SoCal Explorer Partner Highlight: Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria
Founded in 2010, Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria was one of the first businesses in Los Angeles to create authentic wood-fired Neapolitan style pizzas. Over the years, the pizzeria has become all the rage on the Los Angeles food scene. As a result of the pizzeria’s success, owner and founder Brad Kent was invited to open a coveted stall at Grand Central Market. Tens of thousands of people visit the market each year and can experience Olio’s pursuit of pizza perfection. Kent shared more details on Olio’s origins with Metrolink.
“One of the main accolades we get is how friendly our staff is. I’m so blessed to work with people who care so much. That transcends the mask to the smile underneath, and it can be as important as the food itself. My team is comprised of people who have a lot of empathy. I think that’s what it takes for people to feel welcome in a hospitality environment – and it’s especially important to do this in these times, and at Grand Central Market, because it’s more of a food hall than a ‘restaurant.’
We make hundreds of pizzas every single day. My goal is to make tasty food available to the masses. We make everything by hand. We make the dressing, the dough, the sausage, the meatballs, everything is right there in a 330-square-foot food stall. We source as much as we can, locally. Our flour is grown in California and Washington and milled in California. We use high-quality extra virgin olive oil and California-grown tomatoes. Our burrata cheese is made in the Los Angeles area. It’s important to me to source everything – including the website, locally. But we understand the best stuff in the world isn’t necessarily local and grown close to home. For example, our smoked prosciutto comes from Italy and our whole milk mozzarella comes from New York state.”
Even though Olio sources the highest quality ingredients, Kent says his shop hasn’t increased prices in more than five years — and his prices are among the lowest at the market.
Kent began his cooking journey at just seven years old, and has continued to study the science of food since then. He earned his undergraduate degree at USC where he learned how to own and operate his own catering business. This was followed by a jaunt at The Culinary Institute of America in New York to study culinary arts, and a degree in Food Science at Cal State Long Beach.
“I was pursuing food perfection, and I really wanted to get into the science of food to learn chemically what makes food ‘food.’ I was thinking that by understanding it at a molecular level, I could ‘perfect’ it. I became a food scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense working on everything from food rations to the food that ends up in space with NASA. When I was working there, I realized that I could never truly become an expert in food, because it’s just way too broad. That was an amazing opportunity where I had the beautiful experience of working with many food geniuses and decided that I would focus on one food instead. And I’ve been working to perfect pizza since the early 2000s.
When I would work the ovens at Olio, I’d make maybe one or two perfect pizzas a day. To truly ‘perfect’ pizza, you must get every detail right. The dough needs to be the perfect temperature, at the proper degree of fermentation, and stretched the exact right way to make it perfectly tender.
You must use the exact right amount of sauce and the exact right amount of cheese. Every individual part of a pizza is important, and every single element of it is an ingredient. Even the fire, the type of wood you’re using, and the oven itself are ingredients! There’s an art to what we do.”
So what’s his favorite pizza on the Olio menu? The “Margherita Plus.”
“We substitute the mozzarella with fresh burrata. It has double the amount of sauce as normal pizza, and we bake it in the oven without the cheese so the sauce concentrates, and you get this powerful tomato flavor that complements the burrata cheese and the basil olive oil.
It tastes like summer, because that’s when the tomatoes are harvested — within 70 – 80 days of the summer in July and August. It also tastes like fall because that’s when the extra-virgin olive oil is harvested. You even taste the wheat which is grown in the winter, and you have the basil which brings it back to that ‘summer brightness.’ All of those details work together to give the pizza a flavor that offers the best of every season. It has a texture of chewy softness, as well as a balance of acidity, saltiness, freshness — all which complement each other perfectly.”
Kent added: “People love eating at ‘that corner location where they grew up.’ I wanted to recreate that location and be that pizza – so when a kid takes his own kid there 30 years later to give them their first experience with pizza, I wanted to be just that. And I’m pleased to say that we successfully achieved that.”
When SoCal Explorers take the train to Olio Wood Fired Pizzeria at Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles and show their loyalty card, they will receive 10% off their order.