Something crispy this way comes.
A new pizza joint in Highland Park brings a different style of pizza -- like the ones they make in Rome -- to the city's rapidly-evolving Figueroa Boulevard. It's called Triple Beam, and the food's quite a bit different from what some pizza lovers have come to expect: The crust is thin, the toppings fresh. It's baked in a long rectangle and sold by the ounce.
The shop is the brainchild of two restaurateurs who have spent decades on the LA food scene: Nancy Silverton, co-owner of Mozza on Melrose and Highland, and Matt Molina, a James Beard Foundation award-winner, formerly her executive chef. It's a culmination of their longtime obsession with authentic Italian fare.
Take Two's A Martinez went to Highland Park to speak to the pair, to find out exactly what they're making, why they picked this mostly working-class neighborhood to set up shop -- and, of course, to taste Roman pizza.
What made you guys decide to set up shop here?
Matt: We thought, wow, there's a lot of foot traffic here, there are people out and about, there seems to be a beat on the street; this would be a really good opportunity to see if we can do this. I love challenging myself — I know Nancy does — it just seemed like a really opportune time to do it.
Nancy: Yes, including being able to fulfill sort-of a fantasy of mine, which is being able to recreate this type of pizza.
Always the first stop on my couple days in Rome is to the Campo de' Fiori. This is the style of pizza they do there. Every time I eat it, I always think "one day, I want to do something like this," and I've never had the form to be able to do it. When Matt approached me to help him with his pizza concept, and I suggested doing this — he's been with me several times to this pizzeria — he was like, "yes, let's go for it."
It's gonna take some education. When people see that word "pizza," it brings them in, but they have to let go of all their preconception of what a pizza is — because it is different.
Nancy, how do you make sure that the food is affordable for people? Fresh food can be expensive. How do you make sure that this food is accessible to the people that live in the area?
Well, you know, that's tricky because, along with food that has a higher price point, it usually has food that has ingredients that are of better quality. But what we're able to do here is that, because of buying it by the weight, if it's something that you can't necessarily afford a lot of — but you really want to be able to taste — you can get as small of a piece as you want. You could spend 80 cents and get a taste of the pizza.
Just parking on the street, there seems to be a lot of brand new, shiny places — a lot of different culinary options. Is Highland Park going to become LA's new best culinary destination?
Nancy: I think it has already. You've got two big streets in there: you've got Figueroa, and you've got York. I think what's great about both of those streets is that, not only are some new concepts coming in, but the whole neighborhood is still scattered with so many places that have been here for a number of years, and they are here to stay — no one is trying to push them out.
What would you say to someone that's been here for 50 years and they're looking around and saying, "this isn't the Highland Park that I grew up with. This isn't the Highland Park from my childhood." How do you factor in their concerns?
I think, hopefully, they're saying it in a good way. It could be taken negatively or positively.
Sometimes you could say, " Wow, when I moved here it was nothing like this, but look what I have now," as opposed to "I really miss the good old days."
That's what my point was about some of the smaller businesses that have been around for a long time. Hopefully, those businesses will still stay.
(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)