6116 1/2 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90035 (map); 323-337-3212 ; hollywoodpies.com
Pizza Style: Chicago Deep Dish
Pizza Oven: Gas
The Skinny: The finest deep dish pizza in Los Angeles.
Price: Large Cheese, $19; Sausage ala Zweig, $27; Chicago Classic, $26
When Hollywood Pies opened up in June of 2011, the operation seemed mysterious...maybe even a little sketchy. Purveyors of deep dish Chicago-style pizza, they would deliver just about anywhere, but if you wanted pick-up, you had to show up at some random corner on La Cienaga (near a strip club and a defunct Mexican restaurant) and wait for someone to magically appear with your seemingly five-pound pie. More strange than that? It was actually really good. Fairly quickly, the pick-up spot moved to downtown outside a dance club ("look for the line of EDM fans in ironic tank tops and furry boots"), then back over to Robertson, before finally settling in the quiet section of Pico of which they now reside.
The moves appear to be over now with news that they're opening up a storefront with seating, but to be honest I'm almost dreading it. Part of the allure has always been the enigma. Who exactly is making these pies? Are they cooking out of someone's house? Is this even legal? Going to get pizza was suddenly a little dangerous (and a lot of fun), and I'm sorry to see the era ending. But it turns out the truth ain't so bad, either.
Hollywood Pies is the brainchild of David Miscimarra, a Pittsburgh native who did time in the Windy City before settling in San Diego. Miscimarra used his engineering background, a la Jeff Varasano, to work up his ideal version of a deep dish pie, and when his friends lost their stuffing over the results, he decided to quit his day job and go pro. He and his girlfriend correctly identified Los Angeles as a city seriously lacking in the deep dish department, and they rented out a series of commercial kitchens (thus the odd pickup areas) while searching for a permanent home.
For Chicago transplants looking for a landmark, Hollywood Pies is more Gino's East than Lou Malnati. It's crisp but thick at the ends (maybe a little too thick), and even though there's the requisite lake of cheese oozing across the base, those inclined could easily scoop up a whole slice and take a bite. While I'm usually content going Margherita, I'm a firm believer that Chicago-style pizza necessitates sausage in some form (or many) and David must agree because there's pork on literally half of the menu. The Classic Chicago has small chunks of sweet sausage swimming in mozzarella and house-made ricotta, and the Sausage a la Zweig offers a fairly thick pork patty manhole that covers the entire pie. Of the two, I actually like the more reserved Classic. There's a lot less meat but I think you get way more bang for the buck in the flavor department, and the milky, fresh ricotta balances out the chunky sauce that's occasionally overflowing with a little too much garlic.
I would probably never order a straight cheese pie from Hollywood Pies, but I'm also keenly aware that I'm living in a city that is slowly and surely becoming disgusted by meat, thanks to a thriving vegetarian community. So to best serve the city, The Vegetarian Foodie herself, Slice correspondent Kelly Bone, volunteered her services for you, the people. I now hand you over to her capable hands.
Kelly: I'm hardly disgusted, but why add distraction to Hollywood Pie's Cheese ($13/$19) deep dish? I love toppings. But when it comes to Chicago-style, I demand to be thumb deep in great mozzarella and brazen tomato sauce—nothing else. Deep dish pizza is a sloppy punch to the gut; I have no want to arm it with brass knuckles of sausage. At Hollywood Pies, the vegetable toppings add more to the tab than to the flavor of the pie. Or worst, dilute the star ingredients. Such as their Spinach pizza ($15/$25), where a paper thin sheet of (albeit fresh) greens and ultra mild ricotta temper the whole-milk mozzarella and garlic-laced tomato sauce. This temperament may be needed when sausage joins the party; but not when getting down to business with a slab of top-shelf mozzarella.
The crust does all that is needed to balance the sauce. Thick with a dry, biscuit-like crumb, the crust is flecked with cornmeal and minimal salt. Some lament this background quality, but it plays the supporting role in the high-pitched solo of the sauce. Brimming with garlic—teetering on the verge of overwhelming—the crust tames the pulpy layer of tomatoes. Still, the sauce lingers on your breath, but more importantly, on your mind.
For a milder approach, ordering a pie "Native Style" ( add $2) precludes garlic; replacing the sauce with whole crushed tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano. The juicy knots of tomatoes settle into a mountainous landscape as any leftover liquid evaporates in the oven. This leaves behind a lush layer of sweet, nearly roasted tomatoes that are almost as superb as the sauce.
That said, sometimes I do want to jazz up the cheese deep dish. Maintaining regionality, I spike the pie in spicy Italian giardiniera. Perhaps Hollywood Pies will have these hot pickled vegetables as a dine-in condiment—fingers crossed.
Lance: Co-signed. Well, mostly. After having the Native Style, I was surprised by how much I preferred the bright crushed tomatoes to the regular sauce, though it does lay the crust a little bare. I should also note that I experimented a bit with the Gable (mushrooms, pepperoni, black olives) and probably wouldn't go back. The ingredients at Hollywood Pies are almost uniformly good, but I could barely taste the pepperoni—even when I picked one out to eat it separately.
There are other options for deep dish pizza in Los Angeles (okay, four to be exact), but Kelly and I can assure you, Hollywood Pies is the one to beat—with or without the danger. Just stick to the sausage (Kelly's note: or the cheese!) and everything will be fine.