Monday, April 22, 2024

The essential Long Beach pizza list

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If there is one way to gauge the importance of the Long Beach pizza scene, I would venture over to my food group: With over 60,000 members, the question of pizza—and which reigns supreme—is of constant discussion and, as the group grows, new members continuously ask about the almighty pie while the diehard locals battle each other over preferences.

Given the surge in the past decade of quality pizza, from Naples to Bixby Knolls, DTLB to Alamitos Beach, the time has come to create a definitive list of the city’s most delectable (including some outright shame-inducing and crazy) pizza offerings.


La Parolaccia

2945 E. Broadway

What kind of Long Beach pizza? Roman perfection that is the city’s finest.

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A white pie with potato from La Parolaccia. Photo by Brian Addison.

The many wonders of the carb master and gluten samurai that is pizzaiolo Michael Procaccini cannot be understated: glorious pastas, spectacular paninos made from in-house focaccia, and, of course, practically perfect Roman pizzas.

For its many years, many of the patrons at the long-loved (and rightfully so) Roman restaurant that is La Parolaccia have been led toward their pastas and pizzas—but it wasn’t until son of the patriarch Michael began honing his pizza skills that the restaurant became what could arguably be called the best pizza in Long Beach. Beautifully straddling the line between a nearly carb-for-carb imitation of Roman pizza proper and something distinctly Long Beach, Procaccini ability to master gluten, toppings, and the 900-plus degrees of his shipped-from-Italy wood fire oven are nothing short of spectacular.

There’s a reason I called this joint the mother of Mother Wolf when writing about them for Eater LA—and even more, it has the soul, warmth, and charisma that Mother Wolf could only attempt to mimic.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on La Parolaccia for Eater LA, click here.


Speak Cheezy

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The one the Washington Post called one of the best in the country.

3950 E. 4th St.

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A calabrese pie from Speak Cheezy. Photo by Brian Addison.

It is hard to miss the love of Speak Cheezy owner Chef Jason Edward Winters: It is exuded through his family, his community, his stellar pizza collaborations—which include those with Filipino staple Gemmae, Chef Carlos Jurado of Selva, Chef Philip Pretty of Heritage, Chef Eduardo Chang of Sushi Nikkei

It also doesn’t hurt that the Washington Post named Speak Cheezy one of the best pizzerias in the nation in 2023.

Of course, those bits of love don’t just appear out of thin air; they require authenticity in both personality and professionalism, talent in both the kitchen and communication, and a deep sense of trust—and Winters has achieved that through a decade of mastering his craft, remaining humble to the point of nearly being absurd, and letting his pies speak for themselves.

And his choice of constant experimentation—be it his Detroit-style square or a cold cheese pizza that makes it one of the best cheese pies in the city—is what makes Speak Cheezy a pizza legend. Period.

For Brian Addison’s full profile on Speak Cheezy, click here.


Marlena

5854 E. Naples Plaza Dr.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? One from the Bestia crew.

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A Neapolitan-style pizza from Marlena. Photo by Brian Addison.

Marlena—one of Long Beach’s newest restaurants from newly minted restaurateur Robert Smith, Chef Michael Ryan, hospitality maestro Debra Zelenka, and cocktail connoisseur David Castillo—has quickly garnered a loyal legion of patrons.

And while Ryan has a culinary pedigree brag all of his own—he was Chef Eric Funke’s right hand —it is pizzaiolo Waldo Stout that also comes with quite a few brags himself given his work at two of L.A.’s finest, Bestia and Gjusta.

You’ll find playful odes to brunch like an eggs Benedict pizza. Pizza specials where copious amounts of the earthy treasure that is truffle are shaved atop table side. Vegan pies that are as beautiful as they are delicious…

All paired with one of the city’s best cocktail programs.


Michael’s on Naples

5620 E. 2nd St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? Neapolitan in all its refined glory.

The perfect Napolitan pizza—but in Long Beach—from Michael's on Naples Photo by Brian Addison.
The perfect Napolitan pizza—but in Long Beach—from Michael’s on Naples Photo by Brian Addison.

