Pizza City Fest LA, April, 2023, by Brad English
Hello Fellow Questers,
Here’s my report on our day at Pizza City Fest in Los Angeles. It was a pizza lover’s celebration of the ever-growing and evolving pizza culture here in Southern California. Pizza City Fest began as a celebration of pizza in Chicago only two years ago and, from what we saw here in LA, we’ll be seeing this event expand to cover many more cities across the country. Pizza City Fest is the International Pizza Expo for us…for the fans!
Peter was unable to join us on this trip so Jeff Michael and I “sacrificed” our time to go check things out. Jeff and I co-created Pizza Quest with Peter years ago and, since we spend half our time emailing, texting, calling and zooming about eating pizza or anything that recently blew our minds, Peter suggested that we go to the Fest for the day. “Ok Peter, for you we’ll make the trip downtown to eat some great pizza.”
When we arrived it was immediately clear, seeing the attendees and listening to them rave on, that these were LA’s pizza fanatics. I said to Jeff, “These are OUR PEOPLE!” and I didn’t mean our Pizza Quest people, I meant our pizza quest people!! As everyone stood in a long and growing line to get into the sold out event, you could feel their anticipation buzzing, like a crowd entering a concert to see their favorite band. Jeff and I had press passes from organizer Steve Dolinsky so we didn’t have to wait in the line, which is always nice, but I noticed the people in line, while patient, were eager.
Due to our schedule, Jeff and I didn’t have all day to hang out and were unable to attend any of the formal presentations. I’ll again point out that this felt somewhere between the industry Pizza Expo and any number of Festivals celebrating food, wine, music etc. Everyone…I mean everyone was smiling. People moved from one pizzeria station to the next as if they were kids at an amusement park. Ok, they weren’t running between rides, but you all remember that feeling!
The way it’s set up is that you get in line and grab a pizza at one of the guest pizzerias. The Pizzaiolos were all happy to talk, take photos with everyone. Once you had your pizza, you’d find an open spot at a high table and stand and eat your slice and talk with your friends and others about whatever…mostly pizza. There were also a few local breweries and wineries offering drinks to further enjoy your tasting experience.
One big takeaway when thinking back about the day was that I just remember a lot of smiles. Awesome. If anyone showed up grumpy that day, somehow something wiped that away.
Jeff and I got to see a few familiar faces we’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s been a while since we’ve been on the road with Pizza Quest and it was great to see these guys in person. We’ve done web/podcasts with them via Zoom, but great to see them face to face again.
A couple highlights….
John Arena and Chris Decker. Can’t wait for Truly Pizza to open up in Dana Point! You guys better give Jeff and me an alert to come down for a visit! A great start to our Pizza City Fest with the beautiful pie pictured above!
Tony Gemigniani was there with his new place called Slice House by Tony Gemignani, Thousand Oaks. Anything Tony touches is top notch! Can I say beautiful pie again?!
Peter did a Pizza Quest Podcast/Webcast with Michele Rubini of L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Hollywood. He said, you have to meet Michele. So glad we did and that he handed us a couple slices of heaven. Now there’s a seriously traditional slice of a legendary Neapolitan pizza! Another beauty!
Rob DiNapoli, always there to share a smile, was there with Matt Lyons of Tribute Pizza out of San Diego. You know what’s better than eating Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes? Nothing, except having had the chance to meet Rob over the years and know that the tomatoes not only taste great, but that there is an amazing group of people behind them that deeply care about their product.
It’s like all of these guys/gals who have dedicated their life to growing amazing ingredients or taking those ingredients and sharing them with us. I always am amazed at how these guys can make pizza everyday for so many years and can still be pouring their heart and soul into their work. Lucky for all of us, the great ones do.
Some more pizza! Pizzana up in Brentwood (under the leadership of Daniele Uditi, who Peter interviewed on Pizza Quest recently) served a Cacio E Pepe pizza that may have changed my life. Well, maybe not changed it, but I’m working on making sure I swing through Brentwood soon! Awesome pizza. I plan on playing with this one the next time I fire up the wood fired oven.
A shout out to one of our local spots, The El Segundo Brewing Company Slice & Pint. Jeff and I got to meet with one of the owners, Thomas Kelley. As we walked up, Tony Gemignani was just leaving and turned back and told Thomas, “Great pizza!”. Needless to say, Thomas had a big smile on his face when we introduced ourselves. Been a big fan of the brewery for years and their “new” pizza hits the spot!
Pizza City Fest is on my to do list next year, with or without a press pass. I hope we can make it out to Chicago or some other Pizza Fest cities in the future as well and celebrate good pizza, good people and our shared love of bringing it all together.
One more pizza…
Since I couldn’t make it out to the FEST on Day 2, but found I was still wanting more pizza, my wife and I made a trip down to Long Beach to visit with one of my current favorite pizzas lately. The Margherita Pizza, at Long Beach Bread Lab, which is part of the Long Beach Beer Lab, is a pretty straightforward pizza, but, there’s just something that has it sitting at the top of my inner go-to list. Maybe it’s the simplicity? Maybe it’s their amazing sourdough crust? Maybe it’s sitting in the brewery/bakery and feeling like you can taste the yeast and fermentation of the sour dough in the air. Whatever it is, I’m digging it.
I had half a mind to hit one of my other go-to pizza spots in Long Beach that day as well, since both were at Pizza City Fest, but I’ll have to go back another day for another of my favorite pizzas, at Little Coyote Pizzeria. The Quest never ends….
Pizza Quest Info
Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.
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