Mozza mania

Maybe you think “amore” is the most beautiful word in the Italian language. Or, sentimental gents will opt for “mamma.” For me — fanatical foodie that I am — it’s “mozzarella.”

Oh, not those desiccated droppings easily mistaken for sawdust on El Cheapo’s pizza; that’s like equating Champagne with Cook’s, until you get a sip of Piper-Heidsieck. Freshly made mozz is soft and creamy, a nubile, alabaster globe — the star of a Caprese salad, for instance. And the icon on which the concept-meisters of Parasole are betting the farm.

Mozza Mia, their newest venture, inhabits the former Tejas space in downtown Edina, given an urbane, industrio-chic makeover of wood-slatted booths, butcherblock tables and cement floor (as well as counter seating to watch the culinary Olympics just beyond). And its menu is dead simple: mozzarella, pizza, and that’s it (OK, two salads and a daily hot dish, too). You crave spaghetti carbonara or chicken cacciatore, padrone? Sorry, out of luck.

Or not. What’s luckier than mozzarella made fresh daily and offered up in several variations on the theme? Best plan is to grab a pal or two and order the generous mozzarella grand tasting ($24, serves four to six). Served with a scoop of spicy giardiniera (pickled veggies), wonderfully lusty wood-grilled crostini and flask of olive oil, it showcases several elegant riffs on the soft and subtle cheese. Loved, loved, loved the simple, bouncy mozzarella ball, squeaky-fresh and attended by leaves of basil. Also the rollatini — mozzarella hand-rolled over a slick of the filling del giorno. And the extra-delicate fior di latte plus, in sharp contrast, the ardently smoky bufala version. And the creamy burrata wrap. Oh, and the ricotta! It’s freeform, delicate and extra-moist. After eating our fill, the four of us were ready to call for our check, or the paramedics.

Instead we called for a pizza. The Calabrese version, to be precise (pizzas $16 range). Its dense, blistered, wood-fired crust came piled with tasty sprinkles of house-made fennel sausage, more creamy mozzarella curls, leaves of Swiss chard to cut the richness and add texture, and dangerously divine circlets of chili peppers.

As for dessert, go for the Sgroppini, a concoction of homemade limoncello, lemon gelato, cream and citrus vodka.

Mozza Mia
3910 W. 50th St., Edina