photo credit: Jakob Layman
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
People can get away with only being good at one thing. Michael Cera’s made an entire career out of being awkward. Bob Ross painted trees on public access TV. Emily Brontë literally wrote one book. But when it comes to restaurants, that doesn’t always work. Sure, places have house specialties and star dishes that people line up to eat, but if everything else on the menu is underwhelming, the one dish you came for suddenly doesn’t matter all that much.
Unfortunately, this is the case at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, a new Hollywood restaurant where good Neapolitan pizza is overshadowed by the fact that everything else on the menu is not.
Now, it should be said that some of our favorite pizza in LA comes from spots where the pies are the priority. Those places work because we can walk in on a weeknight, split some pizza with friends, and call it a night. That’s not possible at L’Antica. Come here any night of the week and you’ll find a $10 valet (street parking is nonexistent), a huge interior that looks like a Restoration Hardware showroom, and a well-dressed crowd that wants you to know about it. This is not a neighborhood pizzeria, it’s an unnecessarily upscale restaurant where a meal is a full-on production - one you didn’t sign up for.
Let’s talk for a second about what L’Antica does get right - the pizza. There’s a reason they’ve been cooking pies since the 19th century (the original is located in Naples, Italy), and it’s because they know what they’re doing. This isn’t our favorite pizza in Los Angeles, but it’s a chewy, bubbly-crusted Neapolitan-style that’s often hard to come by here. If it’s your first visit, go for the Margherita, as it’s very well-balanced (skip the extra cheese, it throws the whole thing off) and the basis for all other pizzas at L’Antica. That said, our favorite is the Bianca - double mozzarella, pecorino, and basil. It’s cheesy, oil-drenched goodness that almost makes you forget how bad the rest of the food is here.
Whether it’s completely bland calamari, mushy cauliflower balls with an unsettling sourness, or scallops so over-cooked even black truffle can’t save the day, nearly everything else at L’Antica is a miss - which is a problem when the pizza is supposedly the main attraction, yet makes up one of the smallest sections on the menu. If you can’t make a $55 bistecca memorable, or a fava bean salad passable, just leave them off entirely. There’s a reason we never heard Bob Ross yodel.
This is a very good Margherita pizza that has to hit your table if you end up at L’Antica. You’ll be tempted to spend an extra $4 to get double cheese, but resist it. There’s a reason this pie works - and it’s the near-perfect ratio between sauce, cheese, and charred crust. The added cheese throws the entire balance off. If you want more cheese, just get the formaggi board.
Bianca pizza is a type of pie that is either the star of the show or just too much of a good thing (namely, cheese). At L’Antica, it’s the star. Double mozzarella, pecorino, and scattered basil leaves for some fragrance - it’s an amazingly satisfying pizza that doesn’t taste nearly as heavy as it sounds.
Very few things go better with pizza than a calamari appetizer, but unfortunately, this version is entirely skippable. The squid itself is cooked fine, but the dish is almost completely tasteless... unless you count the lemon you squeezed on top.
Polpette Di Cavolfiore
We’re not sure what they were going for with these breaded cauliflower balls, but they missed the mark completely. They are mushy, oddly sour, and the olives thrown in around the base don’t solve anything. Do not order this dish.
Pappardelle Alla Genovese
If there’s one dish we’d order again at L’Antica that’s not pizza, it’d be this short rib pappardelle. Both the noodles and meat are well-cooked, and while it’s not packed with flavor, it’s still a solid bowl of pasta - but one that’ll also cost you $26.
This is an impressive dish. Not because it’s good, but because they’ve somehow made prosciutto, burrata, and fried dough taste like absolutely nothing at all.