On many weekend nights in the early 1960s, the original members of the Beach Boys could be found on Hawthorne Boulevard, among the steady parade of teens in '32 Ford 'little deuce coupes and other souped-up cars, radios blasting, cruising through the parking lot of the A & W Root Beer stand, past the Pizza Show Italian restaurant, up the Boulevard to the Foster's Freeze and back again. After local gigs, Brian Wilson — along with his brothers Dennis and Carl — would pack the party into Pizza Show for slices and old-school Italian food.
Hawthorne has changed considerably since its bucolic, mid-century “Mayberry of the West” days, but the Pizza Show remains. It is virtually identical, inside and out, to the way it was when it opened in 1958. It still serves the same food, including its pizzas, which are made by dough-spinning chefs.
“That's why we call it The Pizza Show,” says Gary Evans, Pizza Show’s second-generation owner.
Evans has photos of his father Jay, Pizza Show’s founder, tossing his own pies back in the late 1950s, when Murry and Audree Wilson (who lived nearby on 119th Street) would bring their sons in. Although the menu has expanded since those days, Evans takes pride in remaining true to his father's original vision.
Gary Evans comes from a family of restaurateurs. His dad, a former New York City cab driver, was encouraged by his pizza-making brother to move the family out to California and open his own restaurant. Jay moved the family to Inglewood in 1955 and opened the original Pizza Show there the following year. (The Inglewood Pizza Show was sold in 1966, shortly after the Watts riots.)
Two years later, he opened the Hawthorne location, where young Gary worked for 50 cents an hour washing dishes. By 18, Gary was running the third Pizza Show, which opened in 1966 in Lawndale, and he stayed there until 2003 when his father retired. The family closed the Lawndale restaurant and Gary returned to the iconic Hawthorne location, where he trains his chefs in the art of pizza tossing.
“It takes a minimum of a year to train properly,” says Gary. “Pizza tossing is a scientific thing, having to do with getting the air bubbles and dough density just right to make the crust crunchy and tasting great.”
A meal at the Pizza Show is a visit to a simpler time, when dessert meant a dish of tri-colored spumoni ice cream and music was only just beginning to reflect the surfing and hot-rod cultures bubbling down the street.
“It's amazing that Hawthorne High School people who met and dated here in the '50s still come,” Gary says. “Their great-great grandkids are starting to come in.”