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Mojo risin'

Oakhurst pizzeria puts a spin on pie


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You can put anything and the kitchen sink on top of a pizza, but pepperoni is the standard by which other toppings are judged. Those slices of spicy sausage, chewy enough to contrast with the cheese and crust, flat enough to keep pies two-dimensional, salty and meaty enough to satisfy carnivores, tend to be the coin of the realm -- if pizza toppings qualify as a "realm."

Mojo Pizza Pub in Oakhurst does pepperoni as well as any other pizzeria, but offers some viable alternatives as well. Nearly 30 meat and veggie toppings are available, from the usual suspects (ground beef, olives, etc.) to less predictable offerings like breaded eggplant. Try a slice with crumbled bits of smoked bacon for a different kind of tangy crunchiness, or another with morsels of pulled pork, with the memory of barbecue sauce and bits of fleshy pork meat adding new factors to a pizza's flavor.

The garlic shrimp topping sounded especially exciting, although it was a let-down at first sight. Remembering the plump shellfish on C.K.'s Wood-Grilled Gamberian pie, the shrimp Mojo offers look puny, about the size of erasers on pencils. But while they add little noticeable texture, the assertive garlic and more subtle shrimp flavor add up to a surprisingly pleasing overall taste.

Occupying the corner of East Lake Drive and Oakview, Mojo proves unexpectedly spacious for a bohemian hangout. Beams are exposed on the high ceiling, the yellow-painted walls feature patches of exposed brick, and the wrought iron making up the bar looks as though it could withstand a siege. Funky artwork hangs on the wall and a huge Howard Finster-like head sits on the floor.

Like its neighbor the Universal Joint, Mojo makes an excellent neighborhood bar. The menu lists more than 50 beers and wines, with specials including Guinness at $2 a glass. There are five arcade games, and aging Gen-Xers will be especially impressed and nostalgic at the sight of the vintage combination Galaga/Ms. Pac-Man tabletop model.

The vibe is so much like a Fellini's pizzeria that it's a surprise when Mojo's digresses from that formula, as with 96 Rock perpetually playing on the speakers or the lack of white pizza on the menu -- which does feature other specialty pies such as Mojo Meat Lovers and Mojo Mediterranean. The kitchen offers some fine flourishes to the food, such as the presence of red pepper in the tomato sauce, which gives the pizzas an extra kick.

On individual slices ($1.50 plus toppings), the crust can be a bit too thin and crisp, but the 14- and 18-inch pies ($8.50 and $9.75 plus toppings) are thick enough to have the ideal chewiness. The roasted sesame seeds on the crust are a nice touch, although they can seem an accessory for the eyes more than the tongue.

Mojo's menu isn't limited to pizza. It includes a variety of pastas (lasagna, ravioli, linguini) with a choice of sauces, as well as the de rigueur side salads. The three cheese calzone ($5.25) with marinara sauce on the side could use a little more garlic (perhaps the shrimp would be the ideal accompaniment), but effectively silences the most vocal hunger pangs.

Of all the casual, creative places to eat in Oakhurst, Mojo may be the most agreeable, and given how few patrons have been there during my visits, it seems definitely under-discovered.



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