First Look: DeSano Pizza Bakery

By Lesley Balla  |  February 11, 2014
Credit: Lesley Balla

The cavernous space in East Hollywood is actually a pretty random spot for the new DeSano Pizza Bakery. But there aren't a lot of locations in LA that can fit four imported fiery red wood-burning ovens, piles of wood, mounds of flour and hundreds of cans of San Marzano tomatoes and Peppadew peppers. Not to mention a giant lot for free parking, which itself is a draw. In a city bubbling with pizza options, DeSano, which originated in Nashville, hopes to stand out from the pack with Neapolitan-style pizzas, which are authentic to the core: right down to their Italian pizzaiolo, Massimiliano Di Lascio. With his partner Marino Monferrato, Cecconi's former general manager, the two opened the restaurant yesterday and although only a couple ovens were fired up, here's a quick look and taste of the goods.

The Food: There are about twelve pies on the menu, including the traditional Margherita. Other toppings include spicy chilies or tangy Peppadew peppers, mushrooms, salami or even lasagna fixings (ricotta, meatballs, parmesan and garlic). The flour, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and even the salt are all sourced from Italy and whether that's the secret or not, the pies are darn good. Is there pizza like this in LA already? According to Monferrato (and an Italian chef from Terroni, who was there while we were eating), not really. A few come close, but Monferrato and Di Lascio are really touting the ingredients, ovens and preparation necessary for true Italian authenticity. In addition to the pies, there are a couple of salads and gelati and canoli for dessert. No beer and wine yet (they hope to add that down the line) but plenty of sodas and water in the cooler. 

The Space: There's a large counter where you order and pay and a huge warehouse-like dining room filled with communal picnic tables for dining. The kitchen is part of the show, where pizza cooks man the fires and pies in all four ovens. A couple of TVs are lit up with soccer games, while Italian arias play overhead.

The Prices: Pizzas are $10-$15 for the small pies and $15-$22 for the larger sizes. Salads are $6.50 and $7. Desserts are both under $5.

The Details: Open daily from 11:30 AM-11 PM. 4959 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-913-7000. Free parking (enter on Alexandria Avenue).

  • The four wood-burning ovens are visible from just about every seat in the huge, cavernous space. The pies take only a few minutes to prepare, at least in the early opening days (or in the middle of the afternoon) when the place isn't packed. 

  • There are two salads - both spinach - but one topped with Caprese toppings (cherry tomatoes and slices of fresh mozzarella), and the other with mozzarella, onions, cranberries, mushroom and artichoke. They're minimal but do the trick if you need some vegetables.

  • One of the DeSano signature pies is the San Gennaro with sausage, Peppadew peppers and buffalo mozzarella. The sweet-spicy peppers and mild sausage are a winning combo.

  • The crust is soft and spongy inside, a little crisp and a kiss of char on the outside. It suits the simple toppings, especially the simple crushed San Marzano tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella, which isn't overwhelming.

  • The Diavola gets a layer of spicy sopressata and pepperoni and a few mildly hot red peppers along with the sauce and cheese. Very meaty and not too much heat.

  • Real cannolis for dessert are such a treat. The shells are imported from Italy but the ricotta fillings and construction are made in-house. The chocolate filling with crushed hazelnuts is great, but the plain, which is lightly scented with citrus, with the ends rolled in chooclate chips is perfection. Crunchy, creamy and not too sweet; two people can easily share one.