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Where to take a "Pizza Virgin" to pop their cherry?

Where would you take a person who has never had pizza in their life (yes, such a person does exist), who says to you, "I want to try pizza".

With LA as your dining landscape, where would you take that person?

Not necessarily asking for the "best" pizza in Los Angeles, although if you believe that that should be the first place this person experiences pizza then so be it.

Just asking where in LA you would take a person for their first experience of pizza.

Some place high-end like Mozza? Some place a bit more plebeian like Vito's? Some place totally on the bottom-rung of the pizza totem pole like Sbarro's or Papa John's? Or some place totally off-the-wall like Pizza and Chicken Love Letter?

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  1. Certainly not Papa John's, unless you want them to never crave pizza again! I'd vote for Vito's, or possibly Casa Bianca. Nothing too foofy, not too thin or thick crust.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty

      +1 for Vito's, the best "standard" NY-style pizzeria in LA, and an ideal starting point for a pizza virgin.

      1. re: Chowpatty

        Palermo in Los Feliz for the Pizza Rosa.

      2. My favorites are Mozza and Milo & Olive.

        Pizzeria Mozza
        641 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036

        Milo and Olive
        2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

        1. Definitely no reason to start at the "bottom rung." I cringe just thinking what wouldve happened to me if Papa John's was my first pizza experience...Well, id probably be considerably lighter...get a slice at Vito's or Joe's then do a pie at Mozza!

          1. Personally, for a full-immersion introduction, I'd do a pizza crawl:

            - First stop: 800 Degrees - split a pizza margherita.
            - Second stop: Vitos - one slice each.
            - Third stop: Mozza - split a pizza. Butterscotch budino if not too full.

            That would give a first-timer a sweeping introduction to the wonderful world of pizza, as well as the variety of dining experiences LA has to offer.

            NB: I realize 800 Degrees isn't the acme of VPN in LA, but geographically it makes sense, and in the context of a crawl it probably works best. If you were starting out in SM, Stella Rosa might be better.

            1. The new 800 degrees in westwood might be a fun place for a pizza virgin. You get to see the pizza dressed and fired while you watch. The benefit, besides eating a darn good pizza is that it leaves you with plenty of room on the upper end to explore while setting a reasonable level of expectation for quality.

              While you are in the area go to Saffron and Rose for some Persian ice cream :)

                1. fwiw:
                  my regular rotation, which is on the westside only is:

                  for "regular" neighborhood pizza: the Good Pizza in Playa del Rey
                  for budget-conscious Neapolitan-style pizza: 800 degrees (one of the best food deals of any sort in town, imho)
                  for high-end pizza milo and olive, and stella rossa (both in santa monica)

                  n.b. my two high-end choices need to be gamed in terms of arrival time or you could end up with a long wait. also, keep in mind that stella rossa is only open for dinner.

                  1. my vote goes to tomato pie.

                    1. Okay, first of all, where did you find a pizza virgin? What DO they eat? Why have they not had pizza? I must know.

                      I think NOT high end. You wouldn't want to throw, say, Sasha Gray or Wilt Chamberlain at a real virgin. Every pizza from there on out might be a disappointment.

                      But then a slice at Vito's or Joe's, while delicious, doesn't really capture the magic that is "pizza."

                      If I'm eating pizza for the first time, I want to be sitting in a red naugahyde booth with a bottle of Chianti Classico or a big frosty Diet Coke, and have a waitress bring me a large pie and set it on a rack over a lit candle and throw down some parm and peppers. Someplace solid, dependable, classic. How about Little Toni's?

                      Just be gentle.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jesstifer

                        dear mother of god please do not go to little toni's for pizza. well the pizza is OKAY (though not on the same level as vito's/tomato pie), but everything else is god awful.

                        But srsly, it's just okay pizza. I wouldn't even say it's better than papa johns. I live 5 minutes away and have been there twice - never again.

                        1. re: ns1

                          We aren't talking about "everything else." We are talking about pizza.

