Those Rustic Canyon guys? It's an empire they're building in Santa Monica, from ice cream, to wine, to breakfast -- and now pizza, at this new, perpetually crowded small-plates restaurant whose dining room probably is smaller than some of its customers' breakfast nooks. Really, once you've resigned yourself to waiting for a spot at one of the two communal tables, you may as well entertain yourself with a glass of Vouvray, a platter of ricotta crostini and as many of the perfectly crisp little arancini as you can con from the hostess, because you're going to be spending a while watching Zoe Nathan manning the big, wood-burning pizza oven and working the line and said hostess arranging seating like a Mountain Dew-crazed teenager playing Tetris on her parents' big-screen TV. A second glass of Vouvray, and you won't really care.
As at other third-wave pizza places in town -- Pizzeria Mozza, Il Fico, Terroni and Sotto, among others -- it is not strictly necessary to order pizza at all. There are slices of pumpkin roasted with honey and sage; clams steamed with garlic and tart white wine; crisply roasted duck legs with sauteed apples and blackened brussels sprouts; and oozy burrata with persimmons and prosciutto. You probably should get a "garlic knot," which here is a hollow sphere of pizza dough, tied at the top with string and stuffed with a handful of baked garlic cloves -- it's the new-new thing, the first worthy food-fetish object of the new year. I want one right now!
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
But the pizza? Nicely crisp, medium thin, and brawnier than you might expect, probably because the dough is made with whole-wheat flour. Get the one with garlicky braised greens, fresh mozzarella and homemade belly sausage, a pork bomb with a fizzing fuse.