Landini’s Pizzeria & Spanish red

The recent boom of trendy bars and restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy has been all the chatter about town. From the killer wine list at Juniper & Ivy to the shiny upstairs patio of Kettner Exchange, there is plenty to talk about and more foodie fodder still to come. While old neighborhood standards may harrumph about with speculation as to what the competition means for business, the influx of roaming drunk hoards seems well-suited for a pizza joint to thrive in and Landini’s Pizzeria is situated within easy stumbling distance of it all.

San Diego kitchens shut down disappointingly early for a city that parties nightly until two. As bars unleash batches of wooing hot messes and their socially oblivious companions into the streets, Landini’s becomes a magnet for inebriated pizza zombies drawn to the ever-appreciated business model of late-night slices.

Initially enticed by the menu’s fancy sounding toppings of brussel sprouts and butternut squash, I opt for a less cerebral treat after standing in line between drunk toddlers in celebratory feather boas indicating some holiday nigh. Instead, the very chill people of Landini’s recommend a standard issue pepperoni pie, to which I add tomato and mushroom to half and contribute what I can to send some cat to ninja school.

landini's pizzeria

The toppings don’t seem to matter beyond pepperoni as the base components make up the whole of the pizza’s personality. A soft core that runs from crust to cheese is enlivened with collected pockets of juicy tomato sauce and a chewy texture. While the tomato and mushroom are decorative at best, contributing nothing much beyond texture to the pie, the pepperoni is spiced perfectly, calling for a bigger style of red wine to be its match.

landini's pizza and wine 3

Bodega Margon Pricum (Tierra de León, 2007) is a Spanish red made up solely from the Prieto Picudo red grape of the region. Upon opening, the wine is immediately taut, tannins strained and fruit ungiving, and in need of time to breathe. Decanting is an option, offering more surface area for oxygen to interact with the wine and hasten its evolution, while swirling in glass offers smaller format aeration for those seeking to enjoy a glass or two.

As the wine opens up, aromas of black tea, pepper, and dusty earth are at first most notable. Dark fruit flavors emerge in the form of black cherry and blackberries that provide a counterbalance to the meaty landscape of the pizza and inherent spice never overwhelms the wine. With plumply ripe fruit aromas and moderately higher alcohol, there is just enough acidity to match the tomato sauce while the scrubby tannins play nicely off each cheesy bite.

landini's leftovers

Leftovers are an undeniable truth of pizza eating for one. To step up my pizza game, I ditched the microwave and learned a stovetop method for reheating pizza that revives any lifeless crust on the fly. All it takes is a pan prepped to low-medium heat with slices placed in dry for a crisp bottom while covering with a lid to heat the toppings evenly. Serve with eggs and call it breakfast.

Advertisements

Surf Rider Pizza & Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Tucked away from the Ocean Beach bustle of daytime drinkers, surfers and street gypsies, Surf Rider Pizza Café is a neighborhood gem with a local following earned with their east-coast style pizzas and welcoming hospitality. Unruffled by its OB pizza competitors (Newport Pizza and Pizza Port, gobbling up much of the Newport Avenue foot-traffic with their respective sets of fancy beers), Surf Rider prides itself in churning out a quality product with a zen-like OBcian attitude that spanks a little love into each of their hand-tossed pies.

The signature “Surf Rider Pizza,” is a mainstay in the by-the-slice offerings with roasted garlic, gorgonzola, basil, and tomatoes to entice hungry browsers. Even more tempting, the “Bacon Rider” specialty pie sports all the goodies of the house style with the brilliant addition of bacon, a decisive detail that wins my order. Mere blocks away, 3rd Corner wine shop and bistro keeps shelves stocked with fun wines, from which I source this week’s pairing: The Flood Pinot Noir (Chapter 24, Willamette Valley, 2012).

surfrider wine & pizza

Atop the thin chewy crust of the Bacon Rider, flavor colonies populate the cheesy plains in small groupings of finely chopped bacon and juicy tomatoes. Toppings are kempt and well integrated with the occasional sleeping giant of roasted garlic disrupting the scenery. While subtle in flavor, each bite of garlic clove disperses a tidal wave of sweet aromatic pulp that coats the palate with a soft-focus filter. At the opposite end of the spectrum, gorgonzola is immediately vivid and boisterous, giving the pizza a briny backbone.

slice & a glass

The new world Pinot Noir plays a refreshing role in the balancing act of this pairing, enveloping all the savory elements with a blanket of dark berry fruit. In turn, the contrasting saltiness of the pizza brightens these rhubarb and stewed strawberry qualities in the wine, which sing extra loud in the presence of bacon or roasted garlic. Layered aromas of black pepper, nutmeg, saline and damp earth builds upon this Pinot Noir like a cinematic portrayal of Hi-C’s Flashin’ Fruit Punch dabbling in a high school goth phase: a bubbly, fruity core indulging in dark makeup and a more complex sense of identity.

