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Candace Nelson, the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, is here to satisfy your next carb craving. Having opened 20-plus Sprinkles locations since founding the cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills in 2005, her latest food venture is dedicated to something more savory: Neapolitan pizza.
Pizzana is a new pizza joint in Brentwood opened by Candace and her husband, Charles Nelson, in partnership with NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell and his wife, Caroline.
“I like to joke that if it’s a carb, I’m into it,” teases Nelson, who is enviably svelte, considering her chosen profession. “If there’s one theme running through all my businesses, it’s that they’re carb-laden.”
Candace is aware, however, that L.A. is a city known more for going gluten-free than carb loading. Nevertheless, she says, “My whole philosophy is that people will eat and indulge if it’s worth the indulgence.”
What makes the pies at Pizzana worth it? A center that’s less floppy and soggy. “This pizza, you can pick up, and the slice holds,” Nelson says of master pizzaiolo and executive chef Daniele Uditi’s fresh interpretation of a Naples classic. The dough is made by hand in the Neapolitan tradition and then fermented and proofed for 48 hours.
“We both just started geeking out about the nuances of a great crust and a great pastry. We were so aligned and he happened to mention that he had always wanted to have a restaurant,” Nelson recalls of meeting Naples-born Uditi at one of Chris and Caroline’s family-style pizza parties. “My husband and I had done Sprinkles for many years and we thought, ‘We’re never opening another food business, it’s way too hard.’ But his pizza changed our minds.”
The pizza menu offers classic margherita, pesto and funghi (shiitake and oyster mushroom with italian crema, fontina and caramelized onion), to name a few meatless choices, as well as pepperoni, “Hawaiana” (topped with prosciutto cotto and spicy pickled pineapple) and “Messicana” (topped with chorizo, cilantro lime sauce, pickled sweet chile, jalapeno and queso fresco).
There’s also a selection of appetizers and salads (or “antipasti” and “insalate,” as the Italians say), including wood-fired meatballs served with San Marzano DOP and wood-fired bread (Polpette Al Forno), tempura fried zucchini with lemon aioli (Zucchine Alla Scapece) and a shaved brussel sprouts salad (Cavoletto di Bruxelles) that’s been a popular choice among customers, says Candace.
Of course, there’s desert — but no cupcakes.
“I’m really about innovating and keeping things moving forward and keeping people guessing to a certain extent, so I didn’t want to do the expected and put Sprinkles cupcakes on the menu,” explains Candace, who serves as the restaurant’s pastry chef. However, Sprinkles does have a presence in the form of what she calls a Neapolitan Terrine — a melt-in-your-mouth ice cream terrine with Sprinkles strawberry, vanilla and triple chocolate ice creams layered with fudge and chocolate biscotti crumbs, as well as a tub of fudge on the side. (Yum.)
Rather than opt for traditional red-and-white check pizza parlor decor, Pizzana is a sea of blue, from navy blue seat cushions to a baby blue tile mural by L.A.-based contemporary artist Mark Hagen, who was inspired by Italian architect Gio Ponti. Candace shares that they looked to “the blue of the Mediterranean, the sea just off the coast of Naples,” as inspiration. “It’s funny because blue is traditionally not a good food color — restaurants have historically stayed away from it. But I think the effect is that it’s quite soothing and punctuated by the black and steel.”
“We have that mix of L.A. meets Italy,” says Candace. “Ultimately, we wanted it to feel chic, but comfortable. At the end of the day, it’s food I love to eat and it’s how I want to present it in my own interpretation to the world.”
Pizzana, 11712 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-481-7108, pizzana.com
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