is firm and dense—perfect for me—not too sweet and plenty for four hungry girls. The base is a mixture of cashews, coconut oil, and cacao nibs with other stuff (I’m not sure what) on top. It made a fan out of me; I still haven’t shut up about loving this cheesecake!

SunCafé
10820 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 308-7420
suncafe.com

Del Popolo (San Francisco, CA)

From the very beginning, the food truck moment has seemed silly to me. Chasing meals-on-wheels which never seem to be anywhere close when you crave them. We mutually burn fuel in a roundabout run that rarely leaves my belly or either of our wallets satisfied. And nothing is as frustrating as trolling through twitter and poorly kept Facebook pages just to find out the truck was on your corner… yesterday. I avoid them all together, except in an exceptional case.

Del Popolo is an exceptional case.

The Death Star of the Food Truck World!

The heft and fuel needed to get this beast on the road is completely impractical. Almost immoral. But for a pizza this refined, with depth and complex flavors from minimal ingredients, I can get over myself.  Soft, with a tart funky sourdough crust, and topped with a blend of imported San Marzano and Biano DiNapoli tomatoes. This far exceeds any food truck food I’ve ever devoured.

They ran out of basil so topped my Margareta with Rabe

Innards

A “tortilla” bottom that doesn’t taste under cooked at all!

This really isn’t a food truck at all. It’s more akin to a pop up restaurant: no finite location, limited overhead, as fleeting as the San Francisco fog. But she’ll always roll back in, carrying uncompromisingly great pizza in her 28,000 pound belly.

Del Popola
DelPopoloSF.com

Pizzanista (Los Angeles, CA)

Huge huge huge slices! Double the size I expected…

After 8 years in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy! Do or Die!), I kissed my favorite pizza good-bye and flew home to Los Angeles. A few months later I was hired at Slice. I didn’t know much more about pizza then the average NYC foodie. But that’s considerably more than the average LA foodie… and probably how I got the job. This past year I’ve devoured the Los Angeles pizza scene, learning a simple truth: There is awesome pizza in LA!

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Milo + Olive (Santa Monica, CA)

The First Pie

UPDATE: There is anchovy in the tomato sauce! What a bummer!

I eat a lot of pizza. So, when the internet gushes praise on a brand new pizza place, how cannot I not chime in? Today, Foursquare and Twitter blew up with love and attention for Milo + Olive’s pizza (most notable by The Unemployed Eater) so I got my butt over there ASAP. Thinking I could successfully avoid the lunch rush, I was still met with a completely packed restaurant. So I placed my to-go order—got an estimated 30 minute wait time—and hopped over to Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub where I nursed a Affligem Abbey Ale in anticipation.

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Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza (Los Angeles, CA)

Now, I know people hate chicken pizza... (outside of California)

So, what is Brazilian pizza? If Bella Vista Brazilian Pizza is a good representation, then it is a thin crispy crust with delicate, but a piecemeal collection of toppings. Bella Vista is an homage to the Bexiga neighborhood —AKA the “Little Italy” of São Paulo, Brazil— one of the biggest hubs of Italian culture outside of Italy. I invited the Serious Eats LA MeetUp group to this little spot. Though it doesn’t sound like a particularly excellent example of pizza, the abundance positive reviews intrigue.

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La Bottega (New York, NY)

On a perfectly sunny summer evening the (cool) ladies of my offices hopped a cab to the airy patio of the Maritime Hotel. We quickly sank into a scene where the clientele sashay around the nautical piazza as though they are gracing an uber cool red carpet. They mingle with the hot dads, beautiful children, and monotonous models in scant breezy skirts that flashed bare ass with every butterfly flap.

Our waitress was beautiful but looked barely 17, and so I refused to take wine recommendations from her. I jealously admired her tight short shorts that looked like they hugged her perfectly, but then I saw her picking wedgies multiple times and felt better as I lounged in my summer dress.

On my side of the table, we order the cheapest bottle of white and it was one of the worst wines I’ve ever consumed. Thinking our lesson had been learned, the next round we ordered a pricier bottle, but it was only a hairline better. So we enviously watched our friends sipping on their lovely (although non alcoholic) cocktail across the table. The virgin cocktail menu assembles distinctive drinks that sounded more and more alluring as I drank my 2 bottles of crappy wine.

I found the palm sized rounds of warm pizza doughy bread and the salads to be the highlight of the dinner. Although we didn’t order pizza (until dessert ) the “bread” quietly establishes their pizza oven pride… which I’m sure is perfectly good for the tourist…

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