The pizza at Michael’s on Naples, headed by Chef Eric Samaniego, is a thing of wonder. Whether its a Calabrese and pea pie, a straciatella and pistachio pizza, or an umami bomb that features an array of mushrooms and freshly shaved black truffle, his pizzas are the exemplary example of what Neapolitan-style can achieve.

On top of all this, Michael’s on Naples has strangely become one of the city’s most underrated spaces: As new spaces have moved in, the consistency with which Samaniego and General Manager Massimo Arrone have kept up the originality, style, and quality of Michael’s on Naples is something that is nothing short of astonishing. And we should be heralding the space as one of our best.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Michael’s on Naples, click here.


The 4th Horseman

121 W. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? Horrorcore-meets-fuck-around-with-magic-Californian-style.

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The 4th Horseman’s porchetta pizza, part of an all-you-can-eat special party hosted in July of 2023. Photo by Brian Addison.

While the owners of that other pizzeria have largely peaced out of Long Beach, leaving the space to new investors as they consult and advise (and put up their spaces for sale), Long Beach’s OG let’s-fuck-around-with-flavors pizzeria that is The 4th Horseman continues to ride strong with local owners, Jeremy Cross and Jeremy Schott, who are genuinely invested.

Bringing on Chef Mike Royal—a humble, genuinely kind soul whose love of metal music and carbs makes for a perfect pairing in the Downtown restaurant-meets-macabre art gallery—was one of the best decisions The Two Jeremys could have made: Creating yeasty wonders that act as odes to the dark side, Royal has genuinely refined the already-rad pies and taken them to a heightened level of greatness.

And in all frankness, the pizza has never been better at The Horseman, especially across the past year, where Royal has truly perfected both the dough and the amount of toppings he can dare himself to pile on his pizzas. And, in fact, the space itself has never done better: Come this year, the space will have its attached Dark Art Emporium detach and move to the East Village Arts District, and expand its in-house seating by double.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on The 4th Horseman for Eater LA, click here.


Ten Mile Brewing

1136 E. Willow St. (in Signal Hill)

What kind of Long Beach pizza? True brewery pizza, with equal quality between brews and ‘za.

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Ten Mile’s savory bomb, the carbonara pizza. Photo by Brian Addison.

While the space has always been a strong supporter (and still is) of Long Beach popup staples like the Chef Chad Phuong of Battambong BBQ, Ten Mile has begun its formal dive into food—and it is tackling none other than the mighty pizza scene that has been bourgeoning throughout Long Beach.

So what, exactly, is the pizza at Ten Mile like?

Jesse goes for the much-appropriate “neo-American” description where it follows the basic principles of Neapolitan pizza—thin undercrust, big and airy edges—but he commits a few sins in terms of the fundamentalist approach to Neapolitan pie.

For one, he uses oil and he will not apologize for it. Secondly, he uses—as most pizzerias should—flour made locally from Central Milling rather than having old flour shipped from Italy (which is also the same flour carb master Harmony Sage uses at the also-underrated Long Beach Beer Lab). And also within that the-best-pizza-uses-local-ingredients vein, they use a yeast they have immediate access to: the very same company which makes the yeast they use to make Ten Mile’s beer. He cold-ferments because, well, he is in a brewery so it makes sense to work with a yeast that can survive lower temperatures.

In other words, Jesse knew from the start that no one can mimic the ecosystem of Naples unless they’re in Naples—and therefore, there is no reason to attempt to mimic them but rather use the pizza masters of the world as guidance rather than unbreakable rules.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Ten Mile Brewing, click here.


Canadian Pizza

1241 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The perfect rendition of American pizza (that is ironically at a place named after the other North American country everyone forgets about).

Canadian Pizza
A split pie from Canadian Pizza. Photo by Brian Addison.

I don’t think I’ve extolled the wonders of this 4th Street gem enough but this joint has been in my phone for well over a decade, harnessing the power of good ol’ American-style in a distinctly Long Beach way.

Its cornmeal-flecked crust—not sourdough-y at all, straddling the thinness of New York and the doughy character of American pizza chains—has had its share of loyal patrons return repeatedly to get everything from the classics to the unique to the weird (like their pickle pizza, which is a dream come true for someone like me).

