Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb didn’t intend to open a pizzeria when they scooped up the space at 2723 Wilshire Boulevard. The initial plan was to use the kitchen to relieve the overworked ovens at Huckleberry, their bustling bakery and cafe a mile away.
But one thing led to another, a pizza dough was developed and a wood-burning Mugnaini oven was installed, and thus, Milo & Olive came to be. Milo, by the way, is the name of the couple’s son. Olive, on the other hand, is just a name that they really liked.
Milo & Olive’s stupendously good pastries, seasonal small plates, and delightful pizzas are reason enough to visit, but it took Chef Walter Manzke taking over the stoves to get me and my friends to finally come in. The former Church & State chef and soon-to-be chef-owner of République is temporarily overseeing the kitchen since executive chef Evan Funke departed.
The menu hasn’t changed much since his arrival and probably won’t for the most part. According to Chef, he’s mostly here to keep the kitchen organized and to make sure that the food is up to snuff.
With only 24 seats in the restaurant and no reservations taken, our party of three faced a 45 minute wait when we arrived sometime past 7 on a weekday evening. After strolling up the street and grabbing drinks at The Charleston, we were seated at one of the communal tables.
To start, we shared a petite serving of marinated artichokes ($11) minimally adorned with baby spinach, toasted pine nuts, capers, golden raisins, and goat cheese.
We also selected the wood oven roasted prawns ($15) with a “Mediterranean salad” of cucumbers, chickpeas, and tomatoes upon hearing that it was one of Chef Manzke’s additions to the menu. The prawns were wimpily sized, while the salad was fresh but ultimately boring.
Talking to Chef after our meal, we learned that he would have preferred to serve the prawns with their heads intact, but that preparation wouldn’t fly with the local clientele. It’s interesting how tastes can vary from one side of town to the other.
The highlight of the starters was the wood-fired “Garlic Knot” ($6.50), a parcel fashioned from pizza dough filled with sauteed garlic cloves, olive oil, and thyme.
Crisp on the outside and wonderfully plush within, the garlic knot was a sensational carbohydrate bomb. Mmmm!
In addition to the three starters, we also shared two pizzas. My dining companions loved the house-made pork belly sausage pizza ($17) with braised greens, tomato, and fresh mozzarella. Remil remarked that the sauce was perfectly balanced, while Darin particularly liked the sausage. The crust reminded all of us of Nancy Silverton’s at Pizzeria Mozza.
I was quite fond of the mixed mushroom pie ($20) with fontina, Parmigiano Reggiano, and thyme. The specific varieties of mushrooms have since escaped my memory, but their wonderful woodsy flavors haven’t been forgotten.
Zoe Nathan is one of the city’s very best pastry chefs, so it was no surprise that the two desserts we sampled this evening were pitch perfect. The lemon tart, which was topped with a solid inch of light-as-a-cloud meringue, was pleasantly tart and well-balanced. The buttery crust melted in our mouths.
The vanilla custard tart was just as great with its side of fresh whipped cream and blueberries. The flaky caramelized crust reminded me of French palmiers.
Best of all, since we were one of the last customers of the day, we were sent home with leftover goodies from the bakery. The ham and cheese croissant, which was impressively flaky considering that it was a day old, made for a damn good breakfast the following morning.
The Astronomer enjoyed making sandwiches with the loaf of multi-grain bread for the rest of the week.
Milo & Olive is a lovely little spot that’s worth a visit on an evening that allows for some flexibility. If the wait happens to be tortuously long, hang in there because chances are you’ll be rewarded with breads and pastries from the larder. It’s a win-win situation.
Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90403
There’s more to eat in Santa Monica on Gastronomy:
- Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Border Grill – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Brunch at Farmshop – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Dinner at Farmshop – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Drago Ristorante – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Fatburger – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- FIG Restaurant – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Rustic Canyon – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Stella Rossa Pizza Bar – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Sweet Lady Jane – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Tar & Roses – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- The Yard – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Vanilla Bake Shop – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Whist at the Viceroy Hotel – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- White Truffle Dinner at Valentino Ristorante
- Wokcano – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
- Yummy Cupcakes – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)