Muscle Shoals Pizza
Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t like pizza? Just think about it for a second. Maybe you don’t eat pizza, or your friend doesn’t eat pizza, or you dairy-free, gluten-free, food-free diet won’t let you eat pizza. But you like pizza. There’s a reason pizza and party go hand in hand.
Here’s the thing about pizza though. There’s a lot of bad pizzas out there. Too doughy, too greasy, not enough cheese, too much cheese; the possibilities of messing up a pizza are endless. Which is why finding your go-to pizza joint in every neighborhood is essential. Like knowing your closest grocery store. Because at some point, whether it’s in the middle of the day or the wee hours of the night, your pizza craving is going to hit. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the West Hollywood area, you’re gonna want to head over to Pace Joint to get your fix.
Inside Pace Joint, the recently opened Italian spot on Sunset Boulevard, you won’t find red and white striped table clothes or framed pictures of meatballs. Instead, you might be taken aback by the hanging pieces of seaweed, the abalone shells and the overall nautical vibe. It’s artsy, a little beachy and definitely not your average Italian pizzeria.
But once you make your way outside to the large wooden patio space, you’ll find yourself transported to the South of Italy, surrounded by hanging citrus trees, potted herbs and bright summer colors.
And just like at Pace, their mother restaurant in Laurel Canyon, Pace Joint is serving up some stellar pizzas. And they’ll soon be open ‘till 4am. Let the all-night pizza parties begin.
While munching on the Off the Menu muscle shoals pizza, we sat down with Head Chef and Owner Sandy Gendel to talk more about Pace Joint and what makes his pizza so irresistible.
Why the Muscle Shoals Pizza as your Off the Menu item?
It’s something I don’t typically do but I like. I had actually just read an article on Muscle Shoals, which is a recording studio in the South with a lot of big names like Aretha Franklin and the Stones. Reading that article made me think of mussels and inspired the creation of this pizza.
How do you make your pizzas?
The dough is not your classic pizza dough, it’s pretty much like a ciabatta actually. I use a starter, which enables me to use less yeast when I make my main batch. So first, I make a starter that ferments over night, then I take that starter and incorporate it into the pizza dough that we’re doing for the day. Then I have to make a new starter for the next day.
How do you make the starter?
The starter is not like a sourdough starter that you keep alive and continuously feed and pull from. The starter is made every day for the next day. It’s called a “biga” and it’s used in a lot of Italian baking. I adopted this technique after working with Nancy Silverton when she first opened La Brea Bakery years ago. I learned a lot of different skills there that I apply to the pizzas I make here.
What’s your favorite dish at Pace or Pace Joint?
I had a cooking inspiration as a kid, my uncle who passed away last year. He was always the one cooking at our family functions. He did this salmon filet that he would cook on a piece of cedar wood on the barbecue. I took that, seasoned it a little differently, and it’s now one of my iconic dishes at Pace. But when I originally opened Pace, it was meant to be just a pizzeria, kind of like what I’m doing here at Pace Joint. But over the years, it evolved into a dinner house.
How do Pace and Pace Joint differ?
Pace Joint is going to stay a pizzeria. We’re gonna keep it really rustic, straight forward, and organic. We originally decided to open Pace Joint because we were doing so many deliveries out of the backdoor at Pace that I felt like it was taking away from the dining experience. So at Pace Joint, we’re focusing more on take-out deliveries. We also plan on being a late night spot, so we’ll be open from 8am to 4am.
Which dish is a “must order” at Pace Joint?
I love the lasagna. I cooked in Umbria, Italy for two years and I was exposed to really great cooking. The chef I worked with taught me how to do pasta the right way. So for the lasagna, I use a fresh noodle and I do it really thin, so it has a lot of layers of thin pasta and meat sauce in between. It’s unique and it’s definitely one of my favorites.
What will you be doing with the space next door?
We’re gonna be opening a market where we’ll sell imported Italian goods, like truffle and cheese, as well as prepared foods, like fresh breads and homemade sauces. For example, if you eat a pesto pasta here and you really like it, you’d be able to go next door and buy the fresh pasta and a jar of the pesto to take home.