Sitting in rush hour traffic on the 110 freeway this evening, I had second thoughts about trekking from Pasadena all the way to Culver City on a weeknight for the soft opening of Pitfire Pizza. Sure, I had read and heard fantastic things about their pies, but as the minutes ticked on by, I began to wonder whether it was worth braving such horrific traffic.
Thankfully, my mood was instantly lifted the moment I stepped into the local chain’s latest outlet. Even with most of the walls still covered in plywood, the restaurant’s upbeat vibe could not be denied—the fire-engine red pizza oven lit up the room and revitalized my weary spirit.
Paul Hibler and David Sanfield, two veteran Hollywood caterers, opened the original Pitfire Pizza in North Hollywood in 1997. Since then, the market-driven pizzeria has expanded its reach to Downtown, West Los Angeles, and most recently, Culver City. Chef Andy Lopez heads up the kitchen at the newest branch, while Lawrence Rudolph mans the front of the house.
Architect Barbara Bestor transformed the former Shakey’s Pizza Parlor into a modern and comfortable space with an industrial-chic feel. I was excited to scope out the restaurant’s olive grove and garden, which is located near the front entrance, but the moonlight wasn’t bright enough this evening. With access to herbs and tomatoes steps away from the kitchen, it is clear that Pitfire is committed to freshness and seasonality.
By the time The Astronomer and I arrived on the Pitfire scene, our friends Sook and D Takes a B were already noshing on their third servings of roasted vegetables and sixth slices of pizza. We quickly grabbed some plates and started piling on the goodness.
Pitfire’s pizza is a cross between Neapolitan- and New York-style. I started off with a slice of the Margherita ($9.50), a true test of any pizzeria’s chops. My slice contained an oozy hunk of fresh mozzarella, a gentle smear of tangy tomato sauce, a bit of torn basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. The mellow, thin, and pleasantly charred crust allowed all of the top-notch toppings to shine.
The Astronomer’s favorite pizza of the evening was The Burrata Pie ($9.95) with burrata cheese, tomato sauce, wild arugula, caramelized onion, hazelnut, and pesto drizzle. The combination of rich, gooey cheese and snappy, spicy arugula proved too tempting for my dear boy to resist.
Another winning pizza was the pepperoni ($9.75) with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil. Think: margherita but with a meatier and more savory kick.
My favorite of the evening’s selection was the Field Mushrooms pizza ($9.95) with fontina cheese, creme friache, mushroom jus, and flat leaf parsley. The balance between the decadent cheese and earthy mushrooms was just about perfect.
Finally, we topped off our pizza feast with chunky chocolate cookies. Made in-house twice daily, these jumbo cookies had everyone, especially Diana and Sook, swooning and smiling. Note to self: Grated semi-sweet chocolate performs worlds better than ordinary chips when it comes to cookies.
Pitfire Culver City will officially open in about two weeks.
Pitfire Artisan Pizza
12924 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90066