It says it all that during our two days in Los Angeles recently, we high-tailed it to the new Pizzeria Bianco not once, but twice.
Arguably, Chris Bianco has been deemed the country’s best pizza maker, with devotees waiting as long as three hours at his original Phoenix restaurant just to get their fix.
Since opening in Los Angeles in June, this place has been mobbed. And since Los Angeles is a more convenient destination for yours truly, you know that my husband and I put Pizzeria Bianco on our must-stop list no matter what when we traveled to Southern California earlier this month.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to twiddle our thumbs for hours on end when we got to the Row DTLA, the massive 30-acre urban commercial district that was the former site of the American Apparel manufacturing facility, and that’s now home to not only Pizzeria Bianco, but a host of restaurants, boutiques, and offices.
Instead at 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday, we did have to wait in line for about 30 minutes before we made our way to the walk-up pizza window to place our orders.
That’s what the farmers market at San Jose’s Santana Row is — all one block of it on the main drag between Olin Avenue and Olsen Drive), with vendors on both sides plying fresh produce, flowers, and gourmet prepared foods.
The market, Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., is seasonal. So, if you want to check it out, you have until the end of this month before it’s gone until next year.
Because it’s an evening market, it’s an ideal place to pick up dinner or the fixings for it. Just follow your nose to find the Roli Roti truck parked in the center of the Row with spinning rotisseries packed with whole chickens and sides of ribs.
Just be warned that on a hot day before sunset, this truck is parked in full sun with heat radiating off the rotisseries, so bring a hat and a cool drink as you wait in line, as there almost always is one.
Who can blame people for flocking here when the rosemary-flecked chicken is so juicy, bronzed, and succulent that you barely need a knife. A whole chicken ($15.50) gets wrapped up hot off the rotisserie, ensuring it will still be warm by the time you dive into it at home.
It’s been a banner year for Brandon Jew, who won two James Beard Awards — one for “Best Chef in California” and the second for “Best Restaurant Cookbook” for “Mister Jiu’s Chinatown” (Ten Speed Press, 2021) that he co-authored with San Francisco food writer Tienlon Ho.
Since opening in 2016, his fine-dining Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown has racked up accolades galore. And his more casual Chinese-American eatery, Mamahuhu, which debuted on Clement Street in January 2020 just before the start of the pandemic, is doing so well that a second outpost is poised to open this year in Noe Valley.
On a recent trek to San Francisco, I made a beeline to try the takeout at Mamahuhu. As you crane your neck to find parking in the Richmond neighborhood, it’s easy to miss the restaurant, as its name is not easily visible in English above the door, but rather in neon-lit Chinese characters. Just look for the storefront’s vivid teal color, though, and you’ll know you’ve found the right place.
The restaurant’s name, which means “so-so” in English, salutes the Chinese-American staple dishes that Jew and so many of us grew up on, but is done here with better ingredients and greater balance.