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With so much of the focus on hyper-authentic Neapolitan pies and artisanal knife-and-fork creations these days, it's easy to forget about the other great bastion of the pizza world — the slice joint. The culture of paper-plate pizza might not be as prevalent in Los Angeles as in New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia, but even here you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could resist the appeal of a wedge of pizza reheated in an oversized industrial oven until its cheese bubbles and its crust reaches a pleasant crispness.
While it doesn't feature buttery buffalo mozzarella or century-old strains of yeast, the slice is a style all its own — one that won't cost you more than a few bucks and likely will be gobbled up before it has time to cool.
5. Joe's Pizza
Being the most "authentic" New York pizza in Los Angeles ain't easy: Joe's in Santa Monica has existed under a cloud of litigation for years, thanks to copyright claims from the original Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street in Manhattan's West Village. But just as the Brooklyn Dodgers moved from the East Coast to paradise, Joe's has thrived in its tiny brick storefront, located a half-block stroll from the palisades overlooking the Santa Monica Pier. Expats point to Joe's cherished New York-style characteristics: an impossibly thin and crunchy crust too wide for flimsy plates; a noticeable lack of "tip sag" when folded lengthwise. The micro-thin layers of mozzarella and sweetish tomato form a kind of dual-textured plasma brought to life when a slice slides into the oven. At $2.75 a slice, it's also one of the cheapest meals in the area, which keeps locals and tourists alike filing in all day. 111 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 395-9222, joespizza.com.
4. Slice Truck Pizza
There is a certain level of irony involved with Slice Truck, a food truck that, after two years roaming the streets, transformed into a brick-and-mortar shop on Sawtelle, even while preserving the "truck" portion of its name. In all honesty, the pizza that came out of the original truck was pretty abysmal. But with the new digs came a high-powered oven and a reformulated dough recipe, which afforded the Slice Truck a chance to show off its pungent, garlic-saturated sauce topped with torn basil and hand-shaved Parmesan. The owners like to cite New York's beloved Sicilian pizza shop Di Fara as inspiration, which should be worth points even if they don't match up to their lofty idol. It doesn't get much better on the west side of town, though — plus, afterward you can get a boba tea next door. 2012 Sawtelle Blvd., W.L.A.; (310) 444-9550, slicetruck.com.
3. Tomato Pie Pizza Joint
Owner and former New Yorker Garrett Policastro went to great lengths to mimic the pizza he grew up with — Silver Lake's Tomato Pie uses high-protein flour, filtered water, Wisconsin mozzarella and crushed marinated tomatoes. The slices are a bit more petite than the behemoths across town, but they are redolent with oregano, basil and good, aromatic olive oil. The restaurant has the bare-bones charm of a good neighborhood spot: mismatched orange and blue furniture (Mets colors), the breezy flow of locals grabbing a slice or two to go — but lest you forget Tomato Pie's hard-core Italian roots, the menu offers a 3-foot stromboli that weighs about as much as a Vespa. 2457 Hyperion Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 661-6474; tomatopiepizzajoint.com.
Out in the hinterlands of the downtown Arts District is Pizzanista, a semi-hidden shop that specializes in a type of formidable pizza that at first seems vaguely familiar to anyone who has ever hosted a childhood pizza party at an arcade, roller rink or bowling alley. But the crust, which Sotto's Steve Samson helped develop, is a fluffy, crisp, sourdough-style beast, spread generously with a sheet of cheese floating like a tectonic plate over a molten slick of sauce. Nickel-sized slices of salami curl like upturned umbrellas when cooked. One hefty slice could get you through an evening of stiff drinks. If you're feeling particularly holier-than-thou, try the Meat Jesus, an all-meat monster paved with a mix of pepperoni, sausage and bacon. 2019 E. Seventh St., dwntwn.; (213) 627-1430, pizzanista.com.
1. Vito's Pizza
When the title of best pizza is tossed around, someone inevitably brings up Vito's, the West Hollywood institution that serves one of the more refined East Coast pizzas in Los Angeles (New Jersey-style, specifically). Best known is the bianca, slicked with large of amounts of oily pesto and mounds of fresh ricotta. The edges are more substantial and chewy than at most thin-crust places, and the classic cheese-tomato-oregano slice balances the flavor of carbonized mozzarella and tangy, herbaceous sauce in a way sure to please any old-school pizzaiolo. Regulars swear by the whole pies — as well they should — but Vito's ability to produce a crispy, bubbling slice on cue remains a high art form. 846 La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd.; (310) 652-6859, vitopizza.com.
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