Thursday, July 05, 2012
Casa Bianca Pizza's old-school charm: The classics series
The pizza you grew up with often becomes your platonic ideal of pizza. In my case, that would probably be Di Vita's, which still turns out a credible pie in West L.A. Or maybe it was the pizza you ate in college -- our go-to place was The Brass Ass, which must have piled several pounds of mozzarella on each pizza, but went down well with endless pitchers of Michelob.
So I didn't grow up with Casa Bianca Pizza in Eagle Rock, though half the people I know seem to have -- it's been there since 1955. I've grown impatient with the hallmarks of places that have become institutions -- some of the indicators are long waits, cash only policies, lots of reviews plastered on the wall and sometimes food that's a few decades past its prime. Casa Bianca is indeed cash-only, with a punishing wait unless you do takeout. But the pizza is as good as ever, so its reputation is justified.
The people: During the inevitable wait, you'll get to check out the full array of Eagle Rock area pizza lovers, from groups of elderly smoking Russians to smoking suburban middle-aged white couples (the place seems to draw smokers, who knows why) to young rockabilly couples who look to have much more exciting plans for after dinner.
The rest of the menu: Casa Bianca not only has beer and wine, they've recently added a couple of craft beers to their list. There's a large menu of pastas and main dishes, but I don't know anyone who orders them -- you're there for the pizza. But it takes a while to come out, so it's probably a good idea to get an antipasto salad for the table to share while you're waiting.
The pizza: Get the thin crust, preferably with the homemade sausage, flavored with plenty of fennel seeds. Skip the canned mushrooms -- if you want another topping, try olives or garlic. The cheese, sauce and toppings are perfectly proportioned, and the crust is just the right thickness to support it all. The crust isn't as flavorful as at the new wild yeast, wood-fired places, but Casa Bianca is more about the right interplay between the ingredients. The toppings and sauce continue right to the edge of the pizza, a divisive issue. If the crust is really good on it's own, then the little ledge of dough can be a nice treat at the end of the slice. If it's undistinguished, as at Casa Bianca, then by all means, take it to the edge. This is not a sophisticated pizza, but your table will likely devour the delicious, strangely-cut pieces before you even have a chance to contemplate where Casa Bianca falls on L.A.'s new pizza map.
The details: Go early. Bring cash. And remember, pizza is usually better when consumed on-site instead of to-go.
1650 Colorado Blvd.