CHEF TO THE STARS NOW SERVES PIZZA TO THE VALLEY
When former celebrity chef Richard Florczak, whose star-studded clients included Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christina Aguilera, and Mel Gibson for a whopping 13 years, fell in love with the art of making pizza, he left his famous patrons behind and eventually opened Flame Pizzeria, a go-to spot for some of the best pizza in the valley.
According to Florczak, after building a wood-fired pizza oven at his home he discovered his true passion. For the next five years he crafted his skills eventually developing his dough to near perfection. Now at Flame Pizzeria, Chef makes every pizza himself, right out of his 750° oven, in full view of all his customers.
A charming pizza shop in an unassuming mini-mall in Reseda, the hearty pies, believe me, are worth the trek to the San Fernando Valley. Walk into Flame Pizzeria and you’ll be taken by its warm and welcoming décor. Part saloon and part valley chic, I like the white Christmas lights that help create an intimate setting. With a nice, long wooden bar rescued from the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, it’s all about the wood fire oven at this pizza joint. It’s the only heat source in the restaurant so all the starters, pizzas and entrees are made in the hearth. Starters like the antipasto with a mix of peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and prosciutto or the lemon garlic chicken and the thousand layer potatoes are all grilled items.
At Flame Pizzeria, Chef isn’t serving fancy pies—sorry there is no Hawaiian pizza here—instead Chef specializes in making five classic Neapolitan style pizzas with names like “The Lilly” with roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato feta and kalamata olives or the very popular “The Richie” with Arabiata sauce, with fresh mozzarella, soppressatta and fennel sausage.
During our recent visit for dinner we started with a hearty order of Meatball Sliders featuring three hand-rolled, wood-fired meatballs served on Hawaiian buns. This is a solid starter item perfect for sharing. While the Caesar Salad (my favorite salad) didn’t wow me, the Rocket Arugula Salad with locally-grown rocket baby arugula with feta, cucumbers and crispy pancetta tossed with creamy balsamic vinaigrette was very pleasing. This is the salad to get if you’re in the mood for some greens. Likewise, the Lemon Garlic Chicken with wood-fired boneless chicken breast basted in fresh lemon-garlic sauce is delicious. We couldn’t get enough of the garlic sauce. You’ll want to soak up every last drop. And while the Thousand Layer Potatoes with paper-thin, sliced potatoes with Asiago cheese, cream and garlic may not be 1,000 layers deep, it’s a hearty and filling appetizer.
But if you’re coming to Flame Pizzeria, then you’re coming for a pizza pie or two. There’s a reason that the menu is simple, because it’s all about the pizza, after all, for Chef Richard, “our heart is in the hearth.”
While you can make your own pizza, starting with the classic Margherita with tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella and fresh local basil as your base, we stuck to Chef’s favorites, which include five homemade creations.
The Lindsey (Bianco) made with fresh mozzarella, parmigiana Reggiano and Asiago with chopped fresh garlic, thyme, and oregano sprinkled with arugula is a great choice if you’re looking for a nonmeat option. Extremely tasty, I did feel that the arugula topping was almost an afterthought as it seemed to be just sprinkled in the center.
My favorite was The Richie with Arabiata sauce with fresh mozzarella, soppressatta and fennel sausage. This is a hearty and heavenly pie. This one will satisfy any meat-eater.
While I was on the fence about The Nana, made with fresh mozzarella, slice potatoes, caramelized red onions, sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt, topped with truffle oil and fresh dill, I found it to be quite delicious. There were too many onions for my liking, although that’s a personal preference for me, but once I delayered the pie to have less onion, I loved it.
If you think the menu is streamlined, well, get a load of the dessert options. There’s only one! I give props to Chef Richard for his decadently delicious Toasted Almond Cream Cake. If you do something right, and this is more akin to perfection, than why do anything else? And this toasty creamy cake is the best way to end you hearty and satisfying dinner. While Chef’s former famous clients may miss his cooking, fans of good homemade pizza are all the better for discovering his passion and seeing it to fruition.
Flame Pizzeria, located at 19309 Vanowen Street in Reseda, is open for dinner Tuesday - Sunday from 5pm to 10pm. Call (818) 578-3888.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: Flame Pizzeria