By Jill Weinlein, 4/26/2012
When my Salmone e Ricotta pizza arrived, I remarked that the wild Alaskan salmon had such a beautiful color. The CEO of Obika restaurants, Raimondo Boggia, overheard my comment and introduced himself to me and my group of diners. “It’s wild sockeye smoked salmon,” shared Boggia. He said the salmon is hand filleted in small batches and then smoked to create a silky and smooth finish.
Sockeye salmon is one of the lowest in fat of the salmon family.
“King salmon has about three times more fat than Sockeye,” Boggia said. “Farm raised salmon is even fattier.”
Boggia works with Gerard & Dominique in Seattle, to produce a sugar-free salmon for his pizzas. “Did you know that most smoked salmon in restaurants has sugar?” Boggia asked.
Obika Mozzarella Bar in the Westfield Century City shopping center has just introduced new Neapolitan pizza menu. They make the dough with stone ground whole wheat and white flour that is imported from Italy, allowing the dough to naturally rise for 48 hours before making a pizza for a guest.
Boggia was so excited about his recently installed Valoriani-Mugnaini pizza oven. “In Italy, it would be heated with wood, but here we need to use gas,” Boggia said. “Regulations say it is better for the environment.” He informed me that the oven reaches over 900 degrees. “The temperature is so sensitive, we can cook four pizzas in one minute.”
My group and I devoured the delicious salmon pizza with ricotta and Mozzarella de Bufal. This is the cheese that has made Obika famous. It is handmade mozzarella that is processed using water buffalo milk for water buffalo. It has 33 percent less fat and cholesterol than mozzarella made from cow’s milk. “Our mozzarella is made with a lot of science and a bit of art. It’s unique,” Boggia said. There are various types of Mozzarella de Bufala imported from Italy. The classic mozzarella is a delicate cheese, Stracciatella di Burrata is a sweeter and creamier cheese and Affumicata is smoked on iron nets over a hay fire.
We wanted to try a few more of Obika’s pizzas that range from $12 to $16. The most colorful pizza is the Verdure Grigliate with grilled eggplant, zucchini, radicchio, smoked mozzarella de Bufala and a pinch of parsley. I asked Boggia which pizza is his favorite. “It depends on my mood. I do enjoy the Acciughe di Sciacca e Capperi,” he said. Boggia is from Milan, Italy and moved to Santa Monica to manage the Obika concept in the United States. The Acciughe di Sciacca e Capperi pizza arrived with anchovies, capers, organic tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and flash-fried oregano. It’s a burst of wonderful flavors, yet was a little too salty for my liking.
I enjoyed the Formaggi Morbidi pizza with gorgonzola, stracchino, ricotta and Mozzarella di Bufala. Obika also serves a spicy sausage pizza and one with arugula and Italian prosciutto that has been aged for 20 months. Many of the ingredients come from Italy, yet Boggia also likes to work with a group of California farmers. “About 25 years ago, a group of California farmers went around Europe to buy the best seeds. They brought them back to reproduce the produce here. Radicchio didn’t exist in the United States 25 years ago,” Boggia said.
There are other items on the lunch menu, like Panini, which range in price from $10 to $12 and are served with a minestrone soup with basil pesto or mixed green salad.
Next time I visit Obika, I would like to try one of their oven-baked pasta dishes, grilled eggplant parmigiana and an organic salad. The restaurant offers fine fresh food in an informal dining experience centered around the luscious Mozzarella di Bufala.
Obika has two Los Angeles locations: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. (310)556-2452 and 8500 Beverly Blvd. 6th Floor (310)652-2088. Hours 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. through Thurs. and 11:30 a.m. to midnight Fri. and Sat. Also in Rome, Milan, Fidenza, Florence, Palermo, Istanbul, New York, and more.