David: The first 4 or 5 times we walked by Clusi Batusi, all we could think was: “what is this random pizza place doing here on Sawtelle?” It was the only non-Asian eatery on the strip of Sawtelle Blvd. labeled “Little Osaka,” a destination for sushi, pho, soup dumplings, boba and more. After hearing several friends sing the praises of its thin crust, flash cooked, neapolitan style pizza, we decided to give it a shot.
While the antipasti plate and squid ink pasta were delectable, the pizza was the true standout of the meal. The Cotto & Funghi (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, balsamic mushrooms) was one of 9 specialty pizzas on the menu, but you are more than welcome to build your own creation out of their farmer’s market fresh ingredients. And not only was it fresh, there was a healthy portion of each topping on the perfectly crisp crust.
The owner and chef took time to chat with us as he swirled a glass of wine around (they have a nice but limited selection of beer and wine) and watched the dinner rush wind down. He was truly happy to have us there and took great pride in his creation. While its neighbors Furaibo, ROC, and Tsujita Annex are at least a 30 minute wait during the lunch and dinner rush, it’s pretty likely you can walk right up to Clusi and snag a table during peak hours. So give it a shot next time your name doesn’t seem to be getting any higher on the list for soup dumplings or karaage. You will leave Sawtelle happy even if your carb intake involves more dough than rice.
Jen: FACT: Clusi Batusi is named after the owner’s cat–do I really need to say more or convince you further to patronize this delightful Italian pizzeria??
After looking askance with skeptical eyes at “Clusi Batusi,” a conspicuously Italian eatery on Japanese Sawtelle, for over a year, we were finally swayed to darken its doorway when prompted by fashion blogger and ultra-foodie Tommy Lei of My Belonging. That skinny stylish dude knows food, and he dines at Clusi frequently. I was immediately charmed upon entering the cozy space–the lilt of Italian music, the pizza oven warming the dining room, the clinking of wine glasses.
My glass of Sicilian wine was only $6, served generously with an accompanying carafe. Our antipasti plate was dauntingly gigantic, but the spread of various cured meats and sweet peppers was so delicious that between just the two of us, we managed to polish it off heroically. All of their pastas are homemade in house. Handmade, fresh pasta always trumps dried pasta with its springy, soft texture. The squid ink pasta had a subtle seafood taste, balanced by the acid of the tomato sauce and fresh herbs.
We liked our experience so much that we went back the very next week with our friend Noelle. The three of us started with the bruschetta, a hearty concoction topped with kale and an expertly fried egg. We had the Cotto & Funghi pizza again, but we also ventured to order the Spicy Meatball pizza. The sprinkling of peperoncinis added a bright kick to the robust meatballs. The ravioli was delicate and beautiful, dressed with just a drizzle of light cream sauce.
The best part of the meal was when we chatted with the friendly owner, a young Italian that introduced himself as Michele (the Italian version of “Michael”). It warms my heart to see small businesses thrive. I left rooting for Michele and Clusi =^._.^=