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Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 24: Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park

Six months ago, I began a love affair with Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana in Monterey Park. It started when I found out owner Christiano Bollini was trained at Le Cordon Bleu and spent three years in Italy perfecting his craft. My love only grew stronger after eating many, many perfectly crispy, chewy, ultra-thin crust pizzas. It's not just the pizzas that keep me coming back. I know I've said that Chris, the two other pizza-makers both named Jesse M., and Bernard the waiter, are always friendly and welcoming, but it really is true. Not only do they always ask how I'm doing, but they ask how lil' sis is doing too (this when she's not around but in school). Since Chris opened his restaurant a few blocks away from the neighborhood where he grew up, he can be found chatting with parents about which school their kids go to and whether they had the same teacher. By virtue of its location, there are just as many Asian customers as there are Italian. From the regulars who drop by for a slice or a pizza to-go to the new customers who stop in out of curiosity, Chris chats with each one as if they're old friends. While I've mainly stuck to the pizzas, last month Chris offered to do a tasting menu for me. I was curious to try because, while the menu lists dinner specials Wednesday through Saturday, we've also chatted about the tasting menus he's done for various groups. I invited cousin Q to join me for lunch. The complimentary pizza bread with pesto.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 1
Arugula salad with fresh corn, smoked bacon, sauteed mushrooms, teardrop tomatoes, goat cheese, and red wine vinaigrette for $7.50.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 2
Here's the back view so you can see all the components of the salad. The baby arugula was just perfect, not too bitter, but just enough to contrast with the sweet corn, bacon, and goat cheese. This was just too much food though and I had half of it boxed to bring home. And this was only the first course!
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 3
Crab-stuffed mushrooms $6. No fillers, just pure lump crab meat piled on top. Just as good as I remembered. And since cousin Q doesn't eat seafood, I happily ate every last morsel.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 4
Braised pork on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with goat cheese sprinkled on top. The pork was a little bit salty but so incredibly tender that I didn't even need to use a knife. The mashed potatoes were so smooth and creamy, I ate every last bit of that as well.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 5
I was stuffed at this point but out came Bollini's pasta bolognese, $12.50. Now, I've never been impressed with bolognese before so I didn't think much of it when Chris said he'd do a pasta dish for me. But. Oh. My. God. Best bolognese ever! And no wonder because his grandmother is from Bologna. The recipe has been in his family for nearly 200 years. It takes two hours to prep and three hours to cook. His grandmother taught his dad, who passed the recipe on to Chris, who'll one day teach his sons.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 6
The meal ended with chocolate-lined cannoli with sweet ricotta and orange peels. Oh yum!
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 7
He offered to make a pizza for me too but there was no way I could fit in anything else. I was already taking half of the food home as it was. I went up to the register to pay for lunch, but Chris wouldn't let me. I tried to insist, but he wanted to thank me for my previous write-up. I didn't want to dampen his nice gesture so I accepted. So in the interests of full disclosure, the above meal was comped. I did leave a nice tip though. And I've paid for every other meal. And well, it's not like I wouldn't have gushed about the food anyway, because I've already done so before. But I really do think the care he puts into his restaurant really shows in the food. And hey, I'm not completely biased, I did say the braised pork was a tad salty didn't I? :P Anyway, days later when lil' sis was home, we were back again. While waiting for our pizza, lil' sis went to the bathroom and let out a little squeal. So I had to go see the bathroom for myself.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 8
Can you see the nude lady in the window?
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 9
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 10
Pizza-maker Jesse M. had told lil' sis long ago that he would design a pizza just for her. So on this particular day, we held him to it. The only thing I said was that she didn't care too much for anchovies on her pizza.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 11
He came up with a half white and half red sauce, bell peppers, two kinds of sausage, mushrooms, and well, I don't want to reveal everything because this is the lil' sis special reserved just for her. She liked both sides so much that she couldn't decide which she liked more. There was absolute silence, with occasional yummy noises.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 12
Lil' sis is real happy, I told Jesse. Oh? Is she having a nice day, he asked? It's because of your pizza that she's so happy, I said. I think I could feel him blushing from across the room. Look at that super thin crust.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 13
In my previous post about describing all the requirements of an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, I didn't want to imply that Bollini's is actually certified. Because even though his pizza fits many of the requirements - wood-fired oven heated above 800 degrees, extra virgin olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and super thin crust, well, frankly, that's not Chris's style. When I suggested he link up his website with all the nice reviews Bollini's has been getting from various food blogs, not just mine, as well as Chowhound and Yelp, Chris said he didn't want to boast. He said he believes in creating a quality product and letting that speak for itself. If you watch them at work, you'll see that each sausage or mushroom is carefully sliced when ordered. Each ingredient is carefully arranged on the pizza. The toppings are always of highest quality. Fresh dough is made twice a day. Another visit. I know, I eat here way too often. Here's both Jesse M.'s making my half Nonna (sauce, mozzarella, fontina, sweet fennel sausage, mushrooms, herbs, basil, and parmesan) and half Steak Special (horseradish sauce, onions, gorgonzola, mozzarella, herbs, marinated steak, arugula, and black pepper).
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 14
And so I don't neglect him too, here's Bernard, the waiter, wiping plates.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 15
Mmm. The arugula was a bit wilted by the time I got it home but still so good.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 16
My favorite pizzas though are still the Porco (sauce, mozzarella, sweet fennel sausage, three pepper sausage, bacon, tomatoes, onions, basil, and parmesan) and the Rocco (sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and basil). Before I left, the guys all signed a recent write-up in Metromix. "You are in part to blame for us being noticed. We [heart] you!" Aww, aren't they too sweet? Wait, shouldn't they have autographed my initial blog post? But I wouldn't want to correct their impression that other people have been finding Bollini's because of me. ;) Hehe, OK, I know some of my readers have tried Bollini's because of me but I don't think I have that much clout, or do I? :P
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 17
And yet another visit two days later, while lil' sis was home. Half Salsiccia 3 (Sauce, mozzarella, three pepper sausage, red and green peppers, Italian peppers, and goat cheese finished with basil.) and half Cal Bianco (Parmesan sauce, smoked chicken, garlic, herbs, olive oil and basil.), 16" large, $13.50.
Day 24 Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park 18
In case you missed it, my first post about Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana in Monterey Park. Oh, yeah, and because I was thwarted twice in the past month when I had a hankering for Bollini's, if you're coming from far away, I'd suggest calling first. Since ingredients are freshly made each day, and the dough is made twice a day, if they run out, they do sometimes close early. Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana 2315 S. Garfield Ave. Monterey Park, CA 91754 323-722-7600 Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sundays Only pizzas served on Mondays. That's the day Chris handles paperwork and he's the only one who makes the pastas and other dishes. ***** 1 year ago today, I met Henry Chan of Henry Chan's Food Videos at Saigon Bistro.


