10 Questions with Serafina Sunset's Pizza Chef Armando Novelli

The Tartufo Nero Pizza at Serafina Sunset
The Tartufo Nero Pizza at Serafina Sunset

Where pizza is concerned, there’s often a snobbery by New Yorkers that they have the best pies in the country. Yes, they even refer to their pizzas as pies. Chicago tries to lay claim too but we just know that’s not true—although I am a big fan of its hearty deep dish pizza. Los Angeles often gets a bum rap in the pizza game. I like to say ‘pizza is pizza’ but I know better than that. And when push comes to shove, I’ll agree that New York rules the pizza roost.

In L.A., I have several go-to pizza places that I love for gourmet pies or filling, hearty ones. The Rainbow Bar & Grill being one of my top choices, especially when making a boozy night of it. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered the Tartufo Nero at trendy Serafina Sunset. Hands down it is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. But can I claim L.A. tops in the pizza game when the pizza in question is a product of a restaurant group that originates in New York City? Sadly, I don’t think so.

The story goes that Serafina Restaurant Group founders Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato decided to work together to create the perfect pizza. Since then, they’ve opened several restaurants, and Serafina Sunset, which includes co-owners Mel B of Spice Girls fame and Stephen Belafonte, is riding high with its dynamic and decadent pizza. The Tartufo Nero is basically a truffle pizza prepared with a bouquet of Italian cheeses, white truffle oil and Italian black truffle. And like I said, it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had—with or without meat. But then again, the combination of bread, butter, cheese and rich truffles seems foolproof. At nearly $30 a pop, it’s pricey but it’s so rich that you should treat yourself this well once in a while.

Following are 10 Questions with Serafina Sunset’s Pizza Chef Armando Novelli about this mind-blowing, dazzling dish.

When did the Tartufo Nero first appear on the NYC menu and was it a no-brainer to add it to the L.A. menu?

It was on the menu the first day the New York City restaurant opened. And it was a natural fit to put on the L.A. menu.

How popular is the Tartufo Nero in L.A. and NYC?

Sixty to seventy percent of the pizza ordered in New York City is the Tartufo Nero. In L.A., it is the most popular pizza we sell.

Did you always know this pizza would be a hit?

Yes, based on the success in the New York locations, we knew it would be a great part of our menu as well.

What in your opinion makes for a good pizza and how does this fall into that category?

The best assortment of Italian Cheeses and the secret dough recipe from our pizza chef at here at Serafina make for the best pizza in town. Not to mention, who doesn't love truffles.

This is one of the best pizzas I've ever had and not just among non-meat pizzas. Why do you think this pizza works?

It's a decadent Italian style pizza with the best Italian ingredients. It was the first pizza that was ever put on the menu. It has thirty years of history of being successful and it’s just simply magical.

The rich and fabulous Tartufo Nero at Serafina Sunset.
The rich and fabulous Tartufo Nero at Serafina Sunset.

New Yorkers are particular about their pizzas. What kind of reaction have you received about this pizza in L.A. and NYC?

The reaction to this pizza has been overwhelmingly wonderful. It is the most popular pizza we have and people request it nonstop. We have taken the New York style pizza and revamped it for the Los Angeles crowd. Giving Los Angeles the best tasting pizza they’ve ever had.

In your opinion, how does this pizza rank among other pizzas in New York and L.A.?

It ranks high as this is a pizza for everyone and goes with anything on the menu. It can be eaten as a breakfast pizza, lunch, appetizer or a main course.

Is there a better pizza on the menu?

All of our pizzas are great. I really can't say which one is better as that would be like choosing which child is my favorite.

Do you have a different favorite pizza on the menu?

It really depends on the person’s pallet and what they are in the mood for that day.

Do you consider this a "gourmet" pizza? Do you like that term?

Yes, I would consider this a gourmet pizza based on the ingredients and rich flavor.

Serafina Sunset is located at 8768 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Call 310-659-9130.

The Tartufo Nero pizza at Serafina Sunset is one of the best “pies” in L.A.
The Tartufo Nero pizza at Serafina Sunset is one of the best “pies” in L.A.
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