                          Plus atmosphere for a first timer, personally, neither Tomato Pie (overrated, IMHO) nor Vito's, delicious are they are, are places where I'd want my cherry popped: here, sit on this plastic chair in this strip mall and have a slice...

                          No. A virgin wants a little mood lighting, maybe some colored pizza parlor glass...

                          1. re: jesstifer

                            I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. You can get that vibe at any oldschool red sauce italian place.

                            Basically, my preference would be for a "pizza by the slice" place and your preference would be old school red sauce italian place.

                            And quite frankly, I still wouldn't want my cherry popped by "okay" pizza. Jesus I want THE BEST.

                            k i'm done, sorry I can't help it. little toni's incites rage.

                      2. Joe's in Santa Monica for your basic by the slice cheese pizza. It's a yummy and great intro to pizza.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mstinawu

                          Absolutely Joes. Pick it up and take it to the benches overlooking the beach.

                        2. Your over thinking this. Take them to one of your favorite spots. It's pizza. If they don't like it then you've got a serious "friendship reassessment" exercise facing you... ;-D>

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Servorg

                            Why not include Abbots Pizza in Venice on Abbot Kinney? Pretty good slice last time I was there. Hope things haven't changed.

                          2. Hi Ipse. What fun! It is rare we find a virgin anything these days!!
                            I would not go high end for the first time out. No gourmet, but still good. I am thinking something tried and true like Ravanelli's in Northridge. Maybe Domenico's in north Pasadena on Washington (only this location, not the other one) also get the Antipasto salad. Not a fan of Casa Bianca but enough people like it here and it is definitely the type I am trying to get at here. I also like Carmine's Pizza in South Pas. I think any of these would work great for a first time off. Then for the next time out, head to Mozza, Settebello, Bollini's, Zelo's and knock his/her socks off! They will be wondering what the hell they have been doing all these years! ;-)

                            1. get a simple pie to split at mulberry pizza. 1/2 cheese for basics, and 1/2 toppings the YOU like. Your friend might not, but at least your friend will see the tastes that you enjoy and then you've shared some experience rather than trying to find some platonic ideal of an introduction to pizza. Explain as well, that opinions vary widely as to which is better, thin crust, thick crust, sicilian style - or even Chicago DEEP DISH which is its own thing.
                              For myself, if the person likes Italian food, I would go to Pomodoro on Westwood blvd across from the old Borders on the corner - order a margarita to start the meal - splitting it, then splitting either a chicken or veal dish or a pasta dish.
                              the new york style pie (or the white pie or the phillie style or the chicago style) could wait. That's just how i'd introduce someone to it.

                              1. I was an adult when I first ate pizza... so yes, such people do exist! (Perhaps needless to say, I was not raised in USA....)

                                I read an article recently that suggested people like "Chicago-style" vs. "New York-style" depending on their early experiences. So maybe that's the place to start -- which tribe do you want this person to join?!? (Or maybe there's a separate LA tribe??)

                                (From a pizza perspective, I've been assimilated by the New York tribe. Resistance is futile...)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: drongo

                                  "I've been assimilated by the New York tribe. Resistance is futile..."

                                  Hey, you must know my buddy, Sy Borg then... ;-D>

                                2. It may as well be Pizzeria Mozza. It will destroy her for anything else, but that's kind of the idea.

                                  1. Mother dough is the best pizza I have had in LA. Mozza is great as well, but has created its own style, not to be compared with traditional Neapolitan pizza. Terroni is another great choice, as is Sette Bello in Pasadena. For me Mother Dough is another level.

                                    1. Hope you film the de-flowering and share it with everyone! lol

                                      1. I just have to ask - how could someone not have ever tried pizza?

                                        Where are they from? (that might have an influence over what pizza, but I doubt it. )

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                          They grew up in S. America (Uraguay). Visiting the U.S. for the first time. Actually traveling abroad for the first time.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Then having the full American Pizza Experience becomes even more important. I retract my LIttle Toni's, and say go forth with Pizzeria Mozza. Great ambience, classic (if modern) pie, possibly the best the USA has to offer.

