Born and raised in New York City and spent most of my life being spoiled by amazing cuisine….of course New York classics like pizza and bagels are foods I was quite wary of when I first arrived in LA about fifteen years ago…(yes both have improved…but my goodness, it took a long time).
As a food writer, I have tasted my share of pizza. I recently had the good fortune to enjoy a meal at the local eatery, Southend on Abbot Kinney in Venice. We were greeted by the gregarious owner and chef, a Mario Vollera and escorted to our seats.
The dark wine bar has a cozy romantic feel. We sat at the bar and immediately started sampling wines. Vollera has been a sommelier since 2011. He explained that he collaborated with a vineyard in Chili to create his own wine with / featuring the restaurant’s namesake. It had a bold yet fruity flavor a perfect red to pair with a delicious pizza.
Born in Rome, Vollera started cooking when he was just sixteen. He was inspired by his mother’s eggplant and her memorable calzones with fresh spinach. He arrived in Los Angeles in 2008 and started working as a Senior Chef for MidiCi located in the San Fernando Valley. He had always been attracted to Venice Beach, so in 2013 it was only natural that he should open his own restaurant at the artistic seaside mecca with pizza as its main staple.
“Venice is the best place on earth…the culture, the art, the beach, the people the music…all great for me,” said Vollera. “Just walking on the boardwalk on Sunday afternoon for me is magic.”
We started the meal with an Onion & Brie tarte (caramelized onion, brie, seasonal fruit, aceto balsamico). It was delicate, with a delicious ink squid crust. Next Vollera brought out a tortellini with cheese and prosciutto. A flavorful dish…this was a true comfort food. We tried not to finish it, as to save room for the pizza, which soon appeared. We were presented with two incredible pizza pies. Going back and forth between them, I tried to make a judgment about which would win my taste buds over…a hard decision.
See image: The Vanguard
The vanguard featured organic mushrooms, fontina chees, fresno chilies, fiore sardo, and fine herbs. It was delicious with a perfect crust…doughy yet crisp.
The 1905 pie offered a bold flavor with heritage pork salciccia, crushed roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, red onion, and marjoram. The latter was the winner in my eyes due to the intense flavors, but they were well matched.
Vollera said the most popular pizza and his personal favorite was the Abbot Kinney, (crushed Roma tomatoes, burrata cheese, basil pesto, Monini EVOO)
See image: The 1905
Be sure to pop into this charming restaurant. If you love pizza and good wine, there is no way you can go wrong. Great prices too.
Southend is located at 2805 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice CA 90291 (the entrance is on Washington Blvd. behind the gas station).
Dinner hours are 4:00pm -10:00pm Mondays through Thursdays and 4:30pm -11:00pm on Weekends (Fridays – Sundays). There is also a happy hour available Mondays – Thursdays from 4:30pm-6:00pm and Fridays – Sundays, from 4:30 – 6:00pm. 424-2284736; http://www.southendla.com