Saturday August 5: Pappas Artisanal (La Verne)
Ordered: 1 margherita (10″, $16), 1 bebo (sausage, pep, bacon, calabrian chiles, chives; 10″, $18), 1 hola aloha (carnitas, pineapple salsa, cilantro; 10″, $17)
We have a long relationship with Pappas that’s been defined by one thing: frustration at their constant tinkering with what has been, at its highest points, a very fine menu. Remember their original sandwich and tacos only offerings? Gnocchi night on Tuesday? Fish and freakin’ chips!? Not to mention their killer brunch items. (At least they’ve brought back the loaded salad.)
Anyway: when we heard that Pappas was going down the long and winding pizza road, we were ambivalent: sure, they might pull it off … but they also very much, given their lack of consistent vision, might not. Out goes the rotisserie, in comes a pizza oven. Off goes Travis, apparently, to study in Italy for a week before opening a pizza restaurant. (A week?) And Pappas’ decision to go the way of pizza, especially given the proximity (one block) of local institution Warehouse was certainly brazen, if head-scratching.
But we like brazen, and we don’t like Warehouse. So we sat down, excited if a little nervous to try the new pizza. This was a Saturday, early evening. Three other tables in the entire restaurant were seated. We sat. We sat. We yawned. We glared. We sat. A co-owner sat a nearby table, ignoring us. Everyone ignored us. We’re fairly regular at Pappas, too. Huh. (Had Claremont-style service come to Pappas without anyone telling us?)
After twenty-five minutes (!), and after a couple who’d entered just before us got sick of waiting and left … and after I posted a pissy Yelp review about waiting so long … then, the waitress appeared. We ordered the pizzas listed above and waited only a few minutes for them to come out, piping, as it were, hot – a good sign of a high-temp oven.
Then we looked at the … pizzas.
Two of three had bizarre crusts more like fry bread, billowing with air … and too, they were slicked, dripping with oil. Why? How? The third crust was caked with flour. Yum. The sauce for all three was on the paste side of things – not a good side — and the toppings were aggressive failures: on the margh, the burrata melded with the tomato sauce to form a foamy mixture that was very unpleasant in the mouth; the charred pineapple salsa was … weird; and the calabrian chiles (a personal favorite in other settings!) were PICKLED, which it did not say on the menu, and which gave a (duh) PICKLED flavor to a meat-forward savory pizza. Plus the high-sided costs of very small sized pizzas (the waitress, when asked how big they were, said: Like Pieology, kinda?).
Summary: We hope their pizzas get better. We’ll need proof to try them again. We fear the proof may never come. (A dinner companion cynically gave them three months before they close up shop. Or at least before they reshape their vision again. Maybe next will be … tacos?)