Real Pizza in the O.C.
We'd never met L.A. Pizza Maven before, but we'd read some of his
reviews and comments on Slice
(our other favorite pizza blog) and we'd
hoped that when we reached Southern California on our most recent visit
that we could sit down and share a pizza with him.
Cary (l) and the Maven
We shared four one afternoon at Pizzeria
Ortica, and the company and
pizzas were fine. We'd never heard of Ortica before, but
Maven had heard good things about it so we followed his lead.
Ortica is in Orange County, a land of wealth, privilege,
Botox, malls, and not a place we'd expect to find truly fine
pizza. So Ortica
was a surprise.
We'd agreed to meet L.A. Pizza Maven (his 'nom de pizza' – we're not
giving up his real name) during Happy Hour, when pizza is the only food
served at Ortica.
The rest of the time they offer an extensive menu of
Before we got in the car we checked the website and learned that
pizza is made with – get this – a 300-year-old biga from
outside Naples. A biga is a pre-ferment, a 'starter', like a sourdough
starter, and can be used from batch of dough to batch of dough. It
influences the taste and texture of the crust. So
three hundred years is an impressive lineage to those who think about
We arrived at Pizzeria Ortica
and somehow recognized the Maven immediately – a
hungry-looking guy in front of a fancy restaurant in the
middle of the afternoon, seeming to be in motion while standing still.
If we'd gotten there first, he'd have recognized Cary by the same
look. Greetings, handshakes, and we were all ready for pizza.
We knew we'd talk about it and take pictures of it – we all hoped we'd
like it. A lot.
The first thing we noticed walking in was the oven: stainless steel and
brick in front, fire in its mouth. We could smell the burning
oak as we walked past it to our table. Our hopes were high,
even here in Costa Mesa. But the oven doesn't make the pizza, and we
were eager to taste the pieman's wares.
As we said at the beginning, we ordered four pies for the three of us:
Lillian and Margherita
First, a Margherita as usual – the tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil
standard for any wood-fired pizzeria. The dough had a perceptible
saltiness, but this was not a bad thing. It was delicious, light,
great-looking spotting on the cornicione, and a slightly chewy,
flavorful mozzarella. A little floppy in the middle, but hey, it's
Next, the Salciccia – with sausage (it seems to be the Maven's favorite
topping), caramelized fennel (yum!), red onion, mozzarella (they make
this pizza with mascarpone – we asked for the switch), and buffalo
grana (a grated hard cheese from water buffalo milk – somewhere between
parmesan and romano). The combination of topping flavors was
outstanding. Ortica uses an excellent sausage, the fennel was
distinctive but couldn't overwhelm, everything worked together in
balance. This pie had one drawback – it was definitely
undercooked. The soft crust got chewier as the pizza cooled.
This was the only one of the four that should have been in the oven a
Margherita with Prosciutto and Arrugala – Seems to be the year of the
Arrugala. Before our
dinner at Nomad
we had never seen a pizza with arrugala on it – or prosciutto, for that
matter. Maybe it's just us. Pizzeria Ortica's version
had way too much prosciutto.
Ordinarily, Cary would say that there is no such thing as too much
prosciutto, but it really was overwhelming the other flavors.
Since Lillian doesn't eat prosciutto and ate hers without the ham, this
was her favorite – she said that the Margherita underneath was even
better than the first one. We all agreed that the crust was
perfect. Maybe there's something to this 300-year-old biga!
Finally, the Amalfitana - zucchini, onion, ricotta and pecorino
romano. Although Cary usually favors pies with sauce, this
one was his favorite of the meal. The squash was delicious
and fresh, the ricotta was smooth and tasty, with just the right bite
from the romano. “I really want to try to make this one at home!” Cary
Three pizza lovers, four pizzas, a 300-year-old biga and no leftovers -
what's not to like?
Pizzeria Ortica -650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA (714) 445-4900
Pizzeria Ortica to our California
from Pizzeria Ortica
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