Some say that when Elon Musk drops people on Mars, they will find a Starbucks coffee house on one corner and an Italian pizza restaurant on the other. At least that’s at least how Santa Monica has developed.
There are at least 50 places to buy pizza in Santa Monica. So it’s not practical for me to try them all, because by the time I would get to around 30 some would have gone out of business and new places opened up. And so many serve really bad pizza, with crust that tastes and fees like cardboard.
So in my everlasting quest to answer the question “what is your favorite pizza restaurant in Santa Monica” I’ve been reduced to asking my friends, and relying on their recommendations. I do eat pizza with some regularity at Ritrovo in Pacific Palisades, and Lago on the Promenade. And I have tried some of the better-known places like Pizza Kitchen and 800 degrees. All in all I can count about a dozen pizza restaurants that I’ve tried more than once. But the most promising recommendations were to try Milo and Olive. So I did. Do you want the good news or the bad news? Or both?
The good news is that the pizza was excellent, maybe the best anywhere in Santa Monica. My criteria for good pizza are (1) delicious thin crust, (2) correct proportions of sauce, cheese and toppings, and (3) flavorful toppings. M&O had the best crust anywhere. That’s not surprising since one of the owners, Zoe Nathan, is one of the best pastry chefs anywhere. The proportions were just right and the mushrooms in the topping were fresh and flavorful.
Now the bad news. I eat out a lot with business associates. That means we want to talk over lunch. No way at M&O. I couldn’t even hear myself, let alone someone two feet away. Noise is a problem in lots of restaurants, but this was over the top.
Now the second problem. My idea of a restaurant is where the customer tells the staff what he or she wants, and the staff makes it happen. One time in France my wife and I were at the fancy Café de Paris. I saw on the menu that some desserts had coffee ice cream and others chocolate sauce. I ordered a scoop of coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce on it. After my wife was served and I was not, and some time passed, I asked the waiter how my order was coming along. He replied “I am so sorry monsieur, but the chef does not think that coffee ice cream should be served with chocolate sauce so he will not allow it to be served.” That’s how things work in France, but I’m back in Santa Monica.
On the M&O menu I saw they have pizza toppings with their special sausage, and another with mushrooms. So I asked for a pizza with sausage and mushrooms. “I am sorry” said the waiter, “the chef will not serve that.” I looked around to see if I really was in Santa Monica, and not France. So I asked for the manager. She was very nice. She said exactly the same thing.
So M&O fails the restaurant management test. It might be the best pizza in Santa Monica, but I won’t be back. I’ll have to settle for second best.
Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Blvd, SM CA 90403
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988 he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.