Being a kid was pretty cool. No responsibilities. No money. No rent/mortgage/car payment. And you got kids menus. You know that awesome set of options that were simply meant as a cheaper alternative to the regular menu, but turned out to have the best stuff on it anyway. Things like grilled cheese, chicken fingers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were mainstays always a hit. Yet growing up can be tough, and not just because of those silly responsibilities, but also because you can’t quite get away with order PB and J at age 27. Fortunately, all is not lost. Burgers have taken a gourmet turn. Hot dogs are still popular for people of all ages. And then there is a little restaurant in Santa Monica called Hostaria del Piccolo.
In a way, Hostaria del Piccolo goes against all those things you liked as a kid. It emphasizes quality over quantity, dishes are written in a strange language (Italian) and I’m pretty sure there is no kids menu. But for all that, one dish on the menu stood way out to me. It was called their Ale Magna pizza and came topped with tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, FRIES and German wurstel (just a fancy word for HOT DOG). I simply had to have it out of pure childlike curiosity.
What arrived was a daunting task and quite different from what I expected. Rather than a fry-and-hot-dog pizza, this was a pizza topped with hot dogs and fries. There is a difference, because these toppings had clearly just been put on the pizza after it was cooked, rather than being cooked into the pizza. Yet, I gave it the old college try and found it to be…well…exactly what it sounded and looked like. I could have made this myself by ordering a cheese pizza, a side of fries and throwing a boiled, sliced hot dog on top. Granted, the fries had been cooked to a nice crisp and the pizza was pretty good, but none of this was really anything to brag about at recess. This made both the current me and the child version of me sad, because while I wanted a taste of childhood, I wanted it to have some degree of maturity.
In defense of the place, though, I did hear good things about the other dishes. It’s entirely possible that I ordered the wrong thing. It’s also entirely possible that this pizza was straight up made for children and not intended for an old man like me. Perhaps my 7-year-old would have loved this pie, but who am I to know?
Fortunately, we ordered some desserts and these cleared my head of the disappointing dinner. The first was their Pizza Nutella, which was essentially a banana wrapped in pizza dough, baked and topped with Nutella. I am a man who loves me some Nutella, but this was a bit too rich for my taste buds. We also had the Pizza Dolce, which despite its name was much lighter and less sweet. This pizza was left flat and topped with vanilla custard, fresh strawberries and shredded coconut. It was really awesome and most of my body and mind wished I had saved more room for this than for the crazy pizza I ate.
So while I usually judge a place solely upon my own dish, the sheer ridiculousness of my dish merits the consideration of everyone present. As you read the score up top, keep that in mind and know that while I am glad I tried out the insane Ale Magna, I do not recommend it and don’t see myself ever ordering it again.