What exactly is Pittsburgh-design pizza? To listen to chef Benjamin Osher explain it, it’s essentially a state of intellect: “Pittsburgh-style pizza, to me, it channels the ethos of a blue-collar lifestyle, about not being dainty. It is above the top. A lot of components, not a large amount of policies.”
Osher is the mainly one particular-person-band driving Gorilla Pies, the upstart strip shopping mall contender in the San Fernando Valley community of Valley Village. The cafe, like so a lot of other folks right now, arrived about in its own fortuitous way — a result of pandemic unemployment, at-dwelling ingenuity, and a very little hometown delight. And, as the past 18 months have nearly statistically proved, there’s generally money in pizza.
The ideal way to hear Osher’s individual pizza journey, the 1 that acquired him to this strip shopping mall upcoming to a kosher grocery shop, is to in fact go to Gorilla Pies. If there is only 1 man or woman within slinging dough, there’s a good probability it is him, though on busier weekends Osher’s small staff members does have to reluctantly notify customers that though the guy creating every pizza is delighted to chat, he does have a whole lot of tickets backing up on the rail.
So here’s the gist of it: Osher primarily grew up in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill community east of downtown. It’s culturally mixed but with a significant Jewish existence, and Osher (who is Jewish himself and of Russian descent) invested his teenage several years hanging out with close friends, washing dishes and executing occasional kitchen area perform in neighborhood dining places, and feeding on day-to-day slices at Aiello’s on Murray Ave. Right after attending college or university in Maryland, Osher and some close friends begun Wonderful Decay, a zine turned legit publication, which grew in prominence until running into the buzzsaw that was the 2008 monetary crisis. All of a sudden without having function and with a lot of time on his arms, Osher turned to food stuff.
“I started out waking up every single morning and looking through the histories of different foodstuff,” states Osher. “It was comforting for me. Immediately after about a week I thought ‘What the hell am I performing? I have to have a career.’”
In Los Angeles, Osher picked up a gig functioning as a receiver at Nobu on La Cienega, arranging wander-ins full of contemporary develop and turning out ingenious workers foods for the cooks and servers. He and then-Nobu line cook dinner Miles Thompson would “bang out Reubens, do all kinds of wild shit” to maintain themselves entertained. It was, Osher claims, his 1st real kitchen training, and finally led to daytime sous chef perform. And then matters acquired bizarre.
Immediately after a few yrs cooking in Los Angeles, Osher approved an present to run the busy Nobu spot in Moscow, Russia, owned by the contentious Agalarov oligarch relatives. It was “a tremendous bizarre” two yrs, suggests Osher, residing and cooking in Russia. “There’s no rule of regulation. You can’t expect that something will get completed. Like, you just park where by you park, and in the early morning either your vehicle is there or it disappears.”
Inevitably, Osher moved back again to the States, landing as chef de delicacies at the celebrated Indian restaurant Junoon in New York Metropolis, and then at the upscale Christophe Harbour improvement at Saint Kitts in the Caribbean, doing the job alongside his previous friend Miles Thompson. They both equally located their way again to Los Angeles in time, with Thompson operating Michael’s in Santa Monica and Osher bouncing around, producing cooking some at places like Konbi but largely building wholesale items and personal cheffing. He was also perfecting his pizza. “When I was stretching dough, I would feel about Joe Aiello [in Pittsburgh]”, suggests Osher. “He’s the eyesight. I want to recreate the magic of people substantial college a long time, hanging out at a pizza store.”
As an alternative, the 2020 pandemic scuttled Osher’s position functioning the hectic Mama Shelter in Hollywood, inadvertently opening the doorway to what is now Gorilla Pies. Residence oven pizzas turned Instagram sellers, and Valley Village became his consumer foundation. “I utilised to acquire menus and depart them at my area espresso shop,” states Osher. “I’d place flyers on people’s autos, in their mailboxes. All of it.” The grassroots tactic discovered soil, expanding Gorilla Pies into a formidable Valley underground pop-up all through the wintertime surge — till the wellbeing department identified his developing and started out asking close to. “Thankfully, my landlord completely stonewalled them,” says Osher, laughing.
Armed with a minor income and heaps of assure, Osher uncovered his current house, a previous kosher bakery with just a slip of storefront peeking out from the substantial strip shopping mall. “I saw the infrastructure here, I noticed the rent,” he suggests. “It’s 10 minutes from my dwelling, and I understood that I could carry on to provider my regulars.” Additionally, the Squirrel Hill indigenous suggests, “there’s just a thing about this becoming a particularly Jewish region. You truly feel it.”
Two months or so in, Gorilla Pies is without a doubt doing work. Osher laces each pizza with a good deal of mozzarella to guarantee an more-tacky consequence, and he is not concerned to load up his pies with tons of, very well, no matter what he wants. There’s pickled fennel on a person pizza, pastrami and sauerkraut on an additional, furthermore the usual array of greens, Italian meats, and crimson sauce choices. There are even meatballs (together with a vegan just take), wings, and some of the greatest tacky bread — identified as monkey bars listed here — you can get any place in Los Angeles. He’s received that blue-collar pizza mentality, honed in Pittsburgh and planted in the Valley: Feed men and women superior, and very well, and watch them return. “To me, pizza is convenience,” says Osher. It is received to take place within just the crust, but all the things else is entertaining. And no subject what, if you are working with good ingredients and placing adore into it, everyone’s gonna eat it.”
Gorilla Pies is now open up at 12417 Burbank Boulevard in Valley Village, with several hours Wednesday and Thursday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Buy forward via ChowNow.