And pro-tip? Don’t skip out on the garlic cheesy squares (not to be confused with the garlic cheese bread; two different things).


Milana’s

165 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? A mighty fine NY-style slice.

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A basil’n’tomato slice, a play on the classic margherita pizza, from Milana’s. Photo by Brian Addison.

Celebrating their 10th anniversary just weeks before the pandemic, Milana’s owner and Brooklynite Adriel Fasci can largely be considered the man who brought Long Beach its first true New York pie.

The DTLB staple has many great things—a delectable pastrami sandwich slathered in red gravy and cheese with jalapeños being one of them—but it is their almighty New York-style pie that is the offering worthy of endless NY-centric memorabilia and decorations decking out the space.

Equal proportions of handmade crust, cheese and sauce, all baked in a 700-degree woodfire oven until it’s crispy enough to stand on its own or be folded in half for consumption. The cheese? Freshly grated mozzarella. The marinara? Simmered for six hours before it ever touches dough. Pizza the New York way. In Long Beach.

And fear not about its Brooklyn Squares spinoff shuttering come April 1: They will be moving the full menu to its Downtown Long Beach location as they find a new home for Brooklyn Squares.


Colossus Bakery

4716 E. 2nd St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The once-Friday-night-only pizza that is now available all the damn time.

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A trio of pizzas from Colossus. Photo by Brian Addison.

I owe Colossus owner Kristin Colazas Rodriguez more of my platform; I say this humbly and honestly because, there is no mistake, she is the queen (and king) of baking here in Long Beach. From the city’s best kouign-amman to the city’s most solid loaves, Colossus is a gem that should be constantly heralded nationwide, let alone locally.

Her humble beginnings of renting out spaces in the middle of the night—like Primal Alchemy’s kitchen in the Shore, a serendipitous beginning considering she eventually opened her first local storefront after opening her first brick-and-mortar in San Pedro—earned her the sweat equity. And while I have praised the carbs of spaces like Nonna Mercato and Gusto, Kristin’s carb magic reigns supreme with a connection to community, a rejection of hype for hype’s sake, and a stand-true-to-herself humility.

Herself and “Jeff de Cusine” Jeff Paletz have formally moved its Friday Night Pizzas to seven days a week. While Paletz have been slinging pies for quite a while, he kept the routine fairly stuck to Fridays-Only until recently. The style? Using the store’s famed sourdough starter as a base, Paletz aims for the “California” description, very appropriate considering his house-made ranch dressing is the perfect companion to his sausage pie.


Long Beach Beer Lab

518 Willow Ave. / 4000 E. Anaheim St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The dedicated baker’s pizza, both art and food simultaneously.

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Chef Harmony Sage-Fried’s margherita pizza is a work of art. Photo by Brian Addison.

Speaking of sourdough…

Long Beach Beer Lab—birthed in Wrigley, now with a sister in the Zaferia District, also home to the Long Beach Bread Lab—has long been a leader in fermentation and bread-making but is often dismissed or outright ignored in the larger conversation surrounding the city’s growing reputation as a sourdough-y, bread-birthing center.

For husband-and-wife team Levi and Harmony Sage-Fried, it remains true that they have always been an OG when it comes to diligently detailed, fermentation-focused, carb-y creations—and that is the Long Beach Beer Lab, where its second sister location in Zaferia has rightfully earned it the love of the neighborhood.

Their pizzas? Always stellar. And Harmony’s margherita? Nothing short of an artistic culinary masterpiece.


Rance’s Chicago Pizza

5258 E. 2nd St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The one birthed out of stakeouts at other pizzerias.

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The mighty cheese pull from a Rance’s deep dish Chicago-style pizza. Photo by Brain Addison.

Rance’s, the much-loved Chicaco-style pizza joint in Belmont Shore, was birthed out of, well, staking out other pizzerias—specifically Zachary’s, the Wisconsinite-owned space that is largely considered the Bay Area’s titular representation of deep dish pizza.

