Pici Enoteca's Lemongrass Pizza

Pici Enoteca is a New York-style Italian restaurant located in Beverly Hills. Hollywood New York-style, that is, as the dining room décor of crimson booths and black and white-tiled floors was inspired by The Godfather. While the atmosphere may seem heavy with dark Italian reference, the cuisine is light and playful, gathering inspiration from across the globe. Consider the lemongrass pizza, for instance, topped with lemongrass, ginger, caramelized onion and butternut squash.

This refreshing flavor combination nods more toward East Asia, where lemongrass and ginger are normally found in revitalizing teas or soups. Pici Enoteca may indeed be the only place you can find healthful refreshment in a pizza.

Chef Jason Harley makes a lemongrass paste from ginger, garlic and lemongrass, which he incorporates into a tomato basil sauce. He tops it with a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan and scatters deep-fried ginger on top for a spicy crunch. Okay, we're officially into Asian-Italian fusion. And the butternut squash for the fall is a nice touch. Chef Harley credits this creative take on pizza to "an ethic often seen in California cuisine — combining different culinary cultures to create something fresh and new."

All of his pizzas are vegetarian, but grilled chicken, sausage, pepperoni, meatballs or prosciutto may be added. Chef Harley is also innovative in the way he cooks his pizza. Instead of the old-fashioned wood oven, he uses a special kind of black carbon steel cookware which he says gives pizza crust the same crispness. If he can turn pizza into a relative health food, we'll take two.

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