East Coasters love to talk smack about L.A. pizza. And while we may not have the most authentic New York–style slice or deep-dish as perfect as Chicago's, the absence of any particular aspirational model means that Los Angeles is home to some truly experimental pie.
Sometimes this yields stunning creations that elevate the humble pizza to new levels of gastronomic bliss. Sometimes it's just plain fun (mac-and-cheese pizza, anyone?).
If you're fed up with pepperoni and margherita, get weird with the most creative pizzas in L.A., from vegan options to bacon-and-hamburger-topped pies to pizzas that make you wonder if they're even a pizza. Some of them might not be, by New York standards, but this is L.A. — and when it comes to pizza, anything goes.
8. Thai Curry Chicken at Dean's Pizza
Why is the Thai Curry Pizza at Dean's so good? Maybe because Dean's also serves actual Thai food — papaya salad, pad thai and, of course, a variety of curries — from an extensive menu that lists pad see-ew after spaghetti. Typically this breadth of dishes would suggest mastery of none, but Dean's turns out an amazing fusion pie: creamy, coconut-y curry sauce tops a standard chewy crust and gets a flavor bang from basil, onions, bell peppers, chicken and plenty of melted cheese. 929 Redondo Ave., Long Beach; (562) 987-3297.
Certainly not the first to put flowers on their pizza, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo manage to revamp that and other classics at their new Italian-American spot. The Flower Child pie features a simple base of crescenza (a young, rindless, cow's milk cheese), olive oil and sea salt, topped with whatever flowers happen to be in season: nasturtium, mustard flowers and squash blossoms all have made an appearance. The result is a lovely, quirky pie. 412 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; (323) 334-3369, jonandvinnys.com.
Braised Lamb might not be the weirdest pizza topping at Pizza of Venice — the joint we named Best Stoner Pizza in 2014 occasionally serves a Sashimi Pizza — but it's one that works well. And lamb, tabbouleh and tzatziki on a pizza is still pretty damn crazy. The thin-crusted, misshapen pizzas are handmade by proprietors Jamie Woolner and Sean St. John, who braise lamb legs in red wine at their Altadena location (the "Venice" refers to the beach neighborhood that inspires their laid-back vibe). "Every pizza is like a snowflake," St. John told our restaurant critic, encapsulating the unique qualities of POV's creations. 2545 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena; (626) 765-9636, pizzaofvenice.com.
Pizzanista!, the pizza house run by pro skater Salman Agah, announces its craziness with an exclamation point. But the craziest thing about Pizzanista! isn't its celebrity owner; it's the macaroni and cheese pizza served every Sunday night (there's also a vegan version). This pizza might sound gross, but somehow it works. Elbow macaroni is tossed in a sauce made of asiago, fontina, cheddar and grana padano. Actually, when you think about it, it's not that crazy: Pizza and pasta are just two starchy Italian vehicles for sauce and cheese, right? Nah, it's still weird. Grab a garlic knot on the way out. 2019 E. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 627-1430, pizzanista.com.
Pizza dough — flour, water and yeast — is always vegan. Ditto tomato sauce. At Cruzer, which we named Best Vegan Pizza in 2014, the objective is to provide vegans with pizza as delicious as the rest of them. That means lots of Daiya and faux meats, as well as crazy toppings like ratatouille, barbecue "chicken" and Philly "cheesesteak." The pizza we find most compelling: the jalapeño-and-"ground beef"-topped Indian Kima. You've got to hand it to Cruzer: Being the first and only all-vegan pizza joint in L.A. is pretty crazy. 4449 Prospect Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 666-0600, cruzerpizza.com.
3. Salad Pizza at Abbot's Pizza Company
At Abbot's Pizza Company in Venice, the pizzas feature a bagel crust: a thick, chewy lip coated in sesame or poppy seeds. Lest this bagel-and-pizza combination feel a bit too NYC, the 20-year-old institution serves a salad pizza — a truly Californian mix of greens, onion, basil, tomato, feta and avocado on a bed of sour cream–topped bagel crust. Abbot's does offer delivery, but it's hard to preserve the integrity of something as delicate as the salad pizza in L.A. traffic. Best to stop by the Abbot Kinney location, where you can order by the slice. 1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 396-7334, abbotspizzaco.com.
2. Potato Gold at Mr. Pizza
The fact that pies at this Korean chain go for upward of $25 doesn't seem to deter its hoard of loyal fans. With successful Koreatown and Little Tokyo locations, Mr. Pizza, which has hundreds of shops in Korea and China, plans to add Century City to its lineup in the near future. The secret is in the sweet potato crust: Extremely fluffy and filled with sweet potato puree, it's topped with enough cheese to make the dough glow orange. "The pies, sliding into and out of the big deck oven, are gorgeous things, with damp crusts as soft as Wonder Bread," our former restaurant critic Jonathan Gold wrote in his review. The signature pizza here is the Potato Gold, which features a tomato sauce base for a smattering of odd toppings: mushrooms, ground beef, corn, onions, potatoes, bacon, chips and a swirl of sour cream. We hope the Italians don't find out about this. 3881 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown; (213) 738-0077, mrpizzawilshireca.com.
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And now for something that's remarkable not so much for what's on the pizza as what's in it. Stoned Oven, L.A.'s only maker of THC-infused pizza, offers three flavors of frozen, medical-grade pies (5-Star Cheese, OG Pepperoni and Very Margarita Jane), Stoned Oven provides those with medical cards the chance to consume a whopping 250mg THC per personal-sized pizza. If eating a bunch of marijuana pizza just makes you hungry for more pizza, not to worry: We've just given you seven other crazy pizza options to try. See stonedoven.blogspot.com for locations.