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October 21, 2019:

MY LIFE WITH PIZZA

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, why is it everyone thinks they are THE pizza expert?  If you read Yelp reviews you will see this phenomenon over and over again, and when you look at the avatars of those know-it-alls you are greeted with teenagers and young people only – how the HELL do they know from pizza?  And Los Angeles Magazine did new survey of the great, classic New York pizza jernts in LA and environs.  Apparently written by a person who wouldn’t know a NY pizza if it hit them in the ear.  Here’s a hint: If I see bits of shrubbery on a pizza, that ain’t pizza, New York, Chicago, Boston, or otherwise.  It’s fine that people like designer pizza, as long as they know it ain’t pizza.  I’m a traditionalist.  I was first introduced to pizza slices and pizza in general when I was around seven or eight, when a local market, Big Town, located at Pico and La Cienega, had a little pizza thing inside.  That is where I had my first slice of pizza and it was love at first bite.  Part of the thrill was watching the nice man who owned it create the shape of the round dough, pound it, put a bit of flour on it, and then twirl it in the air – it was magic.  Then he’d ladle on the red sauce, then sprinkle the cheese and in the oven it would go, and twenty minutes later out would come a work of art.  My first slice was cheese – I wouldn’t do pepperoni for many years, it was always a cheese slice.  They were very big slices and so filled up my little tummy something good.  The taste of that pizza has never left me – the taste, the smell, the way the cheese and sauce worked perfectly together and the dough, so perfect and tasty would work in concert with the sauce and cheese.  I had slices there all the time.

Later, the regular pizza place was Piece o’ Pizza, which I also loved.  They opened on the corner of 18th and La Cienega, just five blocks from my house. We’d get a pizza pie from there, a salad with their great dressing, and a lot of napkins.  Piece o’ Pizza had branches all over LA and in the Valley, from little stands to sit down jernts.  The last time I ate there regularly was the one on Santa Monica Blvd. in a little strip mall next to what is now the Coast Playhouse, which was then called the Pan-Andreas Theatre, where we did The Good One.  It was as great as always.  And then they all disappeared, almost overnight.  I believe there is exactly one branch left – either on Venice or Washington Blvd. in Culver City.  I drove by it every day on my way to rehearsals for Pure Imagination at Pacific Resident Theater.  I was almost afraid to stop in and see if it was still great.  And I didn’t.  But I may go down there in the near future, because, why not?

After that, I didn’t really love any pizza places until I discovered Barone’s, which was their own unique square thing and which didn’t taste like any other pizza but was still great, and a jernt called Mazzarino’s – that just went out of business two years ago.  When the wife and I would have Oscar partays, the price of admission was a pizza – we’d supply Barone’s and Mazzarino’s and others would bring others, but I always ate ours.  Then these designer things began happening and I was quite done.  California Pizza Kitchen was one of the first to start that, with all kinds of weird things, and now you get the design your own kind, and the toppings are, in my opinion, just so wacky.  So, I went back to trying to find pizza that I liked – tried both Miceli’s and didn’t care for either, and Antonio’s, which at some point was great, suddenly wasn’t.  And then one fine day we were rehearsing or casting something at Screenland Studios and we were hungry, so someone said there was a pizza jernt nearby, called Dino’s, so we got one.  And as I bit into the pepperoni slice I was greeted by something so close to that very first slice of pizza I had when I was a kid, and I instantly fell in love with Dino’s.  That, and Barone’s, which still has their weird but great pizza, are the best in the Valley, or anywhere, really.

And yes, I’ve had plenty of slices in New York.  We had a great corner place when I lived in Brooklyn in 1969.  There was a great place in Hell’s Kitchen a block from where I stayed when we were doing The Brain from Planet X.  And several little stands were great.  We ate at John’s Pizza, which is generally thought to be the be all and end all, but while I liked it fine, it didn’t really hold a candle to the stands that were good.  I finally found a place near here called Pizza Wagon of Brooklyn, that’s pretty good – not Dino’s good, but I like it a lot and have become a regular there.  So, yesterday, I decided to try a new jernt, just to see.  I’d tried two on Woodman near me, both not so good.  I decided on Marco’s – well, no slices at Marco’s, so no business from me at Marco’s.  Then I went to another jernt called Leaning Tower of Pizza – no slices, so no business from me.  Plus they had photos of how they do their pies – cubed cheese – just no.  I figured I’d just go to Pizza Wagon, but all the streets were closed for some stupid street fair, so I couldn’t get there.  Instead, I ended up at a Valley Village jernt that’s been there for years, Joe Peep’s.  I got three pepperoni slices and brought them home.  One bite and I knew I would never go back.  The red sauce was acidic and loaded with garlic.  Just no.  I ate all three slices but wasn’t happy.  From now on, it will be the local jernt, Dino’s, or Barone’s.  And that, dear readers, is my pizza story.

Yesterday, other than the pizza thing, was a pleasant day.  I got eight hours of sleep but felt somewhat logy for most of the day.  I did some work at the piano, answered e-mails, and then had the pizza non-adventure.  Later, I just listened to music for a while, and then I finally sat on my couch.

I watched the rest of Waterloo, although I did doze off for an hour.  I didn’t much care for Waterloo.  It’s just a weird thing, with a LOT of battle scenes, which are very big and impressive, but with some very strange performances, including Mr. Rod Steiger as Bonaparte.  Christopher Plummer was the other lead.  The movie was a big old flop.  The German Blu-ray looks excellent and the film has a good score by Nino Rota.

After that, I listened to more music, and finally came upon a composer I just don’t care for at all – I’ve been loving all my discoveries, as you know.  This composer’s name is Vittorio Rieti and it sounded like I’d love his music, but alas I found it completely uninteresting in just about every way.  No more Rieti for me, I’m afraid.  I also began and finished writing the second set of liner notes and got them where they needed to go, so that’s off my plate.

Today, I can sleep in, then I’ll do the usual morning things, hopefully pick up some packages, eat, and then we have our second What If rehearsal with our full cast, although they arrive in spurts.  We’ll run all the solo stuff until everyone is here, and then we’ll run all the group numbers.  After that, I’ll relax.

Tomorrow, we have our stumble-through – can’t remember what time.  We’ll run it straight through, then we’ll work on whatever we need to.  Wednesday is our first show.  I’ll go in early to do some light cue stuff (we’re not going to do much of that), then Nick from Vitello’s will come and set up my wireless mic and stand, get everything plugged in, balanced, and then the cast will arrive for sound check.  Then we play our show.  Very light reservations so far, but hopefully that will pick up starting today, and their membership tends to just show up, not reserve.  Thursday, we play our second show.  And then I seriously start to prepare for The Man Who Came to Dinner, which begins rehearsals the following week.  Since our leading man is shooting a TV show, he won’t be with us for our first two rehearsals.  So, we’ll just have a meet and greet the first evening, and then the next evening I’ll block everything leading up his entrance, and that’s a lot of blocking because so many characters are being introduced and coming in and out.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, sleep in hopefully pick up packages, eat, and have a rehearsal.  Today’s topic of discussion: Easy – your pizza history, your favorite pizza experiences, and how you like it. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have shared my life with pizza.

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