Food Humor

Is It Good? Blaze Pizza


Blaze Pizza solves the biggest problem in the pizza business: how long it takes to make a pizza. Making a pizza takes forever. By the time you drive to a pizza joint, wait for the waiter to take your order, put in your order and then pick at a salad while the restaurant’s wood-fire authentic Tuscan Italian brick oven takes one complete World Cup qualifying and tournament cycle to make your pizza, you are dead because you can’t live for four years on one small side salad.

Blaze Pizza, with its aggressive orange color scheme and flame logo, is all “Eff that. Hurry up and pick some toppings, and we’ll nuke your artisanal pizza in 180 seconds, you go-getter, you.”

That’s 175 seconds too long, but it’s progress.

I recently checked out the Blaze Pizza at The Grove Farmer’s Market.

Just like Chipotle, there’s an ingredient line, and you can customize your pie.


We didn’t customize because my wife didn’t want to see how high I could get the workers to stack jalapenos on a pizza before a manager got involved, but customizing is an option. If you want mushrooms and applewood bacon–you got it. If you want chicken, sausage, pepperoni and meatballs–they’ll do it. If you have enemies, you can slide a piece of paper across the counter with a name and address and “things happen,” no questions asked. They really aim to please.

Our pizza topping sherpa was training a new employee, and the new employee was timid with the toppings, and the veteran employee kept throwing more on. This is exactly what I like in a food establishment–wanton disregard for efficiency in exchange for maximum customer satisfaction. We ordered the Red Vine  (ovalini mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, basil, red sauce, olive oil drizzle) off the Signature Menu. This is what it looked like. You can tell from the lack of dead animals and spices that my wife selected it.


The crust was thin, which was fine by me, because I prefer tasting ingredients over chewing a pound of white bread. The ingredients were fresh, and half a pizza was the perfect amount of food. We also had salads and drinks. The whole thing came to $20. Not bad for a date-night meal before a movie.

And so now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Blaze Pizza: Is it good?

It is.

Blaze Pizza is good.

When I want world-class pizza, I will go to Mozza. When I want volume, I will go to Shakey’s. When I want to eat a pizza at lunch on a workday without having to wolf down three slices in five minutes because it took 55 minutes for the pizza to reach the table, I will go to Blaze.

- @joedonatelli


Is it Good? iPic Theater


Well, that’s it. All other movie theaters are ruined for me forever. (SETS ARCLIGHT MEMBERSHIP CARD ON FIRE.) I’ll never go to another one without comparing it to the iPic. Thank you, iPic. Damn you, iPic.  You’re the best. And the worst. I love you. And I hate you.

The iPic in Westwood is a premium movie theater experience featuring reclining chairs with soft blankets and pillows. I could stop describing it right there, and it would stand as the most comfortable movie theater experience I’ve ever had. It’s like flying first class in a movie theater. Somewhere else in the world suckers are paying good money to sit upright in movie theaters while you lounge in the theater like you’re in your own living room. But that’s not all.

The iPic also offers drinks and food delivered to your seat by a courteous wait staff. The food is OK and pricey (if you’re not one of the high-paid lawyers or UCLA types who works nearby), but you get to eat it at a table at your seat, and it’s far tastier than your traditional movie theater hot dog that may or may not actually be made of recognizable animal parts.

iPic is movies for the, well, not 1 Percent. Wherever the 1 Percent watches the secret good movies that are never released to the public probably isn’t open to guys like me. Let’s say The 5 Percent. The iPic is movies for the 5 Percent.


The iPic also has a restaurant and a bar. For some reason the music and vibe outside of the theaters themselves is ootz-da-da-ootz Jean Ralphio, like some kind of trendy-dance-club-meets-Beverly-Hills-Asian-fusion-restaurant. Can an establishment offer both Junior Mints and bottle service? The iPic may one day answer that question.

But these are just tiny quibbles that stand in the shadow of the main attraction. It’s the chairs that make the iPic. If you’ve read an “Is it Good?” before, you know seating is one of my top two main factors in whether I enjoy an experience that requires me to leave my home. Human beings are not meant to sit upright for two-and-half hours, which is what most movie theaters demand. It’s not the worst discomfort in the world. There are people in refugee camps who stand in line all day for food, so I’m not about to complain that movie theater seats make me slightly achy, but if a movie isn’t good, you do notice your discomfort, and you just can’t wait for the thing to end. That isn’t a great use of $16.

Not a problem at the iPic.