                                            Just don't go to Casa Bianca. I'd hate to have them go back to Uruguay and insist that pizza pies are sliced up in a random criss cross style.

                                            1. re: jesstifer

                                              Isn't a "classic modern pie" an oxymoron?

                                              Mr Taster

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              what would be fun, then, would be to go for an Argentine-Italian pizza. At carniceria argentina in the valley, they make pizza, and fuggazetta.

                                              as well, you can argentine pizza at El Morfi in Glendale,

                                              http://www.elmorfigrill.com/ (dinner menu


                                              I think this is would be the MOST FUN way to go. For you, you could try the other argentine dishes and split a pizza, and the porteƱa pizza is no less Italian than a new york or chicago pizza - italians in the americas are italians in the americas.

                                              Also have had the website to el morfi open for a while and i LOVE the tango they play.

                                              also, latimes says Il Dolce Pizzera in Costa Mesa has neapolitan style pizze and argentine style fugazzeta. owners are Italo-Argentine.
                                              (i will bet that she's had fugazza or fugazzeta - maybe another name
                                              don ciccio in montevideo, pizzeria

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Most sites i've looked at now tell me that fugazza and fugazzeta, although Argentine, are quite popular in Argentina. The pictures show that they're similar to pizza. Teh consensus tells me that Pizza is from campania but fugazza is from Liguria - so they're different but pizza will not be that different for her -
                                                again - just over the rio de la plata from uruguay.

                                            3. Baronis in North Hollywood would be my pick.

                                              1. I think there is a more fundamental question that I don't think anyone here has asked yet: Has this "virgin" ever had Italian food of any kind? Does he/she like pasta with red sauce and cheese, or do they prefer other types of preparations? Does he/she lean toward pastas loaded with meat, vegetables, or a simpler marinara? Could make a huge difference in matching him/her up with the ideal first-pizza experience.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Arthur

                                                  If she's from uruguay, the chances are more than likely that she may be of Italian background.
                                                  they claim about 50% of the population is Italian or partially italian in background.

                                                  1. re: Jerome

                                                    So essentially you're suggesting the possibility that our subject is an Italian or someone of Italian background who knows absolutely nothing about pizza. If so, the OP's query is getting more and more bizarre.

                                                    1. re: Arthur

                                                      the stats are that half of uruguay's 3 million are of italian extraction. However, over 80% of them are not from the Naples region but from liguria and piemonte - areas around genoa and turin. Pizza was not so widespread, so acdg to the sites I saw, other baked stuffed and covered bread dishes are more common and liked - fugazza (cf. french fougasse) and fugazetta. And acdg to one site, pizza as a whole - at least US style pizzas (new york included) never have really caught on in Buenos Aires and especially not in Uruguay.. There are argentine style pizzas and they are available at El Morfil - to go at Carniceria Argentina and at Il Dolce Pizzzeria in Costa Mesa. SO my guess is once the OP's (hi, ipse) friend has a pizza, itwill be quite familiar in that it's close to fugazza, figazza. fugazza are kind of a cross between a calzone and a pizza, they are stuffed rather than covered, it seems.

                                                      1. re: Arthur

                                                        Arthur - check out (or google translate)
                                                        with an emphasis on the pizza section and
                                                        just to see they look a bit like pizze.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Love to hear how she likes it, where you go, and (for me) if she's had fugazza, figazza or fugazetta in Uruguay... have a great time.

                                                    2. Vito;s, Village, Petrillos, Casa Bianca, Hollywood Pies & Palermo's. Mozza is great and so is PitFire.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Burger Boy

                                                        Burger Boy, i wouldnt use the names Mozza and Pitfire in the same sentence. No need to consider Pitfire as a pizza "deflowering" destination!

