Thursday, October 13, 2011

Second Take: Ilan Hall Develops the Menu at Urbano Pizza

Last month Ilan Hall, the chef of The Gorbals in downtown LA and the winner of season 2 of Top Chef, has joined Urbano Pizza Bar, the downtown pizza spot that opened this summer to positive reviews.  At Urbano he has partnered with Chef Josh Moser on expanding and revamping the menu (he is still at The Gorbals as well).

Hall is excited to be working with the huge oven, saying "you have a lot of freedom with a wood burning oven.  We want to use the oven as much as possible.  There are two ovens and we can't just be using the wood burning ovens for pizza."

He has changed the flour to a higher gluten blend, which makes the crust of the pizzas crisper.  Hall and Moser have also been using leftover pizza dough to make open-faced sandwiches.  Below is the meatballs with warm pizza bread, which was delicious.  The meatballs are made with all beef and the sauce was full of flavor.  It is great to see pork-free meatballs on a menu.

The margherita pie ($12) is made with fresh mozzarella, hand crushed tomato and petit basil.  The pie was well executed.  The crust was firm enough and the sauce again was good; I would have preferred just a little more of the mozzarella cheese.

The Testa Verde pizza ($13) is one of the more unusual pizzas I have tasted in that it uses Irish cheddar as the base.  There is no tomato sauce on this pie.  Instead, baby spinach and herbed ricotta as well as the aforementioned cheddar are the toppings.  The cheddar was surprisingly good, mellower than I was expecting and I preferred this pie to the margherita.

Hall and Moser's collaboration is bearing fruit and they have been experimenting with putting more and more dishes into the wood burning ovens, including potatoes, lasagna, artichokes and corn.  The wood used in the ovens is almond wood, which is reasonably priced, less smokey and doesn't pop.

My favorite pie is the Mushroom Ricotta pizza with mushroom oil, eggs and bottarga.  The eggs are runny and delicious and ample enough to coat the pie.  The mushrooms are enhanced by the mushroom oil and the whole concoction is a decadent pie worth going out of your way for.

If it is on the menu when you go, a visit to Urbano is not complete without trying the Nutella dessert, pictured below.  It is made with fresh pizza dough with carmelized raw sugar, sweet ricotta with cream, sweetened and creamed nutella.  I am not a dessert guy, but I'd happily have this on a regular basis as it is not too sweet but the chocolate comes through.

All in all, Hall has rounded out the offerings at Urbano, enhancing the pizzas and expanding the menu with fun and approachable offerings.  There is a happy hour from 5 - 7 pm with six dollar margherita pizzas and four dollar draft beers, both of which are great deals.  Urbano is a great addition to the downtown dining scene and at dinner it is easy to get a table.  At lunch they also offer pizza by the slice, which is priced at $6 for two slices.  Tables are communal.

My visit was hosted.

Urbano Pizza: 630 W. 6th St @ Hope St, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 614-1900.  Web:

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