I saw a mediocre movie–Jersey Boys–and enjoyed every minute of it because the chair was just so damn comfortable. It was soft. It was orange, which I liked for some reason. It reclined. You could spread out. You could kick your feet up. You could build a little fort, which I thought about doing during Jersey Boys, a movie that suffered from the classic biopic problem of trying to show you everything and actually showing you nothing.

The thing the iPic lacked was that we’re-all-packed-like-sardines-and-we’re-going-to-experience-this-movie-together feeling you get during a movie at a non-deluxe theater. For a film like Jersey Boys, it didn’t matter. But for a movie where you’re like, “Can you believe this movie? It’s amazing!” you’d lose some of that community–the salty, buttery touch of the common man.

It’s a premium experience, and you pay for the premium. Tickets are $19 if you’re a member, $29 if you’re not. Tickets do come with complimentary small popcorn, which is no small purchase in Los Angeles. Call it a savings of $5, at least.

And now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

iPic: Is it good?

It is.

iPic is good.

It’s The Titanic of places you could possibly see The Titanic.


- Twitter:@joedonatelli


Is it Good? Tart Restaurant


I get invited to events because I’m married to one of Los Angeles’s top food, travel and lifestyle writersI’ve also been a lifestyle writer myself. I go to so many restaurants and bars and happenings and have so much to say about these experiences that I’ve decided to start a new feature on this site called “Is it Good?”

“Is it Good?” answers the main question everyone asks when they’ve heard you visited a restaurant or a bar.

They want to know, “Is it Good?”

Then you explain, “Yeah, it’s good.” Or you say, “No, it’s not that good.” Or: “It could be good if…”

Each “Is It Good?” will weight the following factors in a bar or restaurant that are important to me.

They are, in this order:

1. Is the food delicious?
It usually is, but sometimes it isn’t. Generally speaking, the better the view, the worse the food. Bad views generally mean better food. That’s not the deal all the time–you can find places that blend good food and good view–but it does explain why some of the best food in LA is in strip malls.

2. Was my chair comfortable?
This one is huge. I can’t tell you how many meals I have not enjoyed because my chair was uncomfortable. “So,” the PR rep will tell us, “the owner’s wife actually purchased the restaurant’s chairs from a Swedish grade school. Isn’t that eclectic?” No. It’s painful. My spine is in agony. The left side of my face is numb. I’m losing my vision. Just let me lay down on the floor. Restaurant designers and owners operate under the delusion that the people eating their chefs’ million-calorie meals will somehow shrink over time. We’re not all 6-year-old Swedish boys, restaurant people. Some of us need fat-people chairs.

3. How was the booze?
Extra points for good bourbon, whiskey or something spicy.

4. Parking?
Was I able to find parking without circling the block several times while crying into my steering wheel?

5. Did the men’s room offer enough privacy?
How was the urinal spacing? Were there dividers? What was the depth of the dividers? Was there enough privacy to operate with 100 percent efficiency? If there was a #yesallmen, this topic would be my No. 1 concern.

ear-trumpet6. Was the restaurant too loud?
If the waiter has to shout the specials while I hold one of these old-timey listening things in my ear, your restaurant is too loud.

7. How was the staff?
It’s impressive to meet a server who knows EXACTLY how the chef prepares the various dishes. There are a lot of great servers in Los Angeles, and I think this is mainly due to the fact that producers keep giving the same 14 actors all of the good TV and movie roles.

8. Did the establishment try anything new?
Is there a combination of foods, flavors or presentations that makes me want to whip out my phone and annoy my friends on Instagram with another shot of someone else’s dinner?

Let’s get to our first, “Is it Good?”

Recently we were invited to check out Tart, the restaurant adjacent to the Farmer’s Daughter hotel on Fairfax. Chef Nick Erven previewed his summer menu. The food was terrific, and I’m not just saying that because we ate for free and were served several glasses of delicious wine from countries I didn’t know made wine. The big deal for me was that the fried chicken and waffles had Tabasco-infused syrup.

You can’t deny fried chicken and waffles. They’re amazing. But when when every chef in town is doing his or her own “comfort food” menu, how do you stand apart from the crowd? You infuse your syrup with hot sauce, that’s how. The dish was perfect, and it hit every important food group–your hot sauces and liquid sugars and fried meats and ridged breads.

