As hard as it is to imagine, there may be one or two of you out there who don't have a “Los Angeles pizza” Google alert set up, which means it's possible that you missed the opening of WildCraft Sourdough Pizza back in February. Well, the hip Culver City pizza slingers have been up and running for nearly three full months, which means chef Tin Vuong and his crew have dialed in their wood-fired Stefano Ferrara oven to push out high-quality pies seven days a week.
That's a pretty quick turnaround for a staff that previously was making poutine and pork chops at Abigaile in Hermosa Beach. When ownership down there decided to push up some kitchen help into their latest venture, they actually had a few members of the staff undergo rigorous pizza training at one of the certified VPN Americas sites.
Their one-mouth-fits-all-sizes Neapolitan pizzas rely on a decades-old sourdough starter, which requires three additional days of dough fermentation until it reaches peak performance levels. The end result is a crust that's pliable and pungent, giving off a slightly sour funk that permeates each pizza. There's no mistaking the fact that you're biting into sourdough the moment you chow down on a slice at WildCraft; the tartness lies under all of the other ingredients like a chilly morning floor.
Similarly, you can expect the same level of bubbly, crisp crust that you'd get from a regular sourdough loaf, with a soft and airy interior. Except at WildCraft, you won't always get as much rise to your pie as you might expect. Sometimes you'll land a pizza that's a bit overwhelmed with structural deficiency; puffed at the crust and dense along the undercarriage. There are lots of reasons for the variation, and any place offering 90-second pies from a 900-degree oven running on olive wood is certainly going to encounter a range of acceptable pies. Reducing the range of those inconsistencies is simply something that comes with time. The pizzaiolos, for their part, really work that Stefano Ferrara with grace, pulling out freshly fired pies with plenty of beautiful leopard char spots. That's the smoky, crispy, good stuff right there.
The sourdough pizzas at WildCraft perform best when their tart flavors have some sweetness to play against. The Meatball Pie is a perfect example, with creamy lumps of ricotta and sweetly caramelized onions helping to create one seriously harmonious pizza. The Bacon Fontina is less effective, given the smoky bacon bites and fire-wrinkled tomatoes that can lend a rustic but acrid flavor to the already sour dough.
Things have been moving quickly for WildCraft Sourdough Pizza, not least the scores of pizzas that fly out of that Naples-built oven. As you can imagine, there will continue to be tweaks to the menu, the process and perhaps even that 30-year-old starter they keep in the back. But things are good for now, especially with a pint of craft beer from Alesmith, Port Brewing or Allagash in front of you.
Plus, WildCraft just started serving weekend brunch, which includes a breakfast pie of bacon, sausage and a fried egg, or a batch of soft-baked eggs or even a rasher of crispy pork belly with a fried egg riding shotgun. So even if you're not a pizza obsessive, you can still perk up at the idea of another tasty Culver City brunch.
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