I was noodling around the Internet a few years ago, looking for interesting ways to bring more vegetables into our family meals, when I came across a recipe for low carb cauliflower crust pizza.
It involved “ricing” the cauliflower by pulsing it in a food blender, then steaming in a microwave for a few minutes—easy enough—and mixing it with cheese and egg as binders, then patting it out on a pan, and adding the toppings.
The pizza tasted terrific, but it wasn’t pizza, really. The cauliflower flavor was strong, and the slices had to be eaten with a fork. Think of it more as a healthy polenta topped with cheese, tomato sauce and veggies.
Had I made the crust too thick? Too thin? Put too many toppings on it? I kept experimenting, with better or worse results, but never with results that gave me the feeling that I’d had pizza. The closest recipe required dumping the steamed, riced cauliflower into clean tea towels and twisting it to remove most of the liquid. It was a pain to do, and left me with aching wrists and two disgusting tea towels to scrape off and then get into the laundry before all those bits of cauliflower could dry on them. We could pick those pieces of pizza up, if we waited for them to cool sufficiently, but as a cook given to short cuts, this was never one that I felt like repeating.
By the time 2017 rolled around, I figured cauliflower-crust pizza had become well known enough that a city as trendy as L.A. must provide some way to get my hands on it. A frozen concoction in elite food markets, perhaps, or a health-food joint.
As it turned out, everything I needed was at a little pizzeria a few blocks from City Hall, in the rejuvenating historic core of the city.
Prufrock Pizza is an unassuming-looking place within the Regent Theater, a reborn concert hall on Main Street. The photos I’d seen online, of a wood-clad, candle-lit spot turned out to be the Love Song Bar, also part of the theater, which serves up drinks with outlandish names. And yes, they both refer to T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but that’s as far as the poetic references seem to go. There is no sawdust or oyster shells, no pizza called the “hundred indecisions.”
The interior design of Prufrock is a hodgepodge. There’s the counter area, with its white subway tile evoking the neighborhood-pizza joints of old. The opposite wall is trendy bare brick, and the main table decorations are large cans of San Marzano tomatoes.
As you order at the counter, you’ll find only one cauliflower-crust pizza on the menu—gluten free, no flour at all—the “Toto” with mozzarella, tomato and basil. So the important thing to know is this: You can order any of the 14 other kinds of pizza with cauliflower crust, for an added $3.
The “Salsicci” is a good representation of the kind of pie this place offers: both regular and smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage and roasted leeks. With the cauliflower crust, it comes to $16. The “Bianca” a white pizza, is another signature pie at the place, with additions of gruyere, roasted garlic and truffle oil.
What they arrive at the table, the pies sport edges of thin, deeply browned crust—the 900-degree oven is obviously key to producing the crusts–and scents of smokiness and herbs. Though they’re considered personal-sized, each is large enough for two. The sausage on the Salsicci is placed lightly, yet seems to infuse the whole pie.
And for once, each slice can be picked up and eaten like a regular piece of pizza, though of course, these aren’t the giant slices of pie you’d get at a stand in New York. Because the crust is impossibly thin, the cauliflower doesn’t aggressively make its presence known, though it can be tasted. Let’s face it, even with people who have clearly mastered the riced-cauliflower beast, this low-carb crust isn’t going to achieve the crusty heights of a traditional slice of Neapolitan pizza. But the rich toppings give it a burst of umami-ness that a cauliflower pizza otherwise lacks. It’s a real-pizza experience.
I could go home and try to imitate that thin crust, but my kitchen doesn’t boast anything like a 900-degree oven, and anyway, why bother? My tea towels are safe now.
446 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Open Mon-Thu, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri-Sun, 4 p.m. to midnight
*Photo by Elvia Morales