More pics of the food are up on my Instagram page.

tart-wet-wild-pool-warriorsTart had one more surprise for us. My wife and I get out quite a bit because of her job, and we know a lot of the fun things to do in Los Angeles. But for some reason we’d never heard of the Tart Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. As it was explained to us: Anyone who jumps in the adjacent Farmer’s Daughter Hotel pool during brunch gets half off their meal. If you jump in with your phone, the whole meal is free. (It’s not that ludicrous. I’ve owned several phones that would’ve made me money on that deal.)

The jumping into the pool generally occurs after many bottomless mimosas or gigantic “punch” bowls are consumed. In Los Angeles we nonchalantly call such behavior “day drinking,” but in other parts of the country it’s still referred to as, “Jim’s been having a hard time.”

In any case, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard of the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors, so I went online and sure enough…

Via @mrscantz

Via Pop and Sizzle


Via Farmer’s Daughter Hotel Facebook page




Via @valentijnhere

And KTLA ran a segment on the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. I would have embedded it, but the pre-roll ad starts playing automatically, and I ain’t down with that.

And so the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Tart: Is it good?

It is.

Tart is good.

It is Tabasco-infused syrup good.

- @joedonatelli

UPDATE: I have been asked on Facebook if we jumped. No. It was dinner, and the half-off deal is for brunch. Plus, it was kind of a fancy press thingy. But we will jump next time we come back for brunch, and I’ll post pics.


Mad X-Men


Like a John Deere riding mower run amok,  my friends who brought the world House of Thrones have released their follow-up effort, “Mad X-Men: Don Draper’s Future Past.” Once again the video features Ross Marquand (this time as Draper) and is directed by Oren Kaplan. It’s solid throughout, and Quizno’s shows how cool it is by allowing the product placement to occur at the worst possible moment.


Maybe I Can Publicly Shame Myself Into Losing Weight


Like Dewey Oxburger there, I have a problem–a weight problem.

I’ve tried losing weight on my own, and it just doesn’t work. For a year I kept a spreadsheet with my weight on it, which I thought would prove the motivation and data I needed to drop some lbs. When I started tracking my weight on March 13, 2013, I weighed 194.8 pounds. On May 14, 2014 I weighed 196.6 pounds. The net effect of keeping a weight journal was that I gained more weight. Is it because I ate this weight journal? Possibly? I seemed to eat everything else in sight during the last year.

More likely, though, is the weight journal allowed me to labor under the illusion that I was doing something when I was not really doing much at all.

My goal is to get down to 185, which is still overweight, but–and this is the key factor–it is less overweight. Along the way I’ll add in some details that might explain my weight fluctuations. I’m hoping that by making my struggle public it will force me into making good decisions.

185.0 (-11.6 pounds) 
Goal weight achieved! Do they make a lasagna-lovers pizza? Because that’s a thing I would like to eat right now to celebrate. (Just kidding. I ate half an almond to celebrate.)


186.8 (-9.8 pounds)
I haven’t been to a buffet in weeks. Worried about the crushing affect my decisions are having on LA’s buffet restaurant community. There is a dark side to weight loss.

7-11-14 (-8 pounds)
188.6 I think I’ll hit 185 (my goal weight) in a week or two. I’m not missing the extra food and booze anymore. My jeans are looser, and Jen says I look slimmer from behind. (Hey, eyes up here, wife. I have a face, you know.)

7-8-14 (-6.8 pounds)
189.8 Broke past 190! I can’t imagine what my weight would be if I hadn’t inhaled bacon-wrapped hot dogs, beers and potato salad over the 4th of July holiday weekend. 145? 112? 6? I don’t know. I ate a lot. But I also ate smart the rest of the weekend and stayed active. Anyways, can’t remember last time I was on the right side of 190. Probably my wedding. It feels good. I’m starting to focus more on how good it feels to lose weight as opposed to how good food shoved into my face tastes. It’s been a tough switch, and I have the old fatty mom jeans in my closet that prove it.

7-3-14 (-5 pounds)
190.6 Pretty proud of my weight, considering I sat in the Dodgers’ All You Can Eat Section this week and consumed Nachos Donatelli, which are nachos covered with the limited toppings available in the Dodgers’ All You Can Eat Section. It was not undelicious.

6-10-14 (-4.4)
191.2 Last night I met up with two old college friends and turned down beer. I’m sorry, beer, but this day was inevitable. I’ll still see you on special occasions. Promise.