“Rance was born in Orange County and when he was visiting his sister while she was in college up in the Bay, he discovered Zachary’s and became a wild, Chicago-style pizza mad scientist at that point,” Long Beach resident—who fell in love with the city during the build-out in Belmont Shore—and co-owner Tofani said. “We’ve known each other since the 3rd Grade and when it came time to jump into adulting, I went to business school and he went to the School of Hardknocks learning how to make pizza.”

Ordering from various places he would travel to, he would note who delivered and where to; he would ask people at the restaurant why this particular pizzeria was their choice; he would call and say, “Hey, I’m not so good with garlic—do you put garlic in your sauce?” after taste-testing a particular pie…

Just be patient: Those hefty badboys take 45 minutes but are worth the indulgence and wait.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Rance’s Chicago Pizza, click here.


Dean’s Thai Curry Pizza

929 Redondo Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? Tom yum and thai curry pizza—two Long Beach originals.

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The tom yum pizza from Thai Curry Pizza. Courtesy of Yelp!/Loretta C.

While I’ve heard rumors that Little Coyote wants to do a play on the Long Beach original that is Thai Curry (and their Tom Yum) Pizza, all I can say is that this house does not stand for Thai Curry Pizza ripoffs or mimicry.

Owners Sam and Sue have perfected the brilliant blend of their own Thai heritage with the American take on pizza: Slathering a doughy, chewy crust with panang yellow curry before topping it bell peppers, onion, and cheese, this magical pie—which joins its Thai pizza sibling, their equally great Tom Yum pizza—is something that works in a genuinely surprising way upon first bite.

It’s a love letter to Long Beach, sent from the heart of Italy through Thailand.

(And OGs know to always get the $1 extra side of curry for dipping.)


Altar Society Brewing

230 Pine Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? A foldable-not-floppy ode to New York (and it can be bought by the slice, with a coffee, a cocktail, or a brew).

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A veggie slice with a cheese slice and some beer from Altar Society. Photo by Brian Addison.

First opening in April of 2023, Altar Society is a Downtown beast of its own when it comes to what it is: Part-brewery, part-bar, part-coffee shop, part-pizzeria, part-event space, the massive, four story (should you include the basement) building it inhabits can easily be seen as one of DTLB’s coolest spaces.

And it is also part of the renaissance that is happening in Downtown, if not its outright leader given its connection to front-facing Pine and rear-facing Promenade facades.

As admirable could be its approach to its pizza: While a rocky start would describe its pizza best upon opening, it has since calibrated its version of the pie to become, in all frankness, a really solid piece of New York-inspired pizza. With cheap by-the-slice options and freshly brewed beer, it is an easy space to acquire a taste for—and Long Beach should.

To read Brian Addison’s latest feature on Altar Society, click here.


Pizza Parlor

2936 Clark Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The perfect post-flight pizza.

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The birria pizza from Pizza Parlor. Courtesy of business.

Like two other new pizzerias on this list—District 4, which took over the former Ecco’s, and L’Antica, which took over Papalucci’s—Pizza Parlor took over the short-lived, underrated Ottimo Pizza.

Chefs Joshua Knight and Mike Ortiz—the former of which owns COPA, aka the Coffee Parlor, also by the airport, and the latter of which managed Little Coyote and clearly drew inspiration from—have created a space that offers the airport area some of the finest pizzas in the neighborhood, if not the best around LGB since they opened in December of 2023.

And like The 4th Horseman and Little Coyote, they play around with extremely untraditional (outside California) toppings, like their “LA Taco” pie that features birria, pickled onions, consommé, and cilantro.


Thunderbolt Pizza

4085 Atlantic Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The genuinely great pepperoni pizza with the best beer.

Thunderbolt Pizza
The pepperoni pizza at Thunderbolt is an underrated gem. Courtesy of BKBIA.

Oh yes, the pizzeria next to a brewery. And not just any pizzeria—we’re talkin’ Bixby Knolls’ best slice, Thunderbolt, taking over a much-missed hole that was left once PowWow Pizza left. And we’re not just talkin’ any brewery—we’re talking one of the city’s best, maybe even only second to Beachwood, the stellar Ambitious.

