Baldoria is a fun apertivo cafe in DTLA

What happens when a poet and a singer meet? They eventually open a restaurant together, obviously.

Pizzas are baked in a Mugnaini pizza oven until they turn a golden color with lightly burnt crust. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

After traveling in Rome, poet David King dreamed of opening an aperitivo bar offering a communal vibe where locals could gather for a drink and a light meal at the end of the workday. Then, while working at Cube Marketplace & Cafe on La Brea Avenue as the wine director, King met the chef Duke Gervais, a singer and graduate from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. The two paired up to realize King’s dream with Baldoria, a restaurant in the former Aburiya Toranoka space in Little Tokyo, just south of downtown Los Angeles.

IMG_3881As beverage director, King pours a creative craft beer selection and an exceptional list of handpicked spirits and wines, along with inventive cocktails with names such as Balder Cuba Libre, Freisa Azteca and Don’t Burn The Pig. Back in the kitchen, Gervais cooks up heat-blistered pizzas, short rib ravioli, lamb chops, spaghetti Bolognese and creative weekend brunches.

I was recently invited to a pizza-making dinner at Baldoria to meet King and Gervais. When I asked them how they came up with the name of their restaurant, Gervais told me they turned to Google.

“It means shindig – have a good time, wild party,” Gervais said. “This lends to the vibe, good food and drinks we offer.”

Baldoria does indeed offer a good time – a large white brick wall holds a TV screen playing the latest sporting game. The dining room features a long bar, as well as a low counter with seating near the kitchen. High top tables with communal seating run down the middle of the room. The space, ideal for large gatherings, has become a popular birthday party destination. Baldoria also offers rental space, with room for 60 people seated inside, or 80 including the patio.

For my pizza lesson, I donned a white apron and learned how to manipulate a ball of IMG_3887pizza dough into a thin crust. I topped the dough with one of four sauces, and a variety of ingredients that included cipollini onions, sliced figs and prosciutto. As my pizza baked in a Mugnaini gas-fired pizza oven, I watched a blast of hot air give it a nice color with a speckling of lightly burnt bubbles. After baking, Gervais topped my pizza with a brush of garlic glaze to enhance the flavors.

Sipping a glass of rosé while eating the delicious homemade pizza, I looked at the Baldoria menu. There are 10 pizzas with names that include Mrs. Croque made with Black Forest ham, Grand Cru Gruyere, browned butter béchamel and Chino Valley eggs. The Lil Tokyo Steak pizza is made with miso-marinated flat iron steak, yuzu kosho, shiitake, shishito, cherry tomatos and red onions.

IMG_3889There are a handful of vegetarian dishes that include pistachio-crusted grapes, ricotta toast with Black Mission fig compote, and crispy Brussels sprouts.

Carnivores will like the charred BLT wedges made with gem lettuce boats, smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes, egg and chives, or the Caribbean-spiced duck wings.

Desserts include a ricotta cheesecake, espresso cake and persimmon pudding.

On Saturday and Sunday, Baldoria offers a prix-fixe menu that includes a choice of one entrée with a side dish or pizza, plus bottomless mimosas or rosé for $30. Entrées include ciabatta French toast, spinach and three-cheese omelette or spicy fried chicken with apple-cinnamon waffle tacos with WhistlePig maple syrup. Sides include biscuits and honey, two eggs any style, smashed fingerling potatoes or an arugula salad. Pizza-making classes will be offered after the holidays. $$.

IMG_3890Open for lunch on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner nightly starting at 4:30 p.m. Happy hour offers pizzas for $8 and 20 percent off beer, wine and liquor every Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Baldoria is located at 243 S. San Pedro St. (213)947-3329.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – Nov. 30, 2017.

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