Ed LaDou, 1955-2007 January 8, 2008Posted by Jeff in In memoriam, Zook.
Above: Ed LaDou shows a pizza topped with lamb sausage, lemon grilled eggplant, roasted garlic, feta, mozzarella and kalamata olives
My brother Marcus, like me a long-time pizza fanatic, has fallen in love with the pizza at a wonderful little joint in Micanopy, Florida called Blue Highway. I certainly share his enthusiasm for the place, but I told him the next time he came to visit me I was going to take him to the shrine of California pizza, the Caioti Pizza Café in Studio City.
Imagine my shock upon returning to L. A., to learn that on the very day we had most recently gone to Blue Highway, the high priest of the California pizza cult, the man you have to thank if you’ve ever had barbecue chicken on a pizza, had passed away of cancer at the age of fifty-two.
The first time I had ever heard of “gourmet pizza” was in connection with Wolfgang Puck. Puck had first eaten a LaDou pizza at Prego in San Francisco, and convinced him to come to Los Angeles to work at the first Spago restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Later, after breaking off with Puck (who subsequently took personal credit for Ed’s recipes), LaDou designed the original menu for the California Pizza Kitchen chain.
By the time he started the first Caioti in Laurel Canyon, LaDou had been making pizza in semi-anonymity for almost twenty years. By a weird fluke, Caioti first became famous, not for the pizza, but because the romaine and watercress salad with balsamic dressing acquired a reputation for inducing labor in overdue pregnant women. (Only in L. A. …)
As it is for any great pizza, the key to a LaDou pie is the crust: soft but crisp, never yeasty, capable of holding and complimenting the wonderful ingredients. The pizza you see above is my personal favorite; it is, quite simply, the best restaurant pizza I have ever had.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ed once; I’m glad to hear that Caioti will continue under the direction of his co-chef Erik MacBeth. Ed will be missed.
People used to ask me if there [is] anything you can’t put on pizza, and my answer still is, ‘Anything that doesn’t taste good.’
— Ed LaDou