Having lived in Italy many years ago, I know what good pizza tastes like. There is nothing better than a thin crust Italian pizza with the perfect balance of tomato sauce and cheese and a glass of Italian wine. And, I have found that place in Los Angeles at Pizza Romana.
Located on La Brea Boulevard, just south of Melrose in the space formerly known as Cube, Pizza Romana is owned by Alex Palermo. For those who loved the menu at Cube, rest assured that while Palermo changed the concept, those dishes are still on the menu. In addition, they put a large wood fired pizza oven in the center of the restaurant.
Alex Palermo grew up in Wisconsin, the son of a Roman father and American mother, and spent his vacations in Italy. He then attended college in Southern California. Having spent some time working at the La Jolla Pasta Company during summers and having visited Italy, he understood that homemade pasta is something that comes from “home”. During his senior year in college, he took an entrepreneurial course. As Contadini was the only “fresh pasta” on the market at the time, he used his summer experience as an idea. He got a pasta machine from another company in San Diego and set it up at a friend’s dad’s restaurant in Santa Monica. He would work from 11pm to 4am making restaurant quality pasta for retail. Divine Pasta Company was born. His first client was Gelson’s Market in 1992 and it grew from there where it can be found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco today.
Today he has a factory in Italy where the dough is made and and is shipped to 57 countries. On the menu at Pizza Romana, all of the items served at Pizza Romana are prepared in the restaurant, but the dough is sourced from Visso, Italy.
What sets the dough apart from other dough is that it is made with “sourced water” that comes from a mountain range in a national forest near the factory. The dough is made in a traditional Roman way, which is similar to how sourdough is made. The longer the dough ferments, the better it is for you. This is because the longer it ferments, the protein gets broken down. The dough is shipped to the U.S. in an un-fermented state and then is fermented for 24-48 hours when it is in the restaurant. The dough is then hand-stretched and baked in the authentic Italian wood-fired ovens using almond wood.
The grilled foccacia is made with the pizza dough. You can see the large holes, or bubbles, in the dough which is a sign of the long fermentation period.
For the pizzas, as well as all items on the menu, the produce comes from farmers markets and their own organic garden in Downtown LA. The meats and cheese are sourced from ranchers who practice humane methods and do not use hormones or antibiotics.
Buffalo Mozzarella with prosciutto & arugula
If pizza is not enough, there are salads, vegetables, pizza paninos and seasonal sides.
Salumi & Formaggi Plate
Seasonal Crunch – Brussels sprouts, apple, pomegranate and pecorino with mustard vinaigrette
Spicy Fried chicken tenders with house-made ranch dressing
Mom’s Lasagna – bolognese, bechamel, mozarella
To pair with the food, sommelier Emanuele Rizzo, who is also Palermo’s second cousin, has come from Italy to manage the wine program. He has created a list that regionally represents Italian wine.
In addition to a well curated list, the pricing of the wine is also impressive. As Rizzo and Palermo both explained, in Italy wine is not a luxury, it is a right. They do not want to intimidate people and this list expresses the knowledge that they have of wine. They want guests to try something new and keep the mark-up of the wines low. There is no bottle for over $40 on the list.
The wine list has a diverse selection of varietals. I tried a sparkling aglianico with blackberry notes for the first time. I have had the full-bodied red aglianico wines, known as the “Barolo of the South”, with musky berry flavors and firm tannins many times before but it was the first time I have ever had a sparkling version. I also enjoyed a kerner, a gewurztraminer, a negroamaro and a nero buona, a grape I had never tried before. And I finished with a delicious late-harvest dessert wine made from 100% verduzzo Friulano.
The wine is located in the back of Pizza Romana in the wine room. You can eat dinner in there at one of the two long communal tables. But, on Thursday nights from 6pm-9pm, Palermo and Rizzo have turned the room into an enoteca for Enoteca Night. Guests can enjoy tastes from the extensive collection of Italian wines, small bites of pizza bianca and salumi and to take home bottles of their choice at 20% off. This is all part of their effort to make wine tasting fun, approachable and educational.
615 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036