                                                        1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                          Agreed. Ptifire pizza looks a lot like Mozza pizza, but the taste is quite different.... I actually think Pitfire pizza is quite tasty, but I wouldn't consider it a "destination" or place to take a pizza virgin. I rather like D'Amore's (but I've only had it a few times; I'm actually not a huge pizza fan), but think I might be alone on that.... I agree w/ those who suggest a quintessential low-end (but tasty) pizza-by-the slice kind of place.

                                                      2. How about Eatalian in Gardena?

                                                        1. I know you specified "LA area," but if she's coming all the way from Uruguay and abroad for the first time, I think the least you could do is spring for two JetBlue tix and take her to Lombardi's in Brooklyn.

                                                          Palermo's is not a bad idea at all.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: jesstifer

                                                            Sausage, Peppers & Onions at Palermo's is a classic and great cold the next morning!

                                                          2. Gonna pick a dark (very dark) horse in this race: Damiano Mr. Pizza on Fairfax. They're essentially open all night till dawn (6 a.m.). It is like an initiation into some weird Triad Society of pizza-by-ordeal.

                                                            Grab a couple of slices, which always look scary if you stare at them too long. The interior is even more darkly Blade-Runner-Sicilian-style, with gruff staff and a vibe of imminent danger. They have cigarette brands on the menu, for pete's sake.

                                                            The slices are greasy yet tasty exemplifications of the shadowy archetypes haunting your hungry soul.

                                                            Your date, the pizza novice, will look at you forever differently and muse upon your tortured spirit. Taking her there will be the pizza equivalent of learning that you were a sniper with Special Ops Forces and carry a stiletto taped to your ankle to this day. You are the bad boy, and by indulging in this morass of grease, second-hand smoke and common-man appetites, you will not be sleeping alone on this night...

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: silence9

                                                              Yeah thats what I was thinking. I get the spinach crust, which is eerily green, but so good! Yeah it's a scene and has been for decades. The delivery guys...a way of life.

                                                              1. re: actorsdiet

                                                                I def endorse both those pizza options...different but excellent....btw..is pizza on the "actor's diet?" I suppose if you're playing William Howard Taft.

                                                              2. Never had a bad pie at Settebello in Pasadena, in fact, it's the best I've had in LA...and it might be the closest to what can be found in Uruguay, should she ever want to hvae it again.
                                                                Great location and just a few blocks down the street from Bulgarini Gelato for an after dinner treat.

                                                                It's quite a trek for me (I live on the other end of the 110-San Pedro), but the distance has never stopped me before.

                                                                17 Replies
                                                                1. re: Novelli

                                                                  This is where we went. But the weather did not cooperate with a post-Settebello trip to Bulgarini.

                                                                    1. re: AAQjr

                                                                      Enjoyed it, but didn't understand America's fascination with pizza.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Probably should have done P.Mozza.

                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                          No, probably should have done a more everyday pizza joint. Generally speaking, pizza in this country is casual comfort food served by the slice on a sheet of wax paper for the common man or woman. I cannot see how a novice popping his pizza cherry at a relatively fancy gourmet restaurant could possibly begin to "understand America's fascination with pizza."

                                                                          I'm not in any way knocking Settebello or Pizzeria Mozza. I'm just saying they don't represent the typical U.S. pizza experience.

                                                                          1. re: Arthur

                                                                            Virgin was unimpressed with pizza. The solution would be bring the big guns, not an average piece...unless you're trying to force her into a life of pizza celibacy.

                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                              That's just empirically untrue. Most of us got started on average pizza in neighborhood joints. Who among us was thereby forced into a life of pizza celibacy?

                                                                              ipsedixit obviously can address this better than I, but my point was rooted in his statement that Virgin failed to "understand America's fascination with pizza." You don't gain the best cultural understanding of that which is ubiquitous and commonplace by being introduced to that which is atypical, more formal and extraordinary. If I wanted to represent a standard enjoyable sushi experience to a newbie, I wouldn't take them to Urasawa.

                                                                              1. re: Arthur

                                                                                I think my friend's reaction to pizza-the-first-time can best be summed up her words: "people have heated arguments on Chowhound about this stuff?"

