I don't make it to Pasadena very often but I was there the other day and I took advantage of a place I had heard about called Avanti Cafe. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera but I'll try and paint you a picture.
It is on the corner and has a big sign hanging over the door boasting wood fired gourmet pizza. So I of course had to see what it was all about. I wish having a wood fired oven meant the pizza was going to be a cut above the rest, but just using a wood fire oven isn't going to guarantee good pizza. When I walked in I didn't see the wood fire oven, my eyes went straight to a set of electric ovens. This threw me off at first, but when I turned around I saw the giant wood fired oven, I don't know how I missed it. It kind of blends in with the wall to my defense.
This place had many different styles and topping combinations. Many of which were on display for slices to go. The most interesting to me was the Glazed Apple (glazed sliced apples, garlic, red peppers, gorgonzola, leeks and almonds) I of course didn't get this one, I kind of got confused and ordered the wrong way (it was raining, so my mind was frazzled).
So first I ordered a large cheese pizza, which was 16 inches, they have 2 smaller sizes 12 and 9, I think. Then I realized what I was getting was not the wood fired pizza, it was the regular pizza, that they cook in a regular oven. Why when you have a wood fired oven, would you cook pizza in a deck oven, I don't know. Anyway, on the other side of the menu is a list of what they call their gourmet pizzas, which are all wood fired. They only serve the 12 and 9 inch pizzas here. Because he already rung me up for the regular pizza and I really wanted the wood fired pizza he helped me choose a pizza similar in price on the wood fired side of the menu since I clearly was having problems. I didn't want to be disagreeable at this point so I went with what he recommended which was the Wood Burned Delight. It was 16 dollars, compared to a regular pizza of the same size for 11, though the large is 14.
The Wood Burned Delight was tomato sauce, pepperoni, green and red peppers, onions, black olives and a ricotta cheese mixed with mozzarella. I asked for the olives to be taken off. The only thing I hate worse than mushrooms are olives.
It was pretty decent. The crust wasn't as crispy as I had hoped. The bottom was still kind of doughy and the outer edge had a crunch to it but was dense and very buttery tasting. It wasn't the best crust I've had, I feel like their wood burning oven is going to waste a little. It had a slightly subtle wood flavor, though that might have been in my head. Mainly the butter flavor of the dough turned me off. I had a cheese slice of the regular pie while I waited and the crust didn't seem all that different, though they did warm it up in the wood oven. The regular pie crust was a little flatter and doughy-er. So I guess the wood burning help raise the crust and make it slightly less dense than it was and slightly crispier than it could have been but really I thought the crust just wasn't anything to rave about. The rest of the pizza was good, well above average. The topping worked well together, there was the right amount of everything, including cheese and sauce. The peppers and onions were under the cheese. The sauce was not really on the sweet side, it had a lot of flavor and spices throughout it. It was light and fresh tasting, not like heavier pasta sauce. The cheese was my favorite. It had a light covering of mozzarella, but underneath there was a mix of ricotta. Mixed into the sauce and cheese. It really gave the pizza an extra flavor boost, a creamier rich flavor, but not over powering.
Probably a couple dollars more than I would want to spend, definitely this is a place to go for the respect it gives to interesting toppings. Though other than the apple one not completely original, but still exciting. The wood fired oven takes the pizza from a 2.5 to a very generous 3. Though if they had the right dough, this could be a easy 4 or higher.
111 N. Lake Ave Pasadena
626 577 4688