Pizza on Main Street, What a “Novel” Idea

I’m not exactly going out on a limb when I say Santa Monica Park has changed drastically since I moved here in 1974. At the Shores, where I live, 1-bedroom apartments started at $245. Management put signs marked “$245 & up” in the ground along with decorative flags. (Now they could have signs “Don’t bother unless you’re rich!”)

There were approximately two-hundred vacancies out of 532 units at the Shores in 1974. Today, we have three vacancies. And the cheapest 1-bedroom is over $3,000, a mere 1500% increase from the early 70’s.

Main Street was also vastly different. Across from the Shores was the Venice Noodle Company where dinner and dessert cost $5. Down the block was Wildflour Pizza which sold great pies at an inexpensive price and provided a fun, neighborhood environment for nearly fifty years.

The Noodle Company became a disco, a GAP store, All-American Apparel and for the better part of a year, it’s been vacant. As have so many shops on Main. Within a few years, Wildflour, Bravo Pizza, Areal, and Fork in the Road have all have closed. Gentrification of Ocean Park has been great for greedy landlords but brutal for renters and fellow pizza lovers. (For the latter, thankfully, that changed about a year ago.)

I call my friend Mimi the “restaurant whisperer” in that, over the years, she’s turned less-than-booming eateries into winners. That’s how Mani’s Bakery became the Novel Pizzeria Bistro. How good is Novel’s pizza? When they started they sold 40 a month. Now it’s 1,700.

Between you and me, I could eat pizza three times a day and consider it a balanced diet. And there’s been many a morning I’ve called cold pizza “breakfast.”

The Novel, however, is way, way more than a pizzeria. Just glancing through their extensive menu makes my mouth water. (Unless you’re ready to order online or go to the Novel, it may be problematic to read further on an empty stomach.)

From their “starters” to their main dishes, the Novel is heaven for taste buds. Consider their salt and pepper shrimps with chili, cilantro. lime and garlic flakes served on a bed of Arugula. Or, their oven-baked mushrooms stuffed with Ricotta cheese served with roasted bell pepper salad with homemade basil pesto. (As I write this, I only wish I had either or both waiting in the frig.)

The Novel’s homemade artisan pasta includes spaghetti, farfalle, penne, fettuccine, and pappardelle. To name but a few dishes, the carbonara: bacon with free-range eggs, topped with cracked pepper; the arrabiata: garlic tomato, dried red chili peppers cooked in olive oil; the puttanesca: tomato and garlic simmered with anchovies, capers, olives and red pepper flakes; and the marinara: seafood mix simmered in a fragrant tomato sauce. And until now I’ve failed to mention their delicious salads and sides and their amazing variety of mouth-watering pizzas. (Including by the slice.)

Because of its ample space (5000 sq. ft!), the Novel is different from almost all Main Street restaurants. At most Main eateries your table is so cramped other diners can see what you’re eating and hear what you’re saying. And even worse, you can hear what they’re saying! In order to comprehend your friends’ conversation they have to shout and vice versa. When you leave and step into the relative quiet outside, you realize you’re exhausted. (Or is it, just me?)

Rather than being noisy and migraine intense, the atmosphere at the Novel is, as some of my younger readers might say, “chill.” It’s a throwback to old Santa Monica, before the hotels and bumper to bumper traffic. (A few weeks back I walked to the Main Library and literally passed cars!)

Last Friday, I watched Novel customers enjoying their meal but, seemingly as important, socializing with friends. And not having to shout to do so! Novel is an amazing space that Mimi & Co. have only begun to fully develop. (Soon may include art shows displayed on the many walls.)

The Novel also has al fresco dining on the charming patio, used most during warm months. (With global warming that could be year-round very soon.) The patio is also great people watching as residents and tourists stroll by. Next to the patio is a glass heated cart with succulent pizza tempting passersby to buy a slice. Or three

Another enticing Novel menu item is the $8.99 breakfast special served M-F from 8-11 am, which includes a free cup of the superb Lavazza coffee, the best java on Main since Peet’s closed. The Novel also offers 5% discount for online orders and, when you buy one pizza, mention this column and you get a second at 50% off. (Actually, you don’t have to mention this column but do it anyway.)

The Novel Pizzeria is located at 2507 Main Street, has free WI-FI and is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Phone: (310) 396 7700. For more info go to www.novelsantamonica.com. When Jack’s not wolfing down pizza, he can be reached at jackdailypress@aol.com.

 

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