Nancy Silverton Previews Mozza Bar on Mozzarella Mondays at Jar

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Suzanne Tracht's chophouse Jar hosts longtime friend Nancy Silverton for Mozzarella Mondays.

Nancy Silverton is a Los Angeles restaurant giant. In 1989, she co-founded Campanile and adjoining La Brea Bakery with now ex-husband Mark Peel. In 2001, Silverton and her partners sold the bakery to Irish conglomerate IAWS Group for $55 million. Her breads are now in supermarkets across America. Though Silverton still develops breads and pastries for La Brea Bakery, she’s expanded her repertoire. In addition to writing more cookbooks, she now hosts a series of specialty nights at L.A. restaurants. After several years, her Thursday Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile is still a hit. She devotes Tuesdays to antipasti at La Terza, an excellent Italian restaurant where she also designed the dessert menu. Monday nights belong at Jar, and to Mozzarella.

Silverton’s planning on opening a mozzarella-centric restaurant in L.A. with New York celebrity chef Mario Batali. It’s tentatively called Mozza Bar. They’ll feature cured meats made by Batali’s father, Armandino, who owns Salumi in Seattle. For now, the mozzarella is house-made at Jar, which is owned by Silverton’s friend, chef Suzanne Tracht. Mozzarella Mondays are tantamount to Silverton’s test kitchen. I joined four cheese-crazed friends to find out what happens when you combine Silverton’s deft culinary touch with a tableful of fresh mozzarella.

Five of us shared 10 of the menu’s 13 mozzarella dishes. With some guidance from our waitress, we just dropped “Insalata Caprese with heirloom tomatoes,” since we can get that anywhere. We also lost “Mozzarella, Berkshire prosciutto, arugula, tapenade on baguette” and “Mozzarella, Armandino Batali’s assorted salumi,” opting for two dishes apiece.

Our waitress offered to divide our selections into two courses, but that required too much patience (which our hunger wouldn’t allow), so we ended up with 10 different mozzarella dishes on our table simultaneously. We mixed so many different flavors that it was overwhelming. It’s been a week since the meal, and I just finally processed our experience.

Jar started us with a plank of wood topped with crusty La Brea Bakery bread and butter. Not surprisingly, La Brea Bakery bread was prevalent throughout the evening, with mozzarella dishes often set upon crostini.

Meatball Sandwich Los Angeles

For Silverton’s burrata and meatball sandwich ($12), a crusty toasted semolina roll perfectly complemented crumbly, luscious meatballs, creamy cheese and rich, well-spiced tomato sauce garnished with finely chopped basil leaves. [FYI: Burrata is an extra creamy, high-end mozzarella filled with heavy cream and mozzarella curds.]

Harissa really ignited the crostini topped with “spicy fried egg, melted mozzarella, and harissa” ($9). According to the “food lover’s companion,” harissa is a Tunisian hot sauce composed of hot chilies, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil. Silverton’s zesty version bordered on black.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Olive oil-slathered crostini was even better when topped with burrata, hazelnuts, and roasted asparagus spears ($11). A separate plate held a solitary strip of guanciale (hog cheek) bacon.

Italian Food Los Angeles

A wonderful fried, breadcrumb-crusted mozzarella cake ($9) came topped with thin grilled eggplant strips, tomato sauce, roasted tomato, a roasted half-onion, basil leaves, and more crostini.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Silverton topped another crostini-based winner with burricotti, braised artichoke hearts, pine nuts, currants ($10) and crumbled breadcrumbs for added texture. [FYI: Burricotti is ricotta filled mozzarella.]

Grilled Cheese Los Angeles

Mini but mighty grilled cheese featured smoked mozzarella, Armandino Batali’s mole sausage, and spicy pepper sauce ($12). Piquant sausage, spicy sauce, and smoky cheese sandwiched between La Brea Bakery bread made for a great sandwich, served with greens dressed in light vinaigrette.

Italian Food Los Angeles

A wood plank arrived with a fist-sized hunk of radicchio-wrapped burrata, a mini-baguette, two roasted garlic cloves, and four little dishes: basil pesto, green olive tapenade, red pepper romesco sauce, and caper-berry relish. This dish ($10) was interactive, fun to eat. All the flavors were distinctive and delicious, and the sheer mass of burrata impressed me. We each tore a chunk of baguette, added a dab of cheese, and applied one of the great dips.

Italian Food Los Angeles

YET ANOTHER crostini – this version topped with burrata, shallot confit, a single bacon strip, charred marinated escarole, and breadcrumbs ($10) – tasted sensational.

Italian Food Los Angeles

A bowl arrived with five egg-shaped mozzarella balls (bocconcini) on a bed of julienned pepperoncini and salami. Two green olives and a sesame breadstick topped this salad-like creation ($10). [FYI: Bocconcini is smooth, lightly salted, highly purified mozzarella.]

Italian Food Los Angeles

Our final mozzarella creation was excellent, featuring a cottage cheese-textured mozzarella mass (stracciatella) topped with celery pesto, served with herb salad and herb-crusted crostini ($12).

Silverton paired her mozzarella dishes with “Mozzarella Monday Wines,” a selection of Italian wines by the glass. Four whites and six reds all cost $8 a glass. Several people at my table imbibed.

Italian Dessert Los Angeles

There was even a mozzarella dessert: “burricotti with oat biscuits, honey & candied spiced walnuts” ($8). I was the only one excited to try it. Silverton’s dessert could have done without dry oat biscuits, and I’ve certainly had better candied spiced walnuts, but the power of creamy, slightly sweet burricotti is undeniable.

Chocolate Cake Los Angeles

Everybody else at the table resorted to standard desserts. Not that Jar’s molten chocolate cake was standard.

Cobbler Los Angeles

Jar’s peach cobbler was also delicious in its own ways and also co-starred vanilla ice cream.

Overall, our mozzarella immersion was a success. Cheese was high-quality, and pairings were inventive and flavorful. There wasn’t a single dish I wouldn’t recommend. If Mozzarella Monday is truly a sign of what’s to come at Mozza Bar, Los Angeles is set for a special dining experience. The idea that Angelenos will be able to indulge in Nancy and Mario’s mozzarella creations on a daily basis is an exciting proposition. I’ll have my cell phone handy to book one of the first tables.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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