One of the iconic places for everyone in the Greater LA/OC area to visit is the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles. It is the kind of place to walk around where you can graze, get a full meal, snack or get something to take home for later. The choices are great—-anything from a corned beef sandwich to Chinese food to Spanish to hot dogs are available and much more. When I worked there, I would go two or three times a week for lunch. Having been around since 1934, it is one of the older places that is still used in the city. Being next to CBS Television City, you never know who you will see when grabbing a bite there.
At one of the best entrances to the market, next to the famous classic diner Du-pars, sits Deano’s Gourmet Pizza. Dean Schwartz was a pizza enthusiast, that started designing artisan pizza in his original pizza place in Lake Tahoe. As much as he loved pizza, he did not like the way other pizza places made pizza with a sugary sweet, salty, oily, dough topped with low quality products with the same poor makeup as the dough. Dean felt that there was a better, healthier, more nutritrious way to make pizza that excels in flavor. He worked on developing his own crust recipes, to hold pizzas that would not only be healthier, but would also taste great. Eight years ago, he renovated and opened Deano’s Gourmet Pizza in the Farmer’s Market, dedicating his restaurant to creating healthy, flavorful, food. With a menu that encompasses pizza, pastas, parmesan, gelato, sorbetto and paninis, there is definitely something for every one.
Deano’s Pizza does not use the same kind of dough for every type of pizza. It uses an artisan dough, with a hand twisted, stuffed crust, developed by Deano’s. Depending on taste, toppings and health requirements, there are three types of crusts. The herb white crust is the most popular, it’s tender dough made simply with olive oil and 5 herbs. By using only a small amount of olive oil in the crust, there is not that greasy feeling to it, nor does it drip grease when you pick up a slice. For those who enjoy whole wheat products, there is a honey whole wheat crust available. Deano’s Pizza has also gone out of their way to provide a wheat free/gluten free pizza crust and pasta. They were one of the first places to do that and it makes a big difference for groups when they go out, knowing that everyone, including those with certain dietary requirements such as wheat free/gluten free, vegan and vegetarian diets can have choices. In fact, Deano’s has a nice vegan menu with many choices available.
I thought the Mediterranean pizza was a standout. Built on the herb white crust, it includes red sauce and mozzarella cheese, but that is just the start. Artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, roma tomatoes and bell pepper add some different flavor layers to this pizza. Moving the flavor scale up even more, goat cheese and kalamata olives add a tangy flavor to the pizza. The final treat on the pizza is fresh basil leaves topping the pie. Most places use dried basil, but the fresh basil has such a different flavor and texture that it really does add a tremendous burst of flavor to the pizza. Overall, the pizza not only has distinctive flavors, but the crust has just the right amount of chewiness to it. The crust also does not overpower the toppings, just serving as a canvas to apply the palette of flavors onto, as Dean believes that pizza is art.
Another distinctive pizza on that herb white crust with the distinctive rolled crust is the Famous Greek. The dough is covered with a pesto sauce, spinach, garlic and diced roma tomato. The Greek element is provided by feta cheese, kalamata olives, minced pepperocini peppers and then topped with the fresh basil. I thought the minced pepperocini was a brilliant touch, adding just enough heat to tingle my tastebuds. Again, the balance of the crust is such that it allows the topping flavors to shine through. With the simple, delicious crust that Deano’s has, even pizzas like vegetable, Margherita and the Meat Lover’s Special taste better because the crust works with the other ingredients to make a tasty pizza.
Going in a different direction, the Bar-B-Q Chicken pizza takes flavors that are unexpected on pizza and somehow turns them into a harmonious blend. The chicken, barbecue sauce and pineapple chunks work extremely well with the mozzarella cheese, bell peppers and onion. This is a pizza with adult flavors that kids will love too. Like the Mediterranean, it has the rolled crust, stuffed with extra herbs for added flavor.
Sometimes, you just have to go with tradition. The pepperoni pizza, one of the choices available by the slice, looks just like you picked it up at the take-out window at Ray’s or Exclusive Pizza in New York. The crust, this time simply adorned with red sauce and then covered with plenty of mozzarella cheese, has just the right amount of char to it. The pepperoni is not just a few pieces a slice; this pizza is wall to wall pepperoni. When I picked it up, it still had a decent amount of oil dripping from it (from the pepperoni) and had that feel that you want from a piece like that. You fold it a bit and bite into a slice expertly made like that and imagine that Joe Pesci is standing behind you, “You gonna take another bite or take it home to your mudda?” This is real New York style pizza and holds with the best.
One of the nice things about Deano’s is that they have dinners too. For years, I have used eggplant parmigiana as my test of an Italian restaurant. The eggplant parmigiana is a delight, not overly breaded but just enough to add a little crunch. The eggplant is baked instead of fried, just one more trick Deano’s uses to keep their menu items on the healthier side without sacrificing flavor. The cheese topping is a decent proportion of the dish. Too many times, restaurants put so much mozzarella on it that you can barely find, or taste, the eggplant. A dollop of the house red sauce and the dish is ready. The flavors and textures are balanced and there is a lightness to each bite that most other places don’t achieve. This is an eggplant fan’s parmigiana. It comes with a side of penne in their house marinara sauce.
The Shrimp Penne Arrabiata takes perfectly cooked plump shrimp and mixes them with penne in a moderately spicy sauce. Fresh roma tomatoes and fresh basil plus a hint of lobster sauce round out this seafood treat. Mushroom ravioli, another pasta treat, are huge, filled with a Portobello stuffing and covered in a creamy mushroom sauce. A dish that is extremely satisfying for vegetarians is the vegetable lasagna, layered with a blend of three cheeses and covered with a vegan marinara.
Many other dishes show a deft hand in the kitchen. The cheesesteak is done as a panini, with the pressing of the roll giving even more of a crunchy texture. The grilled onions add a touch of sweetness that goes great with the American cheese in this sandwich. The roll is not just a standard French or Italian roll, but a ciabatta roll, adding even more crispness and texture contrast to the sandwich.
If there is room in your stomach there is a nice list of sorbettos and gelatos to sweeten up your taste buds. Then it is on to walking the market, shopping for dog bakery items, toys, crystal, hot sauces and many of the other items in each stall at the Farmer’s Market. After a delicious meal at Deano’s, a nice leisurely stroll is just the perfect thing to do.
Deano’s Gourmet Pizza
6333 W 3rd St., Number 310
Los Angeles, CA 90036