LA Pizza That Doesn’t Suck
I lived in LA for four years at the turn of the century. It was a different time: The country was confused by Reagan’s chimpanzee seated behind the desk in the Oval Office; our world was rattled to its core on 9/11; and hope was still years away. But there are some basic values that have stood true since the birth of this great nation, and back in 2001 we held to them like the last life preservers keeping democracy afloat. These undeniable truths are 1.) Polish jokes never get old, 2.) as Americans we can bomb or blow up anything we like whenever we like, 3.) and if you order pizza outside of the New York metropolitan area it will suck. (Sorry, Chicago. Nice try, though.) Nowhere in this country is that last rule more evident than in LA. During my years there I tried each and every pizzeria in the county, one by one, just to make sure they sucked. The consistency of suck was impressive. There was one place, Vito’s on Vermont, which was the lone exception. Vito was from Elizabeth, New Jersey, and he knew what he was doing. On my lunch breaks I’d drive 30 minutes each way to get a Vito’s slice. One day I showed up, and he was gone. I assumed the other shitty pizzerias had had enough of his sullying up the suck-scale and ran him out of town. (I’m told Vito’s has reopened on La Cienega in Beverly Hills. I don’t need to go there to know Vito has lost his magic—anything with a 90210 zip code sucks.)
Earlier this month I was out in LA filming the last bits of Belladonna’s interviews for her Skinema episodes. I found myself at my buddy/former pro skater Salman Agah’s downtown LA pizzeria, Pizzanista. Naturally, he offered me a slice of pizza. This happens often to East Coasters in LA. Los Angelas as a whole has an insecurity problem, and they’re always seeking validation. Salman wasn’t offering me a slice because I looked hungry; he wanted me to tell him it was good, that it was worthy of a superior palate such as mine. I didn’t want the pizza. Not because I wasn’t hungry, but because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings when I told him it sucked. I also didn’t want to get socked in the mouth by the big fellow, or worse, see him cry.
“So do you want a slice?” The pioneer of switch skating and one of my childhood idols asked as he towered over me.
“Fuck… dude… I don’t want to—”
“Just try it. I want to know what you think.”
There it was. The sentence that I assumed would set up the inevitable death of our friendship.
“It was nice knowing you,” I said as he handed me a pepperoni slice.
I loaded it up with crushed pepper and garlic and oregano and Parmesan cheese and anything I could find to mask the suck I was about to ingest.
“You don’t need all that,” he told me.
I took a deep breath, dove head first into the empty pool of suck, and prepared to die…
But the crash never came. I just kept falling and falling, and God, I don’t even believe I’m saying this… falling in love with a slice of pizza in LA.
I opened my eyes and told him I didn’t understand.
“You don’t like it?”