We’ve noticed a weird coincidence lately. On occasion, we’ll revisit a favorite haunt on a whim, either to satisfying a nagging craving or out of dumb curiosity. Sadly, a now familiar situation has greeted us at several of these grub hubs: peering into the newspaper-taped windows, noticing that fixtures have been plucked from the walls and a solitary, dusty boombox is perched on a barstool. That’s right, an alarmingly high proportion of the restaurants we’ve reviewed over the years have bitten the dust.
Was it something we said? I just learned that “Semisweet”—everyone’s favorite downtown pastry destination, the home of the McFong—has closed. Bittersweet. And then there was “Glazed”—the adult donut bistro in WeHo. Fried. “Old San Juan”—the last of the Moricans in Atwater Village? Mojado (hasta la vista). “Hummus Republic”? The only place downtown to get some jalapeno/cilantro hummus? It’s a wrap. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. We wrote about the “Great British Baking Show” and then they voted to leave the EU. I think Two Men Chew’s seal of approval may be more like a curse!
Who knows what the future holds for those hidden and not-so-hidden spots downtown? The area is changing rapidly. With a few of my favorite destinations now gone, it’s time to explore those dingy little shitholes that I’ve always spotted in my peripheral vision. Those little dives with that idiosyncratic “DTLA” flavor that, for one smell or another, I just never managed to eat at. It’s time for some risky business.
Case in point, the questionably-named possible front for illicit black market dealings: “Pizza Italia—Casa De Pizza.” Come se dice, sketchy? I’d always wondered about the incredibly seductive “Persian pizza” advertised in the window (alongside some other examples of preposterously perfect pizza pies). According to the photo, the Persian looks like a masterwork of the dough arts: a thick, sesame seed-encrusted crust with a colorful array of peppers, olives, and onions. Yep, this is a veggie pizza, but who gives a fuck? It looks pretty.
I go in to order, tripping over a hairy-chested man in a velour sweatsuit. The proprietor eyes me suspiciously. When I told him I wanted to order the Persian, he reacted like a tough guy you see in the movies when there’s about to be a barroom brawl: “Excuse me? I didn’t hear what you said.” “A Persian.” I picked out my size and then ordered a lahmujan appetizer (an Armenian minced meat dough) which was to die for. These are $1.50 a pop, but you have to buy a minimum of two.
I tried to get comfortable on the weird stools they have there (there’s only room for three at the counter, and even that is a stretch). It is a very cramped little spot, but perfect for people-watching. Except that the people you’re watching are at 7th and Broadway, so you may as well be watching the third season of Oz instead.
Fifteen minutes later, the guy plops down my pizza. I instinctively open the box to make sure that it’s everything that was advertised. I don’t know why I did this—I don’t make a habit of verifying my pizza anywhere else—but I was happy with what I saw. A perfectly browned crust completely covered in all varieties of seeds. The crust didn’t look quite as doughy as the one in the photo but the toppings were masterfully balanced on the pizza. I felt a little like Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega when I first opened that sucker up.
A few slices in, I was loving those seeds. A few days later, my doctor put me on a “no nickel” diet which bars me from ingesting any seeds or nuts. So, I felt like I had a nice last seedy hurrah!
The pizza was cheesy and the dough was reminiscent of Godfather’s Pizza back in the day, slightly yeasty. It’s probably just some mass-produced Sysco pizza dough or something that every chain gets, but I don’t care. I felt like I discovered a nice little secret with Pizza Italia, Casa De Pizza. Highly recommended. Get there before their lease is up.
Pizza Italia, Casa De Pizza is located at:
311 W 7th St. Los Angeles, CA 90014