Sometimes, I wonder, how many more ways can I describe pizza? Or a burger? Or pasta? What can I possibly say about cheese and meat that I haven't said before? But every time I think about these things, a little phrase enters my mind, and I try to remember that every endeavor, every restaurant, every handmade pizza, is the result of someone's hard-earned passion, of a significant investment, often at a significant personal risk.
"Maybe you don't like your job, maybe you didn't get enough sleep. Well, nobody likes their job, nobody got enough sleep. Maybe you just had the worst day of your life, but, you know, there's no escape, and there's no excuse, so just suck up and be nice." –Ani Difranco
That is not to say that I am needlessly nice (as the Weekly commenters often point out). However, I try to use this little brain tic that happens as a reminder to take a fresh, unbiased look at things. I think in this day and age, we all find ourselves behind computer screens, willing to berate or laud with heedlessness, saying things that would never be said were we face-to-face, sharing a friendly (or unfriendly) beer (*ahem*, Weekly commenters).
So began my visit to Los Olivos. The tiny—and I mean seriously tiny—artisan pizza and pasta shop is just west of Interstate 10 on Congress, a bit past the expensive Mercado San Agustin plaza that the city decided would be the gentrification firework for the neighborhood. It doesn't exactly have a lot of exterior panache. There is very little parking, and the small restaurant has maybe six seats inside, and four more if you're brave enough to weather the smoldering, sweltering heat outdoors. Luckily, the food doesn't take long, and it's worth the wait, whether staying or going.
Los Olivos isn't much to look at, inside or out, and while the service (it was a one-man operation from front-of-house to back, both times I visited) is not exactly five-star, it's efficient and friendly enough. Order, pay, get food, transaction complete. The menu mainly features various pies, which come in both 14" and 18"; and a selection of pastas. There are generally also a few salads and a soup of the day, but the menu changes on a regular basis.
The pizza? It's hot. And crispy. And just the right amount of cheesy. And you know what? As many adjectives as there are out there ... it's just, damn good. Especially for the price. The crust is bubbly and simultaneously crispy and doughy. The sauce isn't too sweet. The cheese isn't too cheesy. The toppings are fresh and heavy-handed, although not detrimentally so. The charcuterie pizza ($10.95 for a 14", $12.95 for an 18"), with ACTUAL ham (not sliced, pre-packaged crap), capicola, pepperoni and salami? It was awesome, meaty, salty and tasty. The capicola pizza ($8.95 for a 14", $11.25 for an 18"), with capicola, pineapple, and crushed red peppers, would have matched or possibly surpassed the tastiness of the charcuterie pizza were it not for the absolute explosion of crushed red peppers on the middle of the pizza. Ouch.
Los Olivos also excels in the pasta department, especially (seriously, especially) for the price. The lasagna ($6.25) is a hefty slice of meaty lasagna, al dente noodles, not too much cheese, with the appropriate amount of sauce, for a very reasonable price. The chicken Parmesan ($6.95) over fettuccini, is also excellent. Crispy breaded chicken, lots of cheese and red sauce. Excellent.
I'm not typically a salad fanatic, but both the antipasto, with capicola, ham, pepperoni, salami, and olives ($4.95—are you kidding me?); and the chicken Caesar salad ($6.50), were generously portioned, made with fresh ingredients, and just, simply, delicious. So, while I seem to yet again have found new words to describe meat, cheese and dough—just go try it for yourself. You won't be disappointed.