As soon as we discovered that Buffalo Bar-B-Q chef-owner Carlos Valdez had a pizzeria, and that he employs the same woods – mesquite and mauto – that feed the fabulous grill at his La Paz flagship, we had to go. Al Forno Pizzeria is dinner-only, which meant that our only window of opportunity was after an elaborate multi-course meal at Las Tres Virgenes, but considering La Paz isn’t exactly around the corner from Los Angeles, we fought through the full.
The corner space was fairly lively, even after 11 p.m. on a weeknight. A red awning framed teenagers and twentysomethings, who filled counters and benches plastered with Wine Spectator magazine covers. American pop music filled the air in a section of coastal city that became fairly desolate after dark.
Our first glimpse of the brick oven bode well for our meal.
We deliberated between the classic Margherita and pies that had more local flavor. Baja Mar (130 pesos ~ $10.25) won out because we were within shouting distance of the Sea of Cortes, which yields some of the best seafood on America’s West Coast. The crisp crust touted local mozzarella, sweet shrimp, tender octopus, black olives, basil and red onion. This wasn’t Neapolitan pizza, though the oven looked the part, but it was satisfying.
Carlos Valdez doesn’t just settle for condiments like oregano and chile flake. Instead, we spooned on two pizza-friendly salsas: sweet-smoky pineapple-chipotle and spicy jalapeno.
Other options included shrimp casserole with dried chile and lime, and Al Forno pizza with shrimp, pesto, onion and artichoke. Carlos Valdez is clearly on to something in La Paz.