6-8-14 (-3.8)
192.8 I have been receiving encouragement from friends, which really helps. My buddy Mike sent me a long email detailing his efforts to keep the weight off through diet and strength training. He pointed out a really obvious thing – peanuts. I snack on them all the time. So does he. (Or at least, he used to.) They’re loaded with calories. I ran out of peanuts this week, and the weight started coming off. I’m not going to lay all the blame on Big Monocled Peanut. Cutting back on portions and wine has no doubt helped as well. It’s the accumulated effort of a lot of little things, which is boring, which is probably why the boring approach doesn’t sell as many books, videos and seminars as more drastic measures. Anyways, I’ll see you in hell, Mr. Peanut.

6-4-13 (-2.2)
194.2 Nice. I am cutting back my portions even more. And laying off the evening wine/cocktail. And exercising. You know, all that boring stuff they say to do? It seems to work. There is no joy in it — happiness is but a fleeting memory — but I do like the idea that I might soon be able to fit into my goal jeans. (Yes, I own goal jeans. Those are the jeans I will be able to fit into when I hit my weight loss goal. I can’t decide if that’s charming or idiotic. I’m going to say charming because that makes me sound like less of a loser.)

5-30-14 (-.8)
195.8 Back to eating healthy again and walking. I am determined to make this work. I said for the millionth time.

5-29-14 (+1.2)
197.8 Went to Ohio for a few days for a funeral. Ate and ate and ate my way through the sadness. Sad funeral eating is the most easily justified eating. Lasagna cannot fill the hole in my heart, but that did not stop me from trying.

5-22-14 (-1.8 pounds)
194.8 Now that’s what I’m talking about. I’ve cut my portions and am exercising more. Drastic measures are sometimes called for. (Yes, I know this is what you’re supposed to do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.) Exercise: Jumped rope for 30 minutes and walked for 30 minutes.

5-21-14 (Same)
195.8 This is ridiculous. From here on I am cutting my portions by 1/3. Take that, happiness. Exercise: Walked 30 minutes.

5-20-14 (-.8)
195.8 Did everything right yesterday. Wife reminded me that sometimes changes are reflected later, which is true but does not alleviate my need for immediate gratification NOW THIS MINUTE, DAMN IT. Exercise: Walked 30 minutes.

5-19-14 (Same)
195.6 I went down the carb hole. First I ate a sandwich on healthy all-wheat bread for lunch – that’s a lot of bread for me. Then for dinner I had a dozen or so tortilla chips and guac … and a flauta filled with sweet potatoes … and a glass of lemonade. Dios mio! Exercise: Walked 30 minutes.

5-18-14 (Same)
195.6 Damn it. Ate a great breakfast and lunch. (Proteins and vegetables, mainly.) Was out all night last night and had some poutine (which is French-Canadian for “expensive fries and gravy”) and two glasses of red wine, which I’m thinking may have been a factor. Exercise: Cleaned the house for two hours.

5-16-14 (-1 pound)
195.6 Woo. Progress. I am now only 10.6 pounds from my goal. I give all the credit to self-control. Jen (my wife) and I went to an event at a nice restaurant last night with an open bar and all-you-can eat food. I had three sips of a margarita and two small plates of seafood. I avoided the booze and the breads. The restaurant, FYI, was Red O. The salmon ceviche is excellent. The desserts? I have no idea. I’m on a public shame diet. I avoided that table like it was covered in Denver Broncos Super Bowl memorabilia. Exercise: Jumped rope for 30 minutes.

5-15-14 (Same)
196.6 The same? Gah! I give up. I ate well for 24 WHOLE HOURS–only cheated with one glass of wine. I should have lost at least eight or nine pounds, by my reckoning. This is BS. I quit. I give up. I HATE THIS HOUSE. Exercise: 100 push-ups and 50 sit-ups.

196.6 Ate four slices of thin-crust pizza last night for dinner–but I did not eat the crusts. Because…why should anyone be happy? I also ate a baked dessert ravioli with Nutella stuffing. Worth noting: These decisions only seemed like bad ideas much LATER. Exercise: I jumped rope for 25 minutes.

This hasn’t been a simple journey. This effort marks the frustrated culmination of decades of shame and delusion. True story: I wore a sweater from first through seventh grade–every day, no matter how hot it was–to my Catholic grade school to hide my moobs. (Aaaaand that’s a column for another time.) My weight loss journey has been a carnival–nay, a buffet–or errors, a veritable lo mein bowl of regret topped with the orange chicken of sadness. That is why I am counting on you, the fortune cookie of public shame, to keep me in check.

- @joedonatelli 


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