How much do you dread Mondays? Facebook is filled with memes of the dreaded day, but Mondays are something to look forward to if you have discovered Pizza of Venice. For $5, you gain an entry to a work of art, craftsmanship and love on an aluminum pan, unlike any I have yet to find.
Pizza of Venice sits back in an unassuming parking lot on North Fair Oaks in Altadena. I drove past it twice before locating it, but as I’ve I said, treasures involve some sort of hiding. Indeed, POV is heaven hiding behind a liquor store.
Pizza of Venice serves a unique style of Neapolitan pizza that is all their own. The dough, a mixture of high gluten flour, honey and warm water, is mixed and kneaded by hand. No mixers or machines involved. It is mixed and allowed to rest. Kneaded some more and allowed to rest again. Pay attention and repeat. It is spread by hand and each pizza arrives with its own unique shape.
All their meats are prepared in house. The pancetta takes three weeks of work in curing. The ham, chorizo, meatballs and pepperoni are all made in house. It’s said you don’t want to know how the sausage is made, but here the kitchen is in full view. They don’t labor in hiding. In fact, all the staff eagerly talks of the process each ingredient takes. All you have to do is ask. Pride in workmanship abounds here. Likewise, the sauces are made from scratch. The tomato sauce has a sweetness that only comes from ripe tomatoes.
The vegetables are locally sourced, sometimes extremely local, such as from the Muir Ranch at John Muir High School. The cheeses are all artisanal.
The problem, if there is one, is seasonal availability and preparation time. This means the menu changes throughout the year, based on the availability of ingredients. Also, if they run out of an item like ham, well, you can’t hurry the curing process.
The menu is posted on the wall, written with wax chalk crayons and always malleable.
Taking this in mind, please understand the descriptions of the food may not be applicable in a few weeks or months. The quality and thoroughness of the preparation will not change. It’s the POV way of pizza.
The pizzas take about 10 minutes to bake, which leaves a perfect amount of time to start with an appetizer. Currently they are serving fried brussel sprouts, which come doused in a choice of sauces. I tried both the curry and Korean sauces.
The curry is Caribbean style, with an underlying sweetness. The Korean is savory, with hints of spices and toasted sesame oil. Both have that “I-don’t-want-to-stop-eating-it” quality.
I thought more than once about skipping the pizza and just eating the sprouts. This, however, would be a mistake.
As previously stated, POV serves a neo-Neapolitan pizza. I tried 11 out of the 17 pizzas offered. All are excellent, some are exceptional. For meat lovers, the Deluxe and the Zamboni stand out.
They both feature POV’s sliced meatballs made of wild boar, veal and beef. The Deluxe also has what they call their “interpretation” of pepperoni. It reminds me of a sweet chorizo.
One commonality of all their meats is leanness. There was not a spot of oil or grease on any of the meats.
The HMH and Mid City are particularly Californian. The HMH is made with mango habanero sauce, mozzarella, asiago, ham, jalapeño, red onion and cilantro. It is reminiscent of a Hawaiian style pizza with the sweetness of the mango sauce and the saltiness of the ham.
The Mid-City is topped with mozzarella, black beans, caramelized onion, beef chorizo, jalapeño, avocado and cilantro. It reads a bit odd, but it works. The beans are minimal and naturally compliment chorizo and avocado. You may need to trust me on this.
Right now your choice of drink is limeades of various flavors: regular, stone fruit, apricot-asian, pear-apple, cantaloupe-agave and coconut. All freshly made in-house, and thankfully not too sweet.
If you have read my previous reviews, economy and value rank high for this father of four, and at a first glance to the right side of the menu POV seems a bit pricey. This perception changes as you learn what goes into the making of the food and when you taste the results. In comparison to the corporate “fast pizza” places that dot the landscape, some of the pizzas here are twice as much. But the pizzas here are also twice as good, if not more. I would rather eat here half as often than settle for mediocre. Which brings us back to Monday.
At Pizza of Venice, Mondays are Margherita Mondays. $5 buys you a truly excellent pizza: mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil. The heirlooms are varying colors and very sweet. It’s a beautiful sight, smell and taste. It’s a steal. It’s your gateway drug to an addiction to excellence.
Be kind to yourself, brighten your Monday with a slice of excellence. $5 never tasted so good.
Pizza of Venice is located at 2545 N Fair Oaks Ave, Altadena, 91001.45