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!
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.