Since we broke word last Spring about Hollywood Pie's new permanent location, deep dish fans and loyal customers have been eagerly awaiting the opening. Expect extended hours (though now closed Mondays and Tuesdays) and a few new specialty menu items. Though they hadn't been "officially" open for dine-in until this weekend, pie-curious locals have been randomly showing up to the barely-finished space for pick-up orders and a sneak peak of their new neighbor.
Thrust into the spotlight in June 2011, thanks to an outing by the Eater LA, Hollywood Pies has achieved the type of success many startup restaurants could only dream of having in such a short amount of time. And with a little help from repeat pie-hards and better known customers like Shonda Rhimes and Jessie Williams, owner David Miscimarra has proven that you don't have to be Mario Batali to run a successful pizza business.
So, why the delay to open? Although the location had been secured early last year, it had remained under wraps for a long while. Successfully surviving on pick-up orders and delivery for the past two-years, the addition of serving dine-in customers is a big shift and Miscimarra told us simply, "they wanted to be ready."
Squid Ink recently sat down with the (not-so) "mysterious" owner of L.A.'s favorite
Chicago Hollywood deep dish pizza to get the scoop on what customers can expect at the new location. He talks to us about the secret to great deep dish, his thoughts on being described as a "drive-by-pizza-drug-deal" and becoming an unlikely pizza man.
David Miscimarra: Well, I think the sign helps. It helps to finally give it a face. It's not going to be a full-service restaurant. We're calling it, dine-in. It'll be casual, but I'm not going to do paper plates or anything like that. We're going to have real plates and silverware -- It'll be somewhere in between Mozza and Joe's ... a comfortable place for people to come and eat pizza but without the scene.
SI: Right now, your website features 12 different types of deep dish. What changes can customers expect?
DM: Well, we are not going to be changing our website's menu. That's 'Hollywood Pies' and this here is almost a separate business model. It's going to be a little pizzeria. Whatever you see on the chalkboard is going to be for dine-in guests only. We're hoping this will serve as a cozy place for the neighborhood and whomever wants to come by, bring a bottle of wine, eat pizza and listen to some good music.
SI: We dig the bright orange walls, big windows and relaxed feel of the space. How did you consider the design?
DM: Typically what you would find in Chicago, is a place that's most of all, comfortable. Nowadays restaurants are so sterile and noisy with harsh surfaces, marble and metal chairs. It doesn't feel welcoming. I designed and thought up everything you see, from the pizza to the tables. It's fun for me, as I'm a design engineer by trade. I like to build things. There will be no TV's or anything like that. I want people to come and actually talk to the people they come in with. I am not a fan of people on cell phones and all this 'noise.'
SI: And the menu?
DM: In addition to the deep dish, there will be various salads, cannolis and maybe even dinner specials on certain nights like chicken vesuvio, homemade meatballs and angel hair pasta. I did consider doing a thin crust version, as I'm Italian and I wanted to offer the option, but ultimately our customers know us for our deep dish, so why confuse people? I may still offer it as a special on some nights. For drinks I'd love to make homemade ginger beer or grape soda, like the real way with the carbonation that comes from the fermentation.
SI: Do you know how to do that?
DM: I've never come across anything I couldn't figure out. Follow the directions. It's all just a process.
SI: Do you consider yourself a cook or a "pizza man?"
DM: I think it's one and the same. Knowing how each ingredient reacts with one another in the whole scheme of things, you sort of have to know how to cook. I used to volunteer to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family and everything was from scratch. Learning, I would sit and watch my sister and my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. When you pay attention and watch someone for 20 years, you begin to pick up a few things. Watching them make applesauce from whole apples, it sort of demystified the whole cooking process of food in general for me.
SI: Years after you passed up a businesses opportunity to invest in a friend's (now very successful) pizza establishment in Atlanta, you decided to open up your own pizza place. Essentially you're a guy from Philly making Chicago-style pizza in Los Angeles. Explain how all this came about?
DM: I was born just north of Pittsburgh. I lived in Chicago for close to 12 years and that's where I most consider home. Chicago has great memories for me. I was working as an engineer when I was there and then I moved to San Diego. My girlfriend and I looked around and noticed that L.A. didn't really have any (good) deep dish. San Diego already had Berkley Pizza. The owner, who went to grad school at UC Berkley, based it off of Zachary's and Little Star in San Francisco. I wanted a challenge. I had dabbled with making deep dish pizza at home and I would often make it for my friends and co-workers. The recipe just evolved from my kitchen. It hasn't changed much since we first started out. I didn't try to duplicate anything from Chicago. It's an authentic Chicago deep dish recipe. The two key elements being the crust and the sauce. People compare us to Lou Malnati's and Gino's East, and those are awesome compliments.
SI: We no longer need to smuggle pizza in our suitcases back from Chicago. Thanks for that! What's your secret to a great deep dish?
DM: Use high-end ingredients; the sauce, the cheese, the dough. That right there is your flavor. What more do you need? I think the finest Italian cooking is the simplest. The guy that I admire the most is Mario Batali. He cooks quality ingredients very simply. Also, don't over mix the dough!
SI: Why the name "Hollywood Pies?"