Mozza Mia is a pretty good pizzeria, a worthy upgrade to the 50th & France nexus and a restaurant with a great deal more energy than the tired Tejas it replaced. But Mozza Mia opened within a few days of Pizzeria Lola, only a mile south, which is, alas, a bit better. Each seems to have plenty of business, so perhaps “it’s all good,” as they say.
The Crust of the Matter:
The sine qua non of pizza is its crust. Parasole, along with Mozza Mia visionary Vittorio Renda (who birthed Buca for the company), did not want Mozza to produce a wet, Punch-like pie. And they succeeded, producing a uniform, non-blistered crust with a modest amount of chew but very little distinguishable flavor. Lola’s pies, cooked in a spectacular round copper oven of French origin, are even farther from Neapolitan, with an array of non-traditional sauces and toppings, but the crust has more chew and bubbles, and a bit more taste.
Though Parasole touted Phoenix’s acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco as an influence, Mozza Mia’s pies seem actually quite Italian, even Neapolitan, in their makeup. Combinations and ingredients are traditional compared to the fresher approach at Lola. I can’t get all that excited about another quattro stagioni, fig and prosciutto, or margherita pie among the relatively scant 10 offerings. Lola has its margherita, but it also offers pies that seem New York Italian (sweet red sauce, sausage, mozzarella, onions, and pepper) and California inventive (guanciale, pecorino, cream, leeks, and egg).
The Cheese, Please:
Mozza’s main point of differentiation is its mozzarella program. The cheese is made in-house daily and is excellent, offered in several iterations, with various accompaniments. Still, I find a little mozz goes a long way. I preferred the excellent burrata, creamy with a drizzle of nice olive oil. All cheese is served with deliciously oily house crostini.
Both restaurants are lively, and both rooms are imaginatively designed. Mozza Mia kept the miniscule Tejas bar, while Lola’s is larger with a nice view of the pizza making. The yuppie crowd is similar at each, though Lola’s is a bit quirkier—Armatage vs. Edina, perhaps. You can’t help but have fun at either.
Mozza: I have to credit Renda for sourcing flavorful heirloom tomatoes in January. Don’t miss the Regina pie or the Calabrese (trust me on this). Service is friendly and flexible, the wine selection is well thought out, and it takes reservations.
Lola: Delicate meatballs with marinara, a killer Caesar with hearts of palm and soft egg, and delicious Brussels sprouts—all from the starters list. I liked all the pies we sampled. Desserts are winners, from the house-baked chocolate chip cookies and milk to excellent house-made soft serve with sea salt.
Mozza: A vinegary house salad, posing as a panzanella; ricotta bruschetta with plum marmaletta that tasted like cream cheese and jam; bland maccheroni Bolognese; and garlic bread so salty it was hard to eat.
Lola: The tuna conserva appetizer with cannellini beans was dry, the restaurant is deafeningly loud, service can be on the aloof side, and waits for a table can be long.
Photos by Katherine Harris