"It's called what?!" I asked my coworker at lunch one day.
"Wait, what's it called?"
"Eatalian. Like Eat. Talian."
My coworker had just told me about some new Italian joint in Gardena that had been featured in the LA Times Food Section's "The Find." But I couldn't get past the name. It sounded like something you'd name a mediocre-at-best restaurant in a business park. A name you'd surely find written in the Vivaldi or Mistral fonts. A place that served soggy spaghetti with watery marinara. So it was hard for me to take Eatalian seriously at first.
But I found myself in the South Bay one day and remembered that I now had an alternative to the usual Asian places I frequent in that area. I found Eatalian not in the form of a cheesy cafe in a business park, but as a former warehouse located in the industrial dregs of Gardena. The light, airy interior is a cross between Italian cafe and something you'd expect to find in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory teeming with Oompa Loompas: windowed, sterile production rooms filled with gleaming machinery for baked goods, gelato, pizza and--probably the most impressive of the bunch though not operational yet--cheese.
At the center of all the quick action is usually Eatalian owner Antonio Pellini manning the pizza making: stretching dough, laying toppings and working the brick oven all while helping to serve tables and talking to nosey food bloggers taking pictures of restaurant owners making pizza behind the counter. The ultimate multitasker.
I hate to say that I think that Eatalian's minimalist and sterile presence rubbed off on our pizza, however. I don't usually care for the word "rustic" when it comes to describing food, but by golly, I want my wood-fired pizzas to be rustic. I want crackly crusts whose edges are spattered with charred dough bubbles. I want to be reminded of embers and bricks and cottages and cabins. As you can probably guess, our Pizman pizza lacked some of these rustic qualities: its crust was not nearly as crispy as I would have liked it--a little limp in the center, in fact--and missing so many of those broken brown air pockets that I love on a thin crust pizza. Fortunately, our pizza was able to redeem itself in the flavor and topping department. Speck, pancetta, mozzarella, bleu cheese and porcinis were well proportioned; the bleu cheese was really the essential ingredient here, rounding out any saltiness from the meats with that funky bleu cheese flavor we all know and love.
I did, however, really enjoy our pesto gnocchi. The perky and pillowy nubs of dough dressed in the dark olive-green oil were simplicity at its best.
And then we got the gelato sandwich which wasn't your typical ice cream sandwich-type-sandwich made with wafers or cookies but rather, more like a real sandwich-type-sandwich on an Italian sweet roll. The thing was as big as a burger. Honestly, I could have done without the roll as my housemade nutella gelato on its own was just divine, and because it was a bit heavy after a complete meal. Had it been snack time instead of lunchtime, though, the entire sandwich would have been perfect.
OK so maybe our pizza was a bit of a miss, but I still enjoyed our overall experience at Eatalian. The gnocchi and gelato were delicious, and the staff was gracious and friendly, so I'll certainly forgive them for our lackluster pizza crust. Forgiving the Bradley Hand ITC font they use for their menus, on the other hand, I'm not so sure. But I would still definitely return.
15500 S. Broadway St.
Gardena, CA 90248