Lodge 2.0 opened last weekend, and aside from the paper-wrapped loaves offered for sale from a carousel in the dining room, the space looked less like the bakery and coffee shop that opened in 2015 and more like a pizzeria. A small wood-burning oven cast a flickering light from the front of the shop. A food runner zipped by with stacked metal trays, calling out names and scanning the numbers perched on tabletops. The slightly burnt smell of blistering crust filled the air. Wine was drunk.
It wasn’t always about the ’za. When pizza night started at Lodge Bread Co. in Culver City, it was conceived as a way to fight back against culinary doldrums. Owners Alexander Phaneuf and Or Amsalam quickly settled into the daily rhythm of mixing, shaping and baking loaves, and customers stood in lines to purchase them. Sunday pizza nights were a break from that routine — an excuse to play with new ingredients and toss a little extra dough around.
But within a year, the weekly pizza party had gained sufficient momentum that the pair began to eye the empty office space next door. The extra real estate would let them install a dedicated oven that would allow pizza baking seven days a week. It also would give the cramped bakery some much-needed breathing room, and increase production for a bread program that frequently sold out before closing. After a monthlong closure for construction and permitting, those plans are finally realized. And now fans of Lodge Bread Co. have a lot more to be excited about.
For starters, there’s the pizza, which is available daily until the dough sells out. Phaneuf’s pies are small but they pack a big punch, with a puffy cornicione that showcases a soft yet chewy crust. The toppings highlight the team’s love of fresh and local produce: Pickled chilies, arugula, flowering broccoli and black kale and other vegetables are featured heavily. There are no meat toppings on the regular menu pizzas, but an egg with a viscous, almost-orange yolk is available to upgrade anything.
Then there are the expanded hours. Like most bakeries, Lodge originally kept an early schedule. The new space will stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays, and on the weekends, they’ll bake pizzas until midnight. Thirsty? Beer and wine are now available, too.
All of this is offered in a space that dwarfs the tiny bakery that opened just a year and a half ago. The new Lodge is divided into a pizza-making side and a bread-baking side, with a dining room and open patio neatly tucked in the middle. Customers who score a seat outside have an open view of the pizza oven and bakers at work. The same blue Chiclet tiles that lined the counters in the original space are featured prominently, but a new cluster of white globe lights adds soft light and a modern touch.
Despite these changes, Lodge still retains its core DNA: a likable neighborhood bakery with an affable cast of characters behind the counter. While Phaneuf shaped pies on the new side of the space one recent evening, Amsalam wrapped up the day’s bread baking on the other.
The original cafe menu remains intact, too. Despite the attractive pizzas emerging from the kitchen, it’s hard to imagine a visit to Lodge that doesn’t include a thick slice of toast adorned with mashed Ojai avocado and paper-thin radish slices, or Amsalam’s shakshuka, a stewlike sauce of tomatoes and peppers cradling a gently baked egg. Thankfully, customers aren’t forced to make such sacrifices. Their only limitations are their ability to process excess carbs.
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11918 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (424) 384-5097, lodgebread.com.