Blackbird Pizza is absolutely the pizza shop of the moment on Melrose Ave. Offering thin-crust and deep-dish, this casual, bright, modern pizzeria ends the debate about which is style of pizza pie is best: here, they are both pretty terrific.
With spare bare-wood tables, a window counter for people-watching, and fun graphics on the wall, this is a small but cool looking spot, and makes a good place to settle in and relax over a pizza and a beer. In fact, the beer menu is even more extensive than the spot’s choice of pizzas. You’ll also find meatball options (no vegan, at least not yet), and other fine snacks.
Owner and chef Luis Ulloa has created dining venues in New York and San Francisco; in the latter location he assisted with the well-regarded Little Star Pizza. Perhaps that was the link to his latest venture, but regardless of its origin, Melrose Ave., and Los Angeles itself is grateful for the chance to put to rest – or put to a tie – the deep dish/thin crust debate.
Before tackling that one, it’s well-worth noting that Blackbird also soars with the “snacks” section of its menu, such as a local burrata with Tuscan olive salad, basil, and vine-ripened tomatoes; and a lovely, fresh Little Gem lettuce, Fuyu persimmon and pickled red onion salad with Feta cheese and Saba. The fruit-in-a-salad addition is a personal favorite and the persimmon with onion is a tight combination. More traditional, the arugula with cannellini beans, preserved lemon, and extra virgin olive oil gets a nice zing from the addition of the lemon.
Meatballs come with their own distinctive sauces based on the meats they are made with: as of this writing, Ulloa offers beef, lamb, pork, and turkey varieties. The most standard in style, the beef comes with red sauce, Parmesan, and basil. The carnivores in our group were taken with the lamb, which comes with a savory mix of feta, pine nuts, mint, and yogurt. Not your standard meat ball saucing.
But the focus here, as well it should be, is on pizza and its perfect partner, beer. Pizza comes large and small, and the deep dish is hearty enough that a small should do it if you’re sharing with a friend or even two. The Blackbird features mushrooms, artichoke, onion, ricotta, and feta; the Spicy Italian mixed pork sausage with mushrooms, pepperoncini, and mozzarella. Of course, since Blackbird has flown in to Melrose Ave., it would be almost sacrilege not to enjoy the Melrose, which features an LA-centric topping mix of broccolini, sundried tomato, roasted garlic, goat cheese, and basil.
Other deep dish varieties include Mary’s Chicken, which is redolent of pesto; the edgily named Balls Deep is their signature with house meatballs. You can also build your own of course, whether deep dish or thin crust. Personally, I’m a pizza purist – thin crust and cheese all the way, and there are satisfying options there, too. The Margarita was airy, light, and fragrant, a simple tomato, mozzarella, and basil with a sweetish sauce. The Tie Dye is a close second: vodka, tomato, pesto, and mozzarella in a little richer dish. We saw a lot of interest in an upscale take on that old ham and pineapple standard: the Big Kahuna with speck, bacon, pineapple, piquillo, and mozzarella. As to the all-important crust, both the thick but well-made deep dish and the crisp thin were tasty; the dough was not overly heavy, and came straight from the oven perfectly baked.
As to beers: drafts range from the prosaic to the profound, with PBR at one end, and a nice Smog City Coffee Porter along with the Saison Farmhouse-style ale of Los Abbey’s Red Barn on the other. A much broader selection is available in cans: everything from lagers and pilsners to IPAs, wheats, stouts, and blondes/ambers/browns. Standouts were the rarely seen Guatemalan Gallo beer from Famosa Brewing, the much more available Blood Orange IPA from Latitude in Vista, Calif., and the always-great-to-see Coconut Hawaii from Maui Brewing – which makes a great pairing with that Big Kahuna pizza.
In short, we hope Blackbird Pizza has a nice long nesting season on Melrose Ave.