Late yesterday afternoon, word that Pizzeria Mozza opened in Newport Beach spread like lightning on Twitter. This writer broke the news on OC Weekly's blog, and headed to the restaurant for the opening-night madness.
Barring a few first-night jitters, the menu, food and service were identical to the Los Angeles Pizzeria Mozza experience. Newport Beach General Manager Sam Schamberg shared some backstory of the long-anticipated opening of the latest Mozza outpost. Turn the page for our interview.
Squid Ink: We've been watching your progress with the shell of the old Dolce restaurant that was still standing a year ago, and waiting eagerly for you to open. How did you come to choose Newport Beach?
Sam Schamberg: Mario [Batali, a co-owner] was doing a charity golf event here a couple years back and fell in love with the town and the community. That's what got the ball rolling. He said this was perfect location for Mozza. He started scouting locations and it went from there. It was almost by accident. He was here for the Tiger Woods Foundation, I'm pretty sure.
SI: You've been holding back the grand opening for a couple of weeks. Why the delay?
SS: It's been more than two weeks, and it was our ABC liquor license. There's been some confusion about the conditional use permit, and we were under the impression we could take over Dolce's license. If we had taken over Dolce and not torn down the building and just redone the building, it would be much easier to transition. You basically take over their liquor license. Since we started from scratch, we had to reapply for an entirely new license. We were orginally set to open on August 4. That's why Joe [Bastianich, a co-owner] had that Hi-Times [Liquors] event and that had all been planned around Joe being here for the opening of the restaurant.
SI: How is Newport Beach different from the L.A. restaurant?
SS: Newport has a full bar, and L.A. doesn't since they have the Osteria right next to them. We have a beautiful, brand new building that we love and L.A. is a very old building that's cursed in some ways.
SI: How is the L.A.building cursed?
SS: By cursed, I just mean that it is a very old building, so it requires constant upkeep.
SI: We were talking earlier about today's sudden opening announcement, and how things unfolded after Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich tweeted the news. What happened after that?