Pizza. For some, it’s the gourmet thing they do…comparing “pies” in all their iterations – crust thickness, sauce, cheese quantity, meat quality. For me, it’s what I order from the nearest delivery joint on a Friday night after a long week or, better yet, a Sunday night when I’m conserving energy for the upcoming seven day grind. Or, at least, it used to be. Ambrogio 15 in Pacific Beach, a newly opened authentic Milanese pizza experience has ruined…errr, changed all that for me.
I kind of liked not having to think about pizza. Throw all the fixin’s on, deliver it to my house with a little retained warmth in 30 – 45 minutes – it’s a formula that has kept me happily eating my guilty, non-gourmet pleasure for many years – comfortable and ignorant in my little pizza cone of all that is common and easy.
Now, though, I’ve tasted the “real” thing. Or, at least, someone’s very different version of the same ol’ thing and it has become the definition of the entire genre for me. As much as I wish it weren’t so, henceforth every time I take a bite of pizza it will be against the mental backdrop of Ambrogio 15’s version with a paper thin crust, lighter than a cracker with an almost similar texture minus the dry, crumbly factor. Topped with an exact proportion of each, flavorful, bursting ingredient, the combination entices a frenzied nosh to preclude any potential loss of rich, savory, flavor enjoying momentum.
Visions of a pie full of steaming, herbally intensified meats swam through my orbs when I spied the “Hannibal Lechter” pizza with spicy Calabrian salame, Italian sausage and imported porchetta on the menu. Fluffy Unicorn wanted something on the lighter side, so we did a half and half pizza with her half containing the burrata and prosciutto. It was bound to be a concoction of David and Goliath proportions, with two servers needed to carry my hefty, meat-laden, oil-secreting, manly half of the pizza as Fluffy Unicorn’s cute, little, delicate half tagged along under near weightless conditions.
And, then it arrived… Surely some mistake had been made here. “Where’s the beef?” I wanted to scream! How can a half and half pizza, with my half supposing to be nuthin’ but meat and hers nuthin’ but cheese look so…balanced?
And then came the first bite. Rapidly followed by a second. Quickly succeeded by two-fisted grabbing of multiple slices. Instead of a mouthful of overwhelming ingredients, the pizza presented as a light, open faced flavor bomb, with each small morsel of meat, thinly spread, tangy sauce and creamy, flavor balancing cheese taking turns dancing around on the tongue, tango style, from corner to corner with dips, twirls and arabesque-like highlights tantalizing, teasing and ultimately satisfying pizza sensing nodes that I didn’t realize I owned.
Oh, pizza, how comfortable you used to be. Now what am I gonna do on those lazy nights? Dammit.
Here’s the Rundown on Ambrogio 15:
Location/Ambience/Service – Ambrogio 15 is a few blocks from the coast in Pacific Beach. Parking is plentiful on the street, but there’s a small parking lot in front of the restaurant, too. It’s an effectively designed, casual space that overflows onto a front open patio and has enough character to keep you interested for whatever amount of time you may decide to linger. Service was friendly and knowledgeable with a lot of Italian accented speech helping the experience feel so…continental.
Cuisine/Cost – We started with a charcuterie and cheese platter which is available in differing hand selected amounts and iterations. Almost all of Ambrosio 15’s ingredients are imported for authenticity, from the flour in the pizza dough to the cured meats and cheeses…and it shows. Flavor rich, silkily textured prosciuttos and salames are served that share only cosmetic similarities to more common varieties that I now understand are thrice removed cousins from the real thing. Cheeses melt on the tongue with an exponential increase in flavor as the solid to cream factor rises.
And, the wines – they deserve a special mention of their own. The three different versions of Apulian, Tuscan and Sicilian reds I tried virtually leapt out of the glass at me, each almost a meal in its own right, with approachable, bright, sharp and fruity flavors accented by an edge of exotic aromas. I can easily imagine whiling away an afternoon or two here, enjoying some light bites and quaffing any of their imported bottles.
And, then there’s the pizza – light, looking like an undernourished version of American versions, but with crispy texture, bright flavors and satisfying notes that make a 15″ pie taste like a world record portion. Almost all of the pizza options on the menu fall in the $10 – $20 range with a single 15″ pizza, surprisingly, enough to feed two hungry foodies to full satisfaction. Some of the best wine I’ve tasted recently weighs in at the hard to believe range of $20-$30 per bottle or $5-$9 per glass, allowing a truly enlightened pizza and wine experience to fall in the ever so affordable category of $15 – $25 per person. Enjoy, and, cheers, my friends!
926 Turquoise St.
Pacific Beach, CA 92109