(Editor’s Note): I was contacted by the owners of a new place, Melody’s Pizza, near LAX in Los Angeles, a new venture for a couple that owns a hot night spot down the street, the Melody Bar and Grill. I was invited to come by, couldn’t make it, so Los Angeles Burger Bureau Chief Larry gathered up his crew and hit up the Melody recently.
Does the Water really make NY Pizza taste better than it’s west coast cousin The LA Slice?
Hell yeah! And Melody’s Pizza near LAX Airport tries hard to replicate that taste and texture. Especially in its traditional round (as they refer to it), just saucy enough and not too cheesy, a wonder baked in a Marsal & Sons deck oven imported from New York. But that alone couldn’t do it. It takes a Pizza-monger, a man (or woman as the case may be) to master the years it takes of dough making and dough throwing and sauce making and tasting, to get it right.
Melody’s seems to have found that guy. The chef (and expert pizza maker) is a Brooklyn transplant who goes by the name of “Ronnie”. And it’s a “Ronnie” with all the real stuff going for him. Years of working at premiere pizza joints in and out of the city. No, not LA City. The Big Apple one. The accent, the tattoos and the hands and mouth to taste (and throw out NY stories to boot) makes our memories and the melody of Melody’s sing New York, New York, loud and clear. A near authentic NY style pie in our midst.
Ronnie uses their own Brooklyn Water system including reverse osmosis water treatment along with other secret things the owners just refused to cough up at our meeting at their restaurant one evening recently – to make the water more like NY water for NY dough for NY pizza. I was very, very skeptical.
It seems to work.
Excellent texture to the dough. Yet a nice crispiness to the bottom of the pizza. And traditional taste.
We had a taste of at least 10 pies. But please understand: if you’re ever going to work your way up to being even a beginning pizza critic, clearly, the first thing you must do when tasting a pie that restaurateurs proclaim is NY style… you’ve gotta start with a slice a PLAIN cheese pizza with their tomato sauce. End of story. Or if that restaurateur is proclaiming that they’ve got the next best thing to a true Italian pie… from the homeland… you’ve gotta start with a small Pizza Margarita. Nothing else on them. Nothing else to screw them up. And clearly NO California Pizza B.S. with adding the kitchen sink to your pie.
Just start slowly. And plain. And work your way in. It’s like a Ballet.
So, needless to say, I was very nervous at the thought of discovering a NY slice from my homeland in LA-LA land.
So, I brought my family to taste. The wife and kids. Wanted to make sure I wasn’t being fooled. And my kids have grown up on NY Pizza so they should know it from a mile away. My wife on the other hand is a different cookie. She grew up in Great Neck, Long Island so you never know what she’s gonna think real NY Pizza is supposed to taste like (Just Kidding. I have a thing about the Island. Can’t get over it).
The Setting: Small place, a few tables and chairs (for a real coziness) but with a long bar area for Pizza prep viewing and sitting to dine (with at least a dozen such comfortable bar chairs with a granite tabletop).
The traditional Round as they call it. We all had slices and they were really fabulous. Made me miss home.
Then, we had the Chicken Parmigiana Pizza. Excellent Sauce. Chicken was very moist. Too often that topping will dry out when recooked in the pizza oven. Not here. Ronnie cooks the Parmigiana on the stove top – right next to his gi-normous pot of his nonna’s recipe marinara – just enough so that the next baking in their Marsal & Son ovens gives the pizza just what it needs. Beautiful. A particular winner for my kids.
Then came a Gorgonzola and Poached Pear Pie. Pizza Pie, that is. A winner. With Mama’s original crust. Kind of a cross between a Sicilian crust and a homemade Mama Mia pan pizza crust from the old lady’s oven in her Roma pensione. Really a highlight at this place.
That same crust is used in the premiere Mama’s pizza, an excellent Pizza Caprese on their Mama’s crust, with an elegant balsamic vinegar glace (a little sweet and not too vinegary) under beautiful hunky slices of mozzarella and fresh cut vine ripened local farmers market tomatoes… with, of course, basil leaves atop each Caprese tower… makes for a wonderful pie. Not anything I remember out of NYC however. Much more like something out of the old country of Italia.
Bugogi Pizza (yes, Bugogi. You heard me right) with homemade Kimchi was fab. We only thought that the Kimchi could have been a bit spicier. Not a NYC dish at all. In fact, would go great if this Pizza Joint were transplanted into Koreatown LA instead of near the airport terminals. This is the Pizza they should have served at Sony’s opening night Hollywood premiere party for The Interview. Oh well, I’d recommend ordering it for home delivery and watching the flick ONLINE instead. Definitely makes the top of list for North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
Melody’s is just across the street from In ‘N Out Burger, a Pie’s throw away. Ample street parking and even some parking in back. They also have their sister restaurant three doors down called Melody’s Bar & Grill, and there’s ample parking beyond it as well if you’re bring in your 767. In fact, Melody’s Pizza menu can be ordered down the street at their Bar & Grill. The waitress’ will run over and get your pizza and run back into the Bar & Grill with enough time to serve you up your drink and a karaoke tune as well.
The owners, Christian and Jen, a wonderful husband and wife restauranteur team manage their businesses with love and good taste. They’ve clearly chosen a winner in Ronnie the Pizza Guy who in his off time is a professional online gamer extraordinaire. Yep, NYC pizza and online gaming seem to go well together. You know you’ve got a winner when you pick up your slice and can hold it like a real New Yorker… the famous fold. And boy, it works here at Melody’s.
My favorite: The traditional Round.
Negatives: I miss the noise of the taxis of the NYC streets outside. It just isn’t the same thing hearing or seeing Uber-mobiles transporting Angelenos to their respective airline terminals outside on Sepulveda. That makes me wanna get on a plane and go to the Big Apple for a slice at one of a dozen joints. But until then, I’ll sing the song of Melody’s.
Melody’s does a brisk biz in delivery too. A great neighborhood to do so in. The local homeowners and renters and well as local businesses bring their need for pie to this establishment. But just as important is the fact that this place delivers to all the Hotels in the area near LAX and along Century Blvd. as well as to the hard working LAX staff, flight attendants and TSA workers waiting around for a near perfect pie. It’s even close enough to the airport you could run over and grab a slice if you were hanging out between a plane change!
Melody Pizza has a fairly wide delivery area, if you’re in your jammies and don’t feel like going out. Check out their menu and order online or by calling (424) 227-7686. Open daily from lunch til late at 9146 Sepulveda and they cater, too!
(Editor’s note: food samples were comped during this visit).