  1. This place looks and sounds WONDERFUL! We must hit it up when I'm an LA resident.

  2. That tasting menu sounds terrific! I like to have variety at most meals - do they offer the tasting menu on their menu?

  3. You forgot to mention the perfect contrast of the char on the braised pork shoulder and the fork tender meat. Yeah, it was a bit too salty though. Everything else was great though.

  4. everything looks fantastic...i so want to try the mashed potatoes with goat cheese...hihihi..it looks like it can fit into my soft diet hehe

  5. oh yummy pizza! I'm so attracted to the salad as well. Have to try that combi soon. =)

  6. The pizza looks fantastic. Thanks for posting this. And, yes, I spotted the naked lady in the painting. How cool is that?

  7. Haha, I like how Jesse's posing with the pizza. He looks so proud of it! As he should be...it looks fantastic!

    Btw, my parents ate all of the bananas before they got a chance to ripen enough for me to make banana bread =( lol

  8. Hi WC,

    Thanks for the write-up on this place...just the perfect place for a casual but yummy lunch with a friend today. We had the Porco pizza based on your recommendation...and it was very good. My friend mentioned it tasted similar to the ones she had when she was in Italy. We also enjoyed the Argulula Salad. And yes, I did mention your name, I mean, blog...and they flashed huge smiles at the mention! Wow, you are famous :) My friend now wants me to send a link of your blog so she can browse recipes and good eats too. Thanks for sharing :)
    Oh, and the Ca Ri Ga...looks like we won't be trying it out til next Tuesday but I will keep you posted.

  9. Cathy,
    Just make a list lady and we'll hit them all up. ;)

    The items with prices are regular menu offerings. Chris sometimes does tasting menus, but generally for special groups. Can't hurt to ask.

    Yup, we stuffed ourselves silly.

    Soft diet? I've never heard of such a thing.

    The salad was excellent.

    The whole mural's effect in the bathroom is pretty awesome.

    Christine D.,
    Haha! Just gotta buy more bananas and try again?

    Haha! I'm not famous. Just a regular customer.

    So glad you tried Bollini's and liked it. Aren't they just the best?

    Let me know when you finally make the ca ri ga. :)

  10. I was completely drooling over all your pictures. It all looked marvelous. Thanks for sharing!

  11. DROOL!!! Ahhh, I wish I had gone there when I was still living in SGV! Now I'm all the way in the South Bay...too lazy to drive >_<

  12. Liberal Foodie,
    You're welcome.

    Ha! I told you to go when I wrote my original post!

  13. I had the Scardinia and Rocco pizzas. They were both good except for two things. The anchovies on the Scardinia were waaaay too salty and the fillets were on whole. My blood pressure rose 30 points from the first two slices I ate. No kidding! Second, there were just way too many pepperonis on the Rocco. I'd say they covered about 70% of the pizza. They need to be more conservative with some of the meaty toppings which can overwhelm
    the rest of the pizza. Other than that, the pizzas were awesome.

  14. Epicurean,
    No way! The whole reason I love the Rocco is because there's so much pepperoni. Other places are too stingy with the meat. Bollini's is as authentic Neapolitan-style pizza as I've found around here. Serving anchovies in whole filets is how they do it in Italy. But yeah, anchovies are too salty for me. I can only handle a little of it.

  15. When I visit SoCal I am sooooo hitting up this place.

  16. Amy,
    Just keep a running list of places to eat for when you come down. :)

  17. hmm it's true, you do have clout, when i first saw you post pictures of the pizza and i was all the way in singapore, it made me really really want to come home!

  18. I just ate there today for my sister's birthday lunch and they were super nice, and very happy when I mentioned your blog. It was too bad we couldn't try any of the pasta, but I guess that's a reason to come back! I first read your post through a friend that said she had heard about a good Italian place in Monterey Park, of all places. Thanks for the heads up!

  19. Tania,
    Not that kind of clout!

    Oooh, so glad you liked Bollini's. I always love hearing from new people who fall in love with them too.!


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