Take a look at my pomodorini pizza at DeSano Pizza Bakery in East Hollywood. The little cherry tomatoes added a vibrant pop of acidic flavor as well as brilliant color. The basil leaves in the center were a nice decoration, but I wanted more.
Here's the pizza after I doctored it up with additional basil begged from the kitchen. Two friends, whose margherita pizzas did not include the basil promised on the menu, also had to ask. What we got was hair-fine shreds. Leaves would have added more flavor.
Ingredients serve as decorations, like these cans of Italian olive oil. The condiment station includes a decanter of olive oil, but I wouldn't recommend dipping anything in it, or adding it to your pizza. Rather than fresh and fruity, it was dull and unpleasant, perhaps from standing too long. Even oil protected by a can will deteriorate if not used reasonably soon.
At DeSano, you pay for your pizza, then go to an enormous room lined with communal tables. It's self-service, except the pizza you have ordered will be brought to your table. A bottle opener is mounted on the wall. There's water in a serve-yourself container. The napkins are rolls of paper towels. Containers on the tables hold plastic forks and knives.
The cooks work in full view so you can watch as the dough is shaped and see the pizzas as they come from the wood-burning ovens (above). They're placed on trays, not plates, and rushed to your table by a server who calls out the order number.
If you can't eat all of your pizza, no problem, just help yourself to a take-out box from the stack by the ingredient displays.
Driving past, the low building looks like an abandoned warehouse or factory, but inside it's full of action. Aside from the food, its most important attribute is outside--lots of free parking.
DeSano Pizza Bakery, 4959 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tel: (323) 913-7000.