Kid Hit Menu Items: Pizza, pizza, pizza! What else do you need? Out of the three pies we sampled at DeSano Pizza Bakery, the lone adult (me) ate the capricciosa and San Gennaro topped with sweet sausage and spicy peppers, whereas the boys split a Margherita. That left plenty of leftover for Papa’s dinner and for lunch the next day, making me happy because the older I get, the more I LOVE leftovers. Anyway, pizzas come in two sizes, and are priced for the $10-15 small pies, and $15-22 for the large ones. There’s a case of tantalizingly piled-up gelato, house-made cannolli, and a fridge stocked with San Pellegrino limonata and aranciata, which are some of the sodas I let my kids drink based on completely irrational decision-making. Well, I’d argue the small bottle size is a legit reason.
Adult Perks: Long ago are the 1980’s when we’d head to Caffe Roma in Beverly Hills for the occasional dose of what my parents thought was the closest authentic Italian pizza we could find to remind them of their days in Rome and Parma, where they’d lived during the late 1960s. Angeli came along in ’84, and even offered delivery. Sadly, Angeli isn’t part of L.A.’s current pizza passion that’s ushered in a wave of new options, mostly Neapolitan style, and many of which emphasize a Chipotle-like template and customization. DeSano, where I was invited to eat via the PR firm, isn’t an iPizza restaurant. The menu features a fixed listing of Neapolitan classics, a few set topping creations of their own, and calzoni, all made with super authentic ingredients brought from Italy, the evidence of which is stacked on shelves and palettes all over the semi-raw space. DeSano’s beer and wine license is pending and will happen soon, thankfully, since it’s a shame not to be able to have a Moretti with these charred pies to give the experience a proper pizzeria/beer garden feel.
Pros: Think of DeSano as blending the best elements of the pizza parlor you grew up with – I mean, what’s not to love about those big tables and big flexible rooms at Shakey’s – with growing demand for quality ingredients, authentic preparation, unfussy interior design, and handmade wood-fired ovens. In the plural. We’re not just talking one, but FOUR, each named for a locality in Italy along with its patron saint. The ordering and service process is great when you’ve got a hungry brood to deal with (read more about that below). DeSano is open continually, making it totally ideal for those family dinners that need to happen ASAP in the 5:00 p.m. hour.
Cons: For many reasons, we’re very loyal to a certain neighborhood pizza place, where my youngest son orders zucchini pizza and delights in actually eating a vegetable that’s not blanched broccoli. I’m also personally more partial to a crust with slightly more tang from sour starter and tomato sauce.
Changing Station: No, but bathroom facilities are ample and spacious.
High Chairs: Yes, but not really needed.
Parking and Access: The size of the parking lot is fairly startling, given the population density of this East Hollywood neighborhood. As a matter of urban design and big-picture-livability principle, although not of suburban reality, I’m generally opposed to excessive available of this certain good. And yet, I confess that parking this easy just helps eliminate one stress factor from going out to eat, and we all know how CRUCIAL that can be. I sent a friend to DeSano yesterday, and he texted me just to rave about what he thinks is arguably the easiest parking in our entire area. I’ll ride Metro this weekend or something to make up for this sin.
Other Tidbits: The food destinations associated with this portion of Santa Monica Boulevard are more likely to be Marouch, Villalobos Market, or Sasoun Bakery, so a Neapolitan pizza restaurant that’s actually a Nashville and Charleston import and run by the former GM of a fancy West Hollywood power lunching spot isn’t expected. DeSano is very casual — as well as surrounded by a chain link fence — but the pies all cost double digits. Furthermore, the price point seems more in line with what you’d find in neighborhoods further west or northeast. Then again, this type of post-light-industrial, massive square footage isn’t available in those areas, and DeSano needs space for its concept to work smoothly. (It’s also across the street from the — *moment of silence* — former Hollywood Star Lanes.)
So, back to how it all works. First you place your order at the counter in the room by the very small (relative to the size of the building) entrance, then make your way around the wall to the main dining room/open kitchen, where after a few minutes you pick up the pies (and salads, since DeSano has some of those, too) by the pizza ovens, and take your seat(s) at one of the picnic benches. It’s a smart fast-casual hybrid system and I’m probably making it sound more complicated than it is. Unfortunately, disposable cups and utensils are part of the package. The overhead lighting is a bit police interrogation room-style harsh, and it’s not a cozy spot to linger over long conversation, but once the space fills up with the din of chatter and intense pizza chewing, I bet they’ll get a nice convivial buzz going on in there. Marino, the man behind the operation, is incredibly friendly and committed to good service, and he patiently humored me as I attempted to dust off my rusty Italian conversation skills.
Given how convenient DeSano makes having a high quality pizza meal, how much my kids loved it (the eldest already says he wants to have his eighth birthday in the private party room there; and yes, there’s a private party room, which is a general query I frequently field from friends, so that’s just an extra little FYI for y’all), how often our family will gladly eat pizza, and again, how easy it is to park, we’re adding DeSano to the regular rotation.
4959 Santa Monica Boulevard, East Hollywood
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., daily