EDIT: I haven’t been back since they moved into a real place, but the experience here was so special I’m not sure it’s worth it.
You make a call and show up in a back alley 45 minutes later. When you arrive, your guy comes out carrying about five pounds worth. You hand him your cash, then take your purchase wherever you want and inhale it. If this sounds like a drug deal to you, get your mind out of the gutter. Unless your drug is pizza, in which case you should head to this back alley in West Hollywood immediately. This is the way it works for Hollywood Pies, the sketchiest pizza place in LA you’ve never been to. You may have eaten their pizza, and you may have even picked up their pizza, but you have never been there because there is no “there.”
Two food-loving friends and I converged upon the back alley of Hollywood Pies last night to get a taste of their Chicago-style pizza and to experience one of the most unique food purveying concepts ever devised. Joel had called in our orders in advance because there was a 45-90 minute waiting time for these Chicago-style pizzas. 45 minutes is actually the minimum amount of time I have ever waited for a pizza in this style, which is almost a casserole in style. Many pizzas were named after old Chicago gangsters, which only helped perpetuate the feeling that we were somehow involved in an illicit activity while waiting for our pizzas. Joel and I split a large Capone, which consisted of whole milk mozzarella, mild Italian sausage, margherita pepperoni and house-made Italian meatballs for 24 bucks. On top of that, it was also slathered in sauce and imported pecorino parmesan cheese. Danny ordered the small Hollywood (a lesser-known gangster), which was filled with those meatballs, plus house-made ricotta for 12 bucks. It also had the same sauce and parmesan as the Capone.
After making Hollywood Pies aware of our arrival, we were handed our hefty pies by a friendly pizza-handler. When Danny struggled to carry the things, he told us that the large weighed in at a full five pounds. Awesome!
But where to eat? And how? Chicago-style deep dish is the only pizza in which I not only fully condone a fork and knife, I expect it. But we were miles away from home with no place to seat and no utensils to use. We wandered out of the alley, found some concrete slabs to sit on and then went to work. We lost a few toppings while separating the slices to eat, but managed to lift some giant slices without the need for utensils. Success! When I bit in, I was greeted with that old familiar taste of Chicago deep dish. Starting from the bottom, the dough was thick, but cooked through perfectly. You could tell these guys really cared about their pizzas, as there was a bit of a mesh lining on the bottom of the box to prevent any potential dough sogginess. It had a sort of crumbly texture, but no sign of falling apart. The dough also had a pleasant buttery taste to it. Working my way inside, the mozzarella was gooey, melty and pretty much what you hope for with any pizza.
Then there were the meats, which filled the pizza perfectly. The sausage was definitely mild and hard to distinguish from the meatballs, although they both tasted great. The pepperoni, however, was amazing. It was thick, flavorful and did justice to Chicago’s historical relationship with meat. The three meats really balanced each other out and were so evenly dispersed that there was never any issue with having too much or too little meat. I was also amazed to find that their combination with the mozzarella didn’t give me a sodium overload. This sometimes seems to happen with Chicago-style pizza and I was glad to see that Hollywood Pies had avoided this pitfall.
Finally, the sauce and the parmesan cheese were like the perfect icing to my cake of a pizza. The sauce had a nice little spice kick to it that was just kind of saying, “Hello, I’m dancing on your taste buds,” without doing any sort of fire damage. It was actually so subtle that it didn’t distract at all from any of the other well-balanced ingredients. The parmesan, while delicious, was ultimately just parmesan cheese. It was certainly a necessary component of the pizza, but didn’t stand out at all.
My only problem with this entire undertaking was that I had little to compare this delicious pizza to. It felt a little lighter than the Chicago pizza of my memory, but perhaps this is just conjecture. There is no doubt that they nailed the uniqueness of Chicago-style pizza and captured some great flavors. Yet, I can’t help wondering how Hollywood Pies would stack up against some of Chicago’s greats. Fortunately, though, they don’t have to, because here in Los Angeles Hollywood Pies is currently the king of Chicago-style deep dish and I fully expect to be back again soon.