That’s an awesome question.
My gastronomic partner-in-crime, who henceforth shall be lovingly known as *Friand just moved into a new house and discovered a little gem of a notebook titled “Who’s Cooking Tonight?” tucked away in the kitchen pantry and filled with take out & delivery menus.
I say bring on the notebook: The Valley Vegan is hungry and right now even the notebook itself is looking appetizing!
In the mood for pizza, we found a non-assuming little menu for a place called Caioti Pizza Café. We looked over a very eclectic selection of pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. As with any pizza menu, it’s easy for a vegan to build a pizza to suit their needs: choose from a wide variety of veggies & ask for no cheese! Friand is not a vegan and he has very sophisticated tastes, so Caioti was speaking to both of us…..”you know you want to eat here…..”
With the raging rainstorms in SoCal this week, we were in no mood to go out. So he called…only to find out there was no delivery. After a quick pity party, we decided to hop in the car & check it out in person. We were absolutely charmed by what we found waiting for us in Tujunga Village.
Caioti’s was named Best BYOB in L.A. by City Seach! and we instantly regretted not bringing our own bottle of wine to enjoy with our meal. Friand ordered a seafood special, but my eyes & stomach were drawn to the:
con funghi sugo
con funghi sugo Porcini, Roasted Garlic, Fresh Arugula, Pecorino Romano & Mozzarella Latte
…and of course I asked for no cheese. I don’t fear a no-cheese pizza when I’m out to eat – when I’m home, I enjoy Vegan Gourmet on my pizza, but quite frankly, I’m not sure the con funghi would have been improved by the addition of vegan cheese!
“Porcini” is a magic word in my world – offering me porcinis is like taunting a cat with catnip. There’s only one answer: “Yes please!” And this pizza will forever be remembered as The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The porcinis are actually pureed into a smooth & creamy mushroom paste. Friand jokingly dubbed it the “mud & weeds pizza” but he, too, loved the flavor combinations: the earthiness of the mushrooms paired with the bitter arugula and sweet roasted garlic…
The Con Funghi Sugo was like a little slice of heaven… I ate the entire pizza except for one slice which Friand put away with a smile. We finished off the evening by reliving the meal over & over in our conversations until finally the obsession came to a head the following evening when we decided there was no avoiding it: we were going to Caioti’s again!! This time, we brought our pizzas home (he tried the “Rockefeller” pizza this time).
Caioti’s was worth getting a little wet in the rain for! And I am still dreaming about my mud & weeds pizza…
UPDATE: AUGUST 13, 2011
It’s with great pleasure that today’s “Saturday Lunch Date” with my son was at Caioti’s! Trying to shed a few pounds for the wedding, Friand and I had sworn off restaurant food for a couple of months. That even included me not going to Hugo’s with my son every Saturday… With the wedding now 2 months behind us, we are starting to add back, with prejudice, some of our favorite places. My son, who just adores Caioti’s (which he calls “Coyote’s”) begged me to take him here for lunch today. You’ve got yourself a deal, kid!
Being a kid who snubs his nose at pretty much any food that isn’t pizza or macaroni & cheese, he absolutely loves the garlic knots they serve! He was sucking these things down so fast today that I could barely get out my camera to snap a picture. You can see, in the photo at right, his elbow on the table… His other hand is literally hovering just out of frame above this last knot, which he snatched up as soon as he heard the click of the photo being taken!
We ordered our pizzas (of course, I could not pass up the con funghi sugo although there was another veggie pizza on there that looked divine – minus the brie) and our server was very sensitive to the fact that I am vegan. She reassured me that the knots have no dairy, but was very enthusiastic about their selections of soups today. She said there is a fantastic minestrone that was completely vegetable base, and which she highly recommended. Bring it on, I say!! Before I knew it, I had a bowl of minestrone in front of me! Minestrone is generally a rustic Italian vegetable soup which has no real “recipe.” When you see an actual written out recipe, keep in mind that it is more for the stock itself, and not for the veg ingredients. The best part about my grandmother’s minestrone was that you never knew what would come up with each spoonful! And Caioti’s didn’t disappoint! I highly recommend a bowl of this soup next time you are there. But, unlike me, make sure that there are a few garlic knots left to dip in the broth. Dipping pizza bones wasn’t exactly the most satisfying, but it was something!!
Caioti Pizza Café
4346 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, California 91604
818.761.3588 Fax 818.761.3606
Concept/Creator – Ed LaDou
Proprietor – Carrie LaDou
*Friand: (adj) – partial to, fond of; (adj to describe a person) – gourmet; un friand – meat pie;
un friand sucré – almond cake; une friandise – delicacy; affriander (literary) – to lure, entice