Tuesday, November 2, 2010

8 1/2 Taverna Gets My Vote for Best Truffle Pizza in the Valley (Closed)

On a day when voters turn out in droves to decide the fate of California (slight dramatization #1), my coworker "Artist Cyclist" and I made an equally fateful decision (slight dramatization #2) to pay a visit to the much buzzed about 8 1/2 Taverna in Studio City for lunch.

Perched auspiciously near Moorpark and Tujunga, just around the corner from my favorite stretch of shops and restaurants in the Valley, the recently opened gastropub seemed to promise great things, with its relaxed and casual yet charming decor including an inviting, open bar area, communal tables and flat screen TVs in front, and cozy, sunlit dining area with its jewel colored cushions and dark woods in the back.

We had been drooling over the menu on the restaurant's site ever since we had considered this place for lunch - and "Artist Cyclist" immediately nominated the Tartufona truffle pizza as our main, which I instantly seconded.  But first, we wanted to whet our appetites with a small plate of Steamed Mussels in saffron and Fennel Sauce ($10).  Unfortunately, this dish was not meant to be - our server informed us that they were out, and asked if we wanted to choose another small plate instead.

Langostino Taco ($9)
We quickly landed on Langostino Tacos ($9) with avocado, Baby Greens, Shredded Cabbage - and this proved to be a great choice.  The perfectly sized morsels of meat were juicy, tender and subtly sweet, offset by the crunch and slight bitterness of the red cabbage, and melding with the perfectly balanced tomato based sauce.  If I had to make a very minor note, it would be that if the tortilla could be made fresh and served just at a slightly hotter temperature - that would have improved the dish.  As it is, the tortilla tasted slightly like it was store bought - but overall, still a great starter.

While waiting for our main, we were simultaneously driven to complete and utter distraction from our conversation by the pervasive fragrance of truffle - which wafted over from the next table - apparently one of the diners had opted for the Tartufona pizza as well.  The aroma infused every sense and I literally could not think straight enough to continue holding conversation - we both stared at the pizza next table over and driveled incoherently until our own pizza arrived.

Tartufona Pizza ($25)
 Alas, the masterpiece -Tartufona pizza ($25) - was topped with Mozzarella, Mascarpone fondue, shitake mushrooms, and shaved truffle.  The truffle was of the summer variety, with gorgeous flecks of white - it was so thinly shaved that I imagined if not for the cheese holding it down, it would float away with the slightest breeze.  This balanced amazingly well with the earthy, substantial pieces of shitake.  The base of mascarpone fondue added just the right amount of sweetness, and in combination with the mozzarella, held all the elements of the pizza together in a cohesive whole.   The crust was also amazing - fluffy and and served piping hot, the better to help release the intoxicating fragrances of the truffle and mushrooms. 

If not for social convention and need for some semblance of decorum, I would have picked the plate up and licked it clean.  As it was, we ate every single crumb off this plate.  Definitely the best truffle pizza north of Sunset Blvd.  Actually, just to have truffle pizza period, in the effing Valley, makes me an instant fan of 8 1/2 Taverna.  But to offer amazing truffle pizza - and the ability to have a fine dining experience in this virtually barren culinary landscape around our office - makes me a fan for life.  Will definitely be escaping...I mean, returning, to this place on many more occasions.

8 1/2 Taverna also offers Happy Hour Daily 4pm-7pm - tap into dishes from sliders to shrimp cocktails $5-$8 and drink specials.  And, this place is listed on OpenTable, so eligible for reservation points.

Thanks "Artist Cyclist" for recommending the place.  I will be dreaming of the Tartufona tonight and can't wait to go back!

Update April 2011:

Whenever I have time to take a little longer lunch, I grab a coworker and head to 8 1/2 Taverna.  Here are two more highlights of awesome bites from one of my favorite spots in the SFV!

Ahi Tuna Bites ($9)
 Ahi Tuna Bites ($9) - Smoked paprika cherry Tomatoes, lime fresco salt, sesame oil.  Love this - the tuna is cool, velvety, with light crust from careful searing.  Perfect starter!

Porketta Pizza - daily special ($16)
 As a 'glass half full' person, every time I've been to 8 1/2 Taverna I've asked with hopeful, ready-to-plead eyes if they have the Tartufona pizza.  On the last few occasions, they had not served this as they did not have truffle in stock.  But, they always have daily specials which include amazing gourmet, fresh-baked pizzas. 

Yesterday I got the Porketta Pizza ($16) with spinach, mushrooms and braised pork belly - an incredibly juicy and flavorful pie.  I had enough leftovers to reheat for dinner tonight and it still held up.  Can't wait to go back and see what they serve up next!

[Update July 2011:  Sad to report that 8 1/2 Taverna seems to have left the building with no notice.  The place is locked and gutted, and there is a sign taped to the door that says the building owner was due to inspect the place to determine whether it's been abandoned on July 7th.  Looks like it to me.  I loved this place and this example is one reason that I have this blog - to let people know about great places so that hopefully as more readers like you come to the blog and discover them, to help to keep good spots open by giving them business.  It's tragic for the neighborhood to lose a place like 8 1/2 Taverna - I will truly miss their pizzas and casual chic watering hole!]

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%


8 1/2 Taverna
11334 Moorpark Street, Studio City, CA 91602
Ph: 818.308.1100
Website: 8andahalf.com
OpenTable: Look for reservations

8 1/2 Taverna on Urbanspoon


  1. mmm, going to need to make a visit!

    (LOVE the new header btw!)

  2. For sure!

    (Thanks! Playing around a bit with severely limited Photoshop skills ;P)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...