Thunderbolt Pizza and Ambitious Ales exemplify the rad type of community partnership—business-to-business in the name of a larger food community—all the while peddling some of the city’s most quality pies and beers—and it is time to uplift what I still consider underdogs despite their years in business.

Owner and pizzaiolo Jay Stebbins sows quality ingredients to create some quality pies that are the perfect companion to Ambitious Ales’ GABF-winning brews.

What is there not to love?


Valentino’s

5782 E. 2nd St. / 4750 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? Long Beach’s OG Detroit-style and, in all honesty, the best Costco-style pizza without going corporate.

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Drizzle that honey: The pepperoni and olive pizza from Baby Gee Bar. Photo by Brian Addison/Eater LA.

While I stand by Speak Cheezy’s version being the supreme when it comes to Detroit-style pizza, Valentino’s much-missed, very-under-the-radar “four corners” pizza is an ode to the Detroit-style pie.

Even more, this joint—about to hit its 40th (yes, 40th) birthday—has long been slinging out the pizza you want when you were raised American. For some, that means Domino’s or Pizza Hut. For others, that means Costco—and Valentino’s has that Costco quality where doughy crusts, hefty amounts of cheese, and genuinely great heartwarming heft give way to an undeniably American take on pizza that isn’t thin, isn’t deep dish, but just is.

It’s the pizza you would order for a big party. It’s the pizza you would order when you wanna be a fatty. It’s solid pizza—and deserves more uplift as a Long Beach legend.


District 4

2123 N. Bellflower Blvd.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The post-baseball game, family-friendly pizza.

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District 4 took over the former Ecco’s pizzeria. Photo by Beth Marx/Long Beach Food Scene.

Kennedy’s owners Ryan McIntyre and Ian Moston partenered with Nevi Maddy to open District 4 inside the old Ecco’s with Chef Matthew Kirven-Deleon heading the kitchen. And while I strong-heartedly disagree with its general manager’s assessment that people are “tired of plain pepperoni or cheese pizzas“—those will never tire—District 4 has been churning out some unique pizzas.

What is perhaps most important is offering up a place surrounded by families and Little League parties a pizza place that both kids and adults can enjoy.


Little Coyote

2118 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The one that people from L.A. go to.

Little Coyote
The massively popular white pie sits among other Little Coyote pizzas. Photo by Brian Addison.

Hear me out on the snark: Little Coyote is thoroughly a Los Angeles-bred space that happened to open in Long Beach—don’t let anyone else try to fool you.

And while surrounded in mini controversies—from former chefs and cooks claiming the pizza dough recipe was stolen from a Long Beacher to the Los Angeles owners moving to Long Beach only to largely peace out of Long Beach [one back to L.A. and the other to Portugal] once the space was comfortably running—they do have some decent pies that have garnered a cult-like following.

But what’s perhaps been the best thing about Little Coyote is its genuine uptick in quality across the past year.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Little Coyote, click here.


L’Antica da Michele

4611 E. 2nd St.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The one from ‘Eat Pray Love.’

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The calabrese pizza from L’Antica da Michele in Belmont Shore. Photo by Mindy Kidd/Long Beach Food Scene.

After announcing that they would be opening up their first Long Beach location all the way back in 2021, L’Antica da Michele—the Naples, Italy staple that became even more famous after appearing in Julia Roberts’s “Eat Pray Love”—finally opened its doors in Belmont Shore in 2024.

The highlight of the space—taking over what used to be Papalucci’s and Babette’s Feast/Ô Gourmet at the western end of 2nd Street’s business district—features their pizza oven: Built in Napoli and shipped over once its baby blue-and-white broken pottery mosaic detailing was finished, it sits in an open air space on the restaurant’s northern corner.

Head pizzaiolo Michele Rubini churns out consistently quality Neapolitan pizzas that adhere to the strict standards set by the rules regarding whether one can actually call their pies formally “Neapolitan.”


5,000 Pies

2064 Santa Fe Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The most solid Chicago-style deep dish you’ll find.

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The deep dish wonder of 5,000 Pies is a Long Beach pizza staple. Photo by James Tir.

