When in LA…Where the Sun Sets: Pizza, Need I Say More?
It’s Friday evening and I find myself on the outskirts of Beverly Hills cutting through side streets. The coast is behind me and I’m heading to West Hollywood to pick up a friend for dinner. Google Maps has taken me on a faster route away from major boulevards and streets with names I recognize. With my window down I pass by million dollar homes with green grass and large trees overhead-there is a cool breeze. In Los Angeles the neighborhoods can change quickly though, evident by the stark contrast twenty minutes later as my friend and I are making our way towards downtown. We are in an area, like most of Los Angeles, that is lined with multi-family homes, no personal yards and poorly lit shopping centers on the corner. As we pass by a row of apartments with garages only inches from the sidewalk and feet from the street, there is an open garage with a make-shift taco stand by the road. Created only out of a couple chairs and a folding table, proof that you can always find some unique eats in places where you’d least expect.
My friend and I are on our way to arguable the best pizza spot in all of the city. I’m biased though because it is suppose to be New York style pizza in LA, for me this tops any list. Pizzanista! is located just across the 7th street bridge intersecting with Mateo Street in the Arts District of Los Angeles. An up and coming community bordering the Los Angeles river, Little Tokyo, the city sky scrapers and the infamous community of homeless tents known as Skid Row. The area is safe, let me immediate say that. The city has taken care to move and place the homeless out of sight of the area. Instead we find, as we park on a street nearby, renovated warehouses turned into apartment buildings. They have huge glass windows, enchanting vines climbing the walls and restaurants on the ground floor lit with candles and warm yellow lightbulbs.
Pizzanista! is busy. There is a line almost to the door as we walk up.
The spot is owned and ran by an ex-skateboarder whose lifelong passion for the sport and culture is evident in the details of his shop. T-shirts hanging above the cashier have skateboard slogans and motifs from the last couple of decades. One shirt in particular proclaims one must “Skate or Die.” If I can try to skate, fail miserable but then eat a bunch of pizza, I of course will take the first option.
I grab us a couple of House beers from a fridge nearby and while my friend hold’s our place in line, take a look at the types of pizza the joint offers. At Pizzanista! you can order by the slice or a whole pie. There are your standard topping options with cheese, pepperoni, margherita, white pizza (which I am soon to find out is grossly popular) and some unique flavors such as the Meat Jesus featuring various types of meats on top. Show up on a Sunday and the daily special is a hearty mac and cheese pizza.
My initial pizza order is a slice of white and a slice of margherita pizza, but with the popular white still in the oven I go with a classic pepperoni. My friend and I sit on sidewalk barstools on the side of a bar facing into the restaurant. We sip on our beers and enjoy the restaurant from our vantage point. This is interrupted by a police convoy and film crew passing close by on the street. Several motorcycles cops at the front are leading a truck and flatbed trailer with a car resting on the trailer. The car has several actors sitting in the front seats and it is rigged with lights and several cameras. Simulating driving around a city the rig passes by us several times. Each time they pass we stare at the actors in the car wondering who they are, if they are famous. The actors stare right back at us probably wondering what kind of pizza we are having, if they can stop for a slice.
The pizza arrives. It is now time for me to enjoy two large slices of glorious New York style pizza in the heart of Los Angeles- man, is it tasty. Being my favorite type of pizza out there, first is the margherita. The blend of mozzarella cheese, sauce and basil is sweet and rich. Not overloaded with toppings, each bite is a little bit different. Sometimes it is full of mozzarella, sometimes just sauce or an explosion of basil and then sometimes all three. I quickly finish the slice. Next is the pepperoni. The crust has a crunch to it, but not too tough where you feel as if you are gnawing at the pizza like a dog bone. Simple tasty sauce and salty pepperoni.
Pizzanista! offers a classic New York taste by the slice and at a reasonable price. Keep in mind for the next time you find yourself in downtown Los Angeles in search of a unique spot to tell your friends back home about.