To contribute to the annual social event of going glossy-eyed numb while friends gather around the television for Super Bowl Sunday, I have gone samurai on my leftovers, chopping them into finger-food-sized pieces. Topped with a chiffonade of fresh basil, these puppies make for a pretty Pinterestable Super Bowl snack to share. In tow, the remaining wine will be a delightful byob treat to shed the gloss from my eyes and make this year’s Super Bowl that much less dreadfully boring.

super bowl sunday

the perks of dating within the pizza world.

There’s nothing pizza can’t fix. Bad night? Order a pizza. Broken heart? Go eat some pizza. Broken bones? Pizza certainly can’t make it worse. Burned the roof of your mouth on lava-hot cheese? Muster up a minute’s worth of self-control, then resume eating pizza. From the first pop of the cardboard briefcase keeping warm the pizza within, all the ugliness encountered since your last slice disappears. The cure-all effect is especially potent if the pizza encounter is unexpected, which happens to me with some regularity with my SO working at URBN, a New Haven coal-fired pizza joint.

After one particularly grueling night, a surprise from the pizza gods/a dutiful boyfriend landed a few wild slices of URBN’s Gouda Garlic Alfredo on my countertop. With a fresh shipment of goodies from Hi-Time Wine Cellars, I pounced at the chance to revisit labels from the recent booze haul in order to best select a pairing.

hitimeshaul3

A boon to any wine & spirits enthusiast in Southern California, Hi-Times is an incredible resource for bottles to get excited about, both well within and way out of any normal price range. With every opportunity to do so, I gladly drain my bank account to shop their shelves and stock up on hard to find wines. San Diego can be a challenging city for us wine geeks; it’s tough enough to track down a bottle of Sherry or Barbera, but even the mildly obscure (Assyritiko, Godello or Uruguayan Tannat) are practically nonexistent. Keeping a double-entranced, multi-room cellar, Hi-Times is where to turn to satisfy wine curiosities and discover new styles yet untallied, such as the Beaujolais Blanc (Domaine Des Terres Dorées, 2011, $16) plucked for this pairing.

The southernmost region of Burgundy, Beaujolais is best known for light and fruity reds made entirely from the Gamay grape. Styles range from flirtatious, bubblegum Beaujolais Nouveau first popularized in the 1970s for its youthful attributes to more age-worthy, darker representations cultivated from the granite hillsides of Beaujolais Cru. Even those familiar with Beaujolais may not have known a white counterpart existed, and for good reason: the region is practically a monoculture of Gamay. Though a rarity, Beaujolais Blanc does exist in small quantities, requiring 100% Chardonnay.

jean paul brun2

Owner and winemaker Jean-Paul Brun began Terres Dorées in 1979, converting his family farm into an estate. From 10 acres of vines, Brun first produced Beaujolais Blanc, eventually expanding his vinicultural repertoire as his vineyard holdings increased. The now 40-acre estate still dedicates half its plot to Chardonnay, providing a stellar representation of what the grape is capable of without the fuss of getting dolled up.

Unlike many weighty, over-oaked styles of Chardonnay especially common among cougar populations, the pristine varietal expression of this wine kept it light on its feet, dancy and alive. An attractive chalkiness on the nose was further emphasized by a wet limestone palate. Under-ripe apple and tart lemon contributed to the wine’s fresh liveliness with hints of a nutty bitterness and slight waxiness rounding out the texture.

With a name deserving to belong on an Olive Garden menu, the Gouda Garlic Alfredo is surprisingly light, with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes driving the true flavor profile. Tomato acted as the diva of the bunch, bursting with personality and juicy, concentrated musk while the gouda was shy with just a twang of nuttiness. Even the garlic was subdued by the soft vegetal tones brought on by the greens. And chicken was there being chicken, offering texture and support to all its more flavorful companions. Unfazed by any smattering of red pepper flakes or garlic undertones, the Beaujolais Blanc drove the midnight snack forward with each sip invigorating the palate for more. And so it goes, the pizza was reduced to mere crumbs and crust, concluding this pairing adventure with one momentous realization: Beaujolais Blanc is rad.