photo credit: Jakob Layman
Hail Mary Pizza
It’s hard to define LA’s version of the neighborhood pizza spot.
It’s certainly not the same as a New York slice shop, where the pizza comes on paper plates, the garlic knots sit out all day, and the guy behind the counter greets you with a personalized profanity. And it’s not like in Chicago, where the pizza joints are filled with dark wood and autographed Sammy Sosa photos. LA has a few go-to pizza spots of its own, but those places (and their pizzas) tend to feel like they’ve been perfected using a very successful formula.
Hail Mary Pizza is different. This Atwater Village spot doesn’t have picture-perfect pies or an interior that feels like it was designed by a consulting group. Instead, like all great neighborhood spots, they treat you like you live right around the block - even if you drove from Culver City to get here. And even if the pizzas aren’t perfect, you’ll still keep coming back.
The first thing you notice here is the open kitchen. The guy tossing pizzas will greet you and ask how your week’s going. You order at the counter, and if you sit close enough, the chef will chat with you about his weekend motorcycle trip to the mountains while he’s tossing dough.
There are a lot of those personal touches here - after dinner, they might send you home with a loaf of homemade bread, just because they had some extras. Everything is served on a mishmash of plates and bowls that look like they were acquired by raiding every Eastside yard sale for the past year. Things are affordable (the margherita pizza is $11), which makes it the ideal spot for a family meal or a catch-up with friends.
Obviously, almost everyone will be eating pizza. There are usually 10 or so different options - they’re always changing - including some mad scientist topping combinations. One of our favorites has porchetta, capers, gorgonzola, and parm. Another pie, with feta, anchovies, and pickled broccoli, has a great, briny kick we never knew we wanted on a pizza. The sourdough crust is soft but springy, and has enough flavor to hold up under even the funkiest of toppings.
The rest of the menu isn’t an afterthought, either. The marinated artichoke with smoked almonds, herbs, and burrata is an excellent combination of things we’ve never seen served together. The meatballs look a lot like regular meatballs, but they’re made with pork belly, which adds a fatty, salty quality. And the sandwiches, made on their house-baked sourdough, are incredible. There’s a confit tuna with fennel and avocado we would order any day of the week, and a vegan one with beet and cabbage slaw that might make us swear off meat sandwiches forever. Come here during the day (lunch or brunch), and you can get one of those sandwiches or a slice of pizza, sit at the counter by the window, and watch neighborhood people play bumper cars with strollers on Glendale Blvd.
When it comes down to it, Hail Mary Pizza would still be good if it was more like a fancy pizza spot. They could wall-in the kitchen, ditch the personal conversations, and raise the prices, and it’d still be worth seeking out for the food. But that would take away the personality, which is what makes it truly unique for LA. That, and the fact that you might walk out of with a loaf of sourdough.
Order whichever vegetables look good to you - they’ll likely be pretty straightforward, and taste exactly like what you order. Even the burrata in this dish doesn’t outshine the artichoke.
Tuna Confit Sandwich
An essential daytime order - the tuna is super fresh, and there’s not a hint of fishiness. Also, we really like how the aioli soaks into the homemade sourdough.
Vegan Beet Sandwich
We had no idea this sandwich was vegan until we looked at our receipt. It’s stuffed with roasted beets, arugula, and slaw, and makes us think maybe we could be vegan after all.
Mario + Rosemary Pizza
A big part of what makes Hail Mary so good are the homemade toppings - everything from the sausage to the smoked mozzarella on this pie was made in-house, and you can tell. Order this.
This pizza topped with gorgonzola and capers will not be your first choice on an early-in-the-game date, but any other time, it should be.
If there was an official meatball approval board, we’re not sure they’d be happy with the pork belly in this. We, however, are very happy about it.