While many know of Rance’s as one of the city’s go-to spots for Chicago-style deep dish pizza, 5,000 Pies continues to fly under the radar after years and years of serving the Westside.

Becky Teter and her husband John, the pastor at the Fountain of Life Covenant Church in West Long Beach, sat down with church members Michael Martinez, Sharon Im-Lee and Sara Culver one day, and all of them fell into the same idea: their church, as an organization in which supporting your neighbors was essential, had to do more for West Long Beach.

And 5,000 Pies was birthed.

According to the founders, the name comes from the Book of John, Chapter 6, where Jesus fed 5,000 people from a few loaves of bread. Since opening in 2017, 5,000 Pies has become a place to work for former gang members, locals in need of a job and those trying to better their lives, and with it, they have brought stellar deep-dish pizza.

Support this truly local joint (and even go for their regular crust pizza, which is an all-American ode to the pie with chewy, doughy crust and plenty of goopy cheese).


Dutch’s Brewhouse

4224 Atlantic Ave.

What kind of Long Beach pizza? The Feel Free to Talk Shit About Other Pizzerias pizza.

Dutchs Brewhouse
Stack ’em up: Pizzas from Dutch’s Brewhouse in Bixby Knolls. Photo by Brian Addison.

The thing about Dutch’s Brewhouse owner Jason Van Fleet—the same guy that owns the vastly underrated Syncopated Brewing—is that behind badassery is actually a big ol’ teddy bear who genuinely loves his community.

And yes, it comes with a healthy, much-needed dose of sarcasm: You will often find him delivering his own pies, one literally named The 5th Horseman, to customers inside The 4th Horseman—a loving, tongue-in-cheek feud because of his deep friendship with both former owners Ryan Hughes and Martin Svab, as well as current owners, Jeremy Cross and Jeremy Schott. (Here is a photo of Ryan and myself literally flipping Jason off at his own establishment because we love him.)

This is the reason Bixby Knolls is so dedicated to Dutch’s Brewhouse: There is a warmth there that feels like it’s been a part of the community forever and Jason himself is so damn dedicated to making sure it all works that the pizza could even be mediocre and most wouldn’t care. The best part, though, is that it isn’t mediocre but solid.


Rosario’s

1443 E. Carson St. (in Carson)

What kind of ‘Long Beach’ pizza? Completely. Fucking. Unhinged. Pizza.

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Would you like some pizza with your pepperoni? Courtesy of Yelp!/Raven L.

Hold up, hold up, I know: “Carson?” And I know: I still have this on my list? Abso-fuckin’-lutely.

I would be remiss to not include this infamously known pizzeria where, well, people have seemed to have lost their goddamned minds but that also seems to be their unapologetic MO and that, in turn, makes it feel strangely admirable?

With a canvas like a pizza, limits are basically unlimited—and Rosario’s in Carson seems to have taken that metaphor to its extreme, layering each pie with ungodly heaps of toppings that makes you question both their overhead costs and the ability of the human body. Every pizza—whether it’s a mushroom pizza like above or a pepperoni or this lovely ode to irritable bowel syndrome—is completely fucking unhinged, stacked with toppings the looks bowls of produce and meats were poured on top before baking—and its loyal patronage loves them for it.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Great list. I know you can’t include every pizza spot, but to not include Domenico’s seems like… a mistake? Not only is it one of the oldest and most beloved restaurants in town, but the uniqueness and pure awesomeness of the ground pepperoni seems like an obvious reason for inclusion.

  2. Nice list, but why was Broadway Pizza & Grill in Downtown Long Beach left off the list? Broadway Pizza & Grill has been in Downtown since 2006. Doesn’t make sense….

    • Would love to have included BP—I long called them underrated—but their owner’s recent altercation with allegedly calling someone a homophobic slur has left an extremely bad taste in my mouth because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about that kind of altercation…

  3. Have you tried MARRIS pizza it’s been in Long Beach since 1958. Stearns at Palo Verde? Best Antipasto salad ever!

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