It seemed like only yesterday we were in the midst of a pizza moment, when no new restaurant in town seemed complete without its own wood-burning brick oven, its own meticulously prepared crust. This fascination with pizza has since been displaced by other trends (gastropubs, seafood shacks, etc.), but, thankfully, we’re still seeing great pizza specialists pop up all over town, just with slightly less fanfare. Which brings us to South End, a very good, very subdued wine-and-pizza restaurant in a strip mall on the southern tip of Abbott Kinney.
Outfitted with lots (and lots) of dark wood paneling, the dimly lit restaurant sort of feels like the tasting room of a wine cellar. Indeed, there are bottles of wine lining the walls of the space, and there’s a long wine list to match. But you’d be remiss if you stopped there: The food menu, while short, is terrific. Especially the pizzas. These would be rustic pies, with a thin crust that is wonderfully crispy and airy and chewy at the same time. There are almost a dozen different pizzas on the menu with a good variety of toppings—most of which are locally sourced, if not made in-house—so surely everyone will find something that suits their taste. The Kinney, say, simply topped with crushed Roma tomatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, basil pesto and extra virgin olive oil ($14), or, for the meat lover, the District 11 ($17), topped with generous strips of Neuske bacon, pepperoni and, best of all, a smoky heritage pork salsiccia (sausage) that imparts the slightest tinge of heat. Between the wine, the pizza, the affordable prices and the friendly service, South End is terrific neighborhood spot perfect for a casual night out.
What to Eat:
While the pizzas are a must-order, don’t overlook the very short menu of appetizers. The Little Gems salad ($13) is a great way to start, with white anchovies, slices of Piave and a smooth Caesar dressing. After everyone has had their pizza of choice, a slice of cheesecake ($9) made with freshly made goat cheese and a not-too-sweet berry jam — plus maybe another glass of wine — would be a perfect way to end the night.
What to Drink:
Wine. This is a wine bar as much as it is a pizza restaurant, after all; you’ll find a long wine list here with reds and whites mostly from France and Italy, though there a few from Australia and New Zealand as well. And while deep pockets can drop around $100 on a nice bottle of Barolo, those with more slender wallets will be happy to find that most glass pours generally fall between $9 and $15. Beer drinkers will be content with a short menu of craft brews.
Where to Sit:
Most of the 28 seats in the house are at the communal L-shaped bar that dominates the restaurant. Oenophiles who would like to have access to the sommelier should snag seats at the bar.