                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  Lol! That's what i think reading the hot dog threads ;)

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    Tell her that we would be just as glad to argue over the best and most authentic asado, (and whether or not one needs to play truco while eating/cooking the asado to complete the experience) if we lived in her branch of the woods... ;-D>

                                                                                  2. re: Arthur

                                                                                    Your sushi example is the perfect example. Many sushi "novices" dislike uni or aji or saba because they have only had inferior versions at lower end sushi bars. It's not until they have a pristine piece at a higher end sushi bar that the light goes off. Same with sushi rice. One does not understand the importance of sushi rice unless you go to a place like Yasuda or Mori, a place that has taken the time to perfect it. The same can be said about the crust and toppings of a pizza. I've taken many South Ameican and Asian foreigners in addition to countless out of towners to P.Mozza who all "get it" right away.

                                                                                    Your notion is a romantic one but by that token ipse should have ordered Pizza Hut or Papa John's...

                                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                                      I overloaded on an uni course at Urasawa in 2004 (back when the meal cost $250 before tax and tip). Read course #8 for my description:


                                                                                      I can honestly say that I've not had the desire to eat it again.

                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                        Better than overdosing on Todai uni.

                                                                                      2. re: Porthos

                                                                                        Porthos, all due respect but you keep missing what I see as the point here. ipsedixit's friend seemed eager to experience why Americans are so nuts about pizza. Yet you keep insisting that the best way to enlighten her would have been to escort her to a restaurant that does not resemble and is in no way representative - that is in fact out of reach - of what the overwhelming majority of Americans are familiar with. Restaurants like Pizzeria Mozza may take the form to a glorious whole new level, but most Americans probably wouldn't even recognize it as pizza.

                                                                                        Pizza is not an elitist or challenging food in this country. It is incredibly rare for anyone, including non-natives who've never tasted it before, to need a "pristine piece" of pizza before "the light goes off." Then again, this wasn't the miserably false choice you offer between Pizzeria Mozza and Pizza Hut. It is not uncommon for neighborhood joints to make far better than adequate, often wonderfully delicious pizza that IMO would have better represented and provided a broader understanding of this quintessentially American phenomenon.

                                                                                        Ultimately, the proof is in the results: ipsedixit took his friend to an upscale pizzeria, and that approach failed.

                                                                                        1. re: Arthur

                                                                                          Yeah, that is why I said to go to a more "normal" pizza place first (see my post from 2/8) and then something like Settebello or Pizza Mozza.

                                                                                          1. re: Arthur

                                                                                            You're missing my point I'm missing yours. I think you should showcase the best. You want to showcase the most common. I suggest Mozza. You're suggesting some common neighborhood joint even though that hypothetical joint wouldn't be representative of any other random neighborhood in Chicago or NYC or even SF. You think pizza is "quintessential" American, I think it's Italian. Time to agree to disagree and move on.

                                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                                              Porthos, I'm fine with agreeing to disagree, but please don't falsely misrepresent my position. Nowhere have I ever suggested Pizza Hut or Papa John's. That's just flagrant BS, as my prior post makes perfectly clear (if you even bothered to read it). Just because you want to take an extreme position does not mean that I am arguing for the polar opposite one.

                                                                        2. Get some delivery on Day 1. Watch a movie at home.

                                                                          Go to a Neopolitan Pizzeria a week later, Day 2. Any decent one will do, since your friend is inexperienced.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                                              I think including the delivery experience is a great idea.

                                                                              For that... Joe's and Vito's are awesome.

                                                                              I'm also a big fan of Pizza Bella, as yet unmentioned here.

                                                                          1. Ip.-dix:
                                                                            bumping this up to see - WHERE DID you go?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. if Costa Mesa isn't excluded, Ortica. before it became extinct, Caffe Angeli, which was a nice place to have a meal, something not to be taken for granted.

                                                                              1. I would go to any Pitfire Pizza, for the big bucks Mozza, Gjenlina. For NY style, I still like Mulberry St.