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Dining Out: Pizza of Venice has the right perspective

Experimentation blends with camaraderie at Altadena's Pizza of Venice.

February 17, 2014|By Lisa Dupuy

A few exits east of La Cañada Flintridge, in a mini-mall anchored by a security-bar-heavy liquor store, sits a little restaurant with a big heart. Pizza of Venice oozes neighborliness and a spirit of unbridled experimentation. The one long, communal table ensures you'll be making friends before the night is through. The atmosphere of "Try it! You'll like it!" will have you sampling pizzas you never dreamed existed. And the Buffalo Brussels Sprouts will clinch your return visit.

Pizza of Venice (aka P.O.V.) is pure Altadena. The last few years have seen a blossoming of urban homesteaders in this fertile enclave. Backyard farmers grow exotic fruits and vegetables. They raise chickens for eggs, goats for award-winning cheeses, and llamas just to have llamas. Pizza of Venice exploits, in the best possible sense, this local goodness, using the ingredients to add vitality to their salads, pizzas, fruit drinks and plates-to-share.

While the unique flavors at P.O.V. do start with fresh, regional ingredients, chef/owners Jamie Woolner and Sean St. John take them to the next level. These innovative young men cure their own meats, slow-cook their own sauces, and stretch their own pizza dough. I say "stretch" because the pies don't look as if they've been tossed into perfect circles. They're wonderfully amoeba-shaped with toppings from classic to quirky. St. John and Woolner categorize the pizzas as "Expected" (e.g. Margherita, Pepperoni), "Unexpected" (e.g. Braised Lamb, Cashew Pesto) and "Off the Wall" (e.g. Curry Chicken, Brie Pancetta).

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My dining partner and I went for the house pizza, the P.O.V. ($20). The primary flavor was the incredible Cowgirl's Creamery Mt. Tam Triple Cream brie, warm and gooey and decadent. Tied for second were the flavors of rich tomatoey sauce and sweet caramelized onions. A little hard to detect was the house cured pancetta. Still the overall effect was exciting. Alongside we got the Altadena Salad ($12), a large affair with pretty greens, peeled citrus sections, pistachios, feta and roasted tomato vinaigrette.

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