On The Line: Emily Corliss of Pizzeria Mozza, Part One
Photo by Laila Derakhshanian

On The Line: Emily Corliss of Pizzeria Mozza, Part One

We fondly remember when our team was stalking the progress of Pizzeria Mozza off PCH. Vague answers to inquiries and liquor license delays kept us waiting for what felt like forever. Now that they've been open a while, we are able to catch the attention of Emily Corliss. Plucked from the LA locale, she keeps the wood-burning oven hot and her responses upbeat.

Your earliest food memory:
Fish sticks! My mom used to serve them to me. She still talks about how I demanded them every night.

Your best recent food find:
Two years ago I was in Barcelona, and had my first taste of Jamon Iberico. They let it cure for 4 years, and keep the pigs on a strict acorn diet. It's amazing.

Most undervalued ingredient:

Vinegar. It gives you that jolt of acid that takes a dish from good to great. And you can use it in sweet or savory dishes.

Has Mario (Batali), Lidia (Bastianich) or Nancy (Silverton) been by for a visit/meal?
Nancy-- who's based on the West Coast, comes out a few times a month, and makes it a point to always sit down for a meal when she's here.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Room for growth.

Do you know why there was a delay with your beverage license?
Delays are completely normal. But we were eager to open the restaurant, so we decided not to wait for our liquor license, and opened with beer and wine.

What's your favorite item on the menu to dine on?
Wild nettles pizza with Armandino Batali's artisanal salumi and cacio di Roma, a rich sheep's milk cheese. We get our nettles from the farmer's market, and the combination of the grassy nettles with the spicy salumi and the salty cheese is awesome. Add creamy burrata onto that, and you're in heaven.

What do you think of the influx of specialty pizza shops in the area? Have you tried any of them?
No, I haven't, but the more the merrier.

What's the most popular item on the menu that ISN'T pizza?
I'd say our most popular non-pizza items are our newest entrees: roasted chicken all diavolo (devil's chicken), which is spicy and juicy and delicious. And our Brasato al Barolo, our braised short rib with Anson Mills polenta and horseradish.

One food you can't live without:
Peanut butter! It's the world's most perfect food. I like smooth, natural peanut butter. What's great is that you can have it morning or night, for sweet or savory uses. Personally, I'm a fan of bananas and peanut butter, but I also like to eat it on toast with honey and butter, or mix it into yogurt or into oatmeal. I've also been known to eat it straight, one jar at a time.

Where was your most recent meal?
At MB Post in Manhattan Beach. I had the blistering green beans and the skirt steak with chimichurri. So good!

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Have confidence! And don't be afraid to fail. That's how you learn.

Most creative pizza topping.
Brussels sprouts -- we serve this pizza with red onions, panna, guanciale, pecorino and black pepper.

What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
I think it's so awesome that people are so inspired by food they want to memorialize great meals. I do it all the time. Half the photos on my phone are of food (the other half are of my bulldog, Truck).

Favorite chef.
The Swedish Chef from The Muppets, because he's awesome.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Working in food, you get used to eating weird things-- sweetbreads, hearts, pig tails, intestines, so none of it seems that weird anymore. And when it's prepared right, all those things are delicious! Osteria Mozza makes a great calf's brain ravioli.

Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Cut, Jitlada, Animal, Vincenti, Golden State Burger, Manhattan Beach Post, Pollo a la Brasa.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Bloody Mary's!

How do you garnish them?
This is a very serious subject. In my family, a good Bloody Mary has to contain a good amount of horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and black pepper. We also add celery bitters, which is an interesting twist. But to really amp it up, get a jar of pickled green beans, and use the juice in your mix, plus some fresh lemon juice. Then garnish with a few whole pickled green beans. You're welcome.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
A man once insisted that we set aside all health code regulations and present his soft shell crab to him LIVE at his table prior to preparing his dish. We did not oblige.

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