The feeling came out of nowhere and exploded over me like hormonal pyrotechnics. A chemical surge that drove a desire so intense I could practically feel molecules of feminine hormones coagulating in my blood. A violent hunger that surprised me, because quite honestly, I rarely have an appetite for it, let alone in such a wild and feverish way.
It was an uncontrollable craving of the just-quit-cancer-inducing-oral-fixation kind, coupled with raging monthly hormones.
It was 10:47 pm and I needed...pizza. Badly. *pause* That’s weird. *shrugs*
It is at times like this that I thank God for Frankie & Johnnie’s, a west coast attempt at New York style pizza. Not only is Frankie & Johnnie’s just two blocks away from me, but they are open late (a rarity in sleepy Brentwood). Most importantly, they sell pizza by the slice, so a violent craving for pizza can be defeated without much aftermath to the wallet or the waistline.
New York style pizza in L.A. is often the subject of heated debate amongst pizza-lovers. Sometimes I tear off my sleeves and jump mouth-first into the fray, but for today, I will simply sit in the bleachers and watch amusedly. For God’s sake, it’s just pizza, and all I want to do is eat it.
The Frankie & Johnnie’s location near me is just a tiny storefront wedged between, of all places, Whole Foods Market and Le Beach Club, a high end tanning salon. Frankie & Johnnie’s probably isn’t relying too much on a cross-over clientele from either of its neighbors, but it seems that most of their business is take-out and delivery to surrounding Brentwood anyway. For that reason, the interior is bare-bones, with only a few small tables inside and on the sidewalk. I think I might have even eaten a slice sitting on the bus bench that’s right in front. There are a couple of higher bar-style tables with stools against the walls, which are covered with graffiti. Probably a few autographs from celebrities, I’m sure, but I’ve never taken the time to examine the walls.
The menu on the back wall behind the counter lists whole pizzas; slices are priced out on a separate menu off to the right. I remember when a slice of cheese was $1.50, but not only is this Brentwood, but there’s been a lot of time for inflation since I’ve been in college. Pizzas that are sold by the slice are in the case next to the register, and by the time I finally give in to a pizza craving late at night, the remnant slices have probably been sitting there for at least a half hour. They have to be re-heated in the oven in the back, but I don’t really care. It doesn’t taste all that different to me.
For some unknown reason, like so many other unexplainable food phases in my life, I have fallen back in love with mushrooms. Cold mushroom pizza doesn’t look at all appetizing, and cold, old mushroom pizza looks even worse. The mushrooms are shriveled to tiny dark, gray bits; the cheese looks dry and wrinkled. Thankfully, hormones aren’t picky, so I asked for the last slice of the mushroom pizza in the case. He said that if I wait, a fresh cheese pizza would be hot out of the oven. How long? He said a minute or two. No, I need it now, and every second counts when you’re dealing with hormonal urges. He leaned back, looking over his shoulder. Okay, he said it’d be coming out in 30 seconds. He was right. And when it came out, I was glad that he had been thoughtful enough to ask me to wait it out.
I carefully took hold of the edge of the flimsy paper plate, letting it curve gently downward against the weight of the pizza. Perfect balance, perfect pressure kept the slice on the plate on the short transit to “my” table – the high table against the wall, directly under the TV that’s mounted in the corner. The ritualistic condiment ceremony involves all of them, except parmesan cheese, which I like for everything else, even on its own, but for some inexplicable reason, cannot shake over pizza. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, herbs, and of course, the heaviest hand shakes the crushed red pepper. The holes in the lid are just not made for pepper flakes, and inevitably I must unscrew the metallic silver lid and dump the pepper flakes directly from the bulbous clear plastic shaker. If Frankie & Johnnie’s had Tabasco on their tables, I would have used that, too.
Slices of New York-style pizza always look too big for the plate, the tip hanging languidly over the edge, but didn’t they do that on purpose? It's just not meant to be picked up with hands. Fresh out of the oven, it's too hot to touch and the pizza crust is too thin and pliable to hold up the weight of the slightly sweet sauce and messy, melting cheese. You have to eat it right from the edge of the plate, pushing the pizza from crust in the back to front edge with each bite. No one ever told you to eat it that way, it just happened by necessity. Okay, maybe that’s just me, and everyone else uses a fork and knife. LOL!
It never takes long at Frankie & Johnnie’s. It’s always – Wham! Bam! Thank you, pizza man! And within 15 minutes, I am back in my car, fire extinguished (yes, two blocks away, and yet I drive, but do I really have to go into that again?). Is it the best pizza in the world? The best in the U.S.? Is Frankie & Johnnie’s even one of the top five in L.A.? I have no idea. I’m not a connoisseur, especially for three days a month at 10:47 pm. But even on the other 27 days of the month, it tastes pretty damn good.
Frankie & Johnnie’s
11753 San Vicente Boulevard (between Montana and Gorham)
Los Angeles, CA 90049