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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
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Valley’s Big Pizza Party

Pizza is trending in the 818, as two prominent chains with loyal followings opened their first San Fernando Valley outlets in January. Anyone familiar with Chicago’s deep-dish pizza scene has heard of Gino’s East, which, alongside Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s Pizza, is the talk of Michigan Avenue. You’d have to drive to Phoenix to try the closest Lou Malnati’s, but the West Coast’s first Gino’s East — founded in 1966 — has opened in Sherman Oaks at 12924 Riverside Drive. And for a simple reason, per owners Tod Himmel and Dan Michaels. “We’re fans of the original one,” said Himmel, a former television writer on such sitcoms as “Ellen” and “According to Jim.” Chicagoan Himmel and Michigan native Michaels – a longtime radio personality and program director – first met as 14-year-olds at summer camp. Recently, the lifelong pals and Burbank residents decided to open a “Gino’s East West,” and even though Himmel is a cousin of one of Gino’s East’s owners, this represented his and Michaels’ first take as restaurateurs. So the lifelong pals did their due diligence, studying Chicago kitchens and seeking mentors in the person of a pizzeria owner and friend of Michaels in Colorado. “We feel there’s a huge opportunity here in L.A.,” Michaels said. The friends are already daydreaming of where to open their next Gino’s East. Meanwhile in Studio City, under the motto “damned good pizza,” Lucifers, at 11266 Ventura Blvd. offers Greek Lamb & Rosemary, Roast Pumpkin & Prosciutto, Ringburner and other pies at spicy levels meant to singe the taste buds. The cheeky devil motif relates to how “we love spicy food and you can order your pizza with anything (ranging) from ‘zero,’ ‘medium,’ ‘fiery’ or ‘blazing,’” owner Adam Borich wrote in an email to the Business Journal. Borich, a self-described “big fan of the SFV,” continued, “We almost opened our second location seven years ago on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, only to have the landlord decide to allow their current tenant to stay at the end of their lease.” Borich, who opened his first Lucifers in Los Feliz in 2008, has two other L.A. locations, Studio City notwithstanding. A large-format Lucifers in Palm Springs arrives in early 2021. “We are also about to start a search in Austin, Texas, which will be our first out-of-state location,” Borich said in the email. Borich promises that the Studio City location won’t be the last one north of the 101. “I have an excellent broker looking in all the (Valley) locations, (plus the) Westside, South Bay and Orange County,” he said.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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