Damiano Mr. Pizza

damiano

The last remaining outlet of Damiano Mr. Pizza closed unexpectedly at the end of May.  Mitchell Kitay, the owner, told the press that he was forced out by the owners of the restaurant Animal, which had purchased the building two years ago.  Whatever the reason, suddenly there was no more Damiano Mr. Pizza.

To the best of my knowledge, there were once three…this one, on Fairfax across from Canter’s; another one on Robertson two blocks south of Pico and the one I first visited, which was on Pico near Westwood.  It was in a corner building that had previously been the original location of Junior’s Delicatessen and is now a Maria’s Italian Kitchen.  The places were known variously as Damiano’s, Mr. Pizza and Damiano’s Mr. Pizza.  I’d always assumed someone named Damiano bought a pizzeria that was already named Mr. Pizza and just tacked his name on the way a woman named Ruth bought the Chris Steak House and added her name to it.  But that was just speculation.  I don’t know if Mr. Kitay was the founder but perhaps someone who posts in the comments section will.

What I do know is that Damiano offered the closest thing to “New York Italian” I ever found in Los Angeles.  The pizza was good — a bit greasy and a bit salty but quite tasty.  Even better were the pasta dishes, especially anything with their slow-cooked meat sauce on it.  I frequented all three outlets before the first two closed.

The one on Fairfax opened in ’64 and quickly became an institution in the area.  It stayed open (and delivered!) until 6 AM…7 AM on weekends, which came in handy at times.  In addition to great Italian food and beverages, the delivery guys could also bring you cigarettes…and one of their delivery guys told me once that at 5 AM, it was not unusual for someone to call up for a few cartons of Marlboro’s and then say, “While you’re at it, have him bring a pizza too.”  Most of the delivery folks seemed like homeless people with cars and one friend of mine used to tip them extra to stop at the CVS Pharmacy and bring medicines or candy, as well.  It was the one place at that hour you could phone and get someone to do that kind of thing for you.

damiano02.

I often got deliveries from Damiano Mr. Pizza but around 1990, I stopped actually going into the restaurant.  It was just too dilapidated, crowded and a little dirty.  I assume they fixed it up after that — they would have had to — but the shabby surroundings diminished my love of their chow.  It was though fun to watch the one guy on the phone juggling ten orders at once, hopping from one call on hold to another.  There was one period there where I stopped ordering from them because the orders were always incorrect when they arrived…but after a year or so, I finally missed their food enough to give them another try and the first and all subsequent orders were right.  You can imagine how much I’m going to miss them now.  Mr. Kitay says he hopes to reopen in another location and I hope he does…but I’ll still miss the place on Fairfax.  Even after I stopped setting foot inside, I was glad it was there…and delivering.

23 Responses to Damiano Mr. Pizza

  • Art says:

    for a long time, Damiano’s Mr. Pizza was the best pizza around.

  • Mike says:

    My family used to eat at the Damiano’s near our house on Robertson & Cashio. It was one of our favorite restaurants! It’s very sad that they’re all gone now.

  • Bess says:

    This is a major loss.. best pizza EVER and the Fugazetta (an Argentine pizza with more layers of ham, cheese and sweet onions) was better than well, you fill in the blank with what you love alot ;)p
    Im terribly sad and will never ever go to Animal or whatever the hell it is called.. another wonderful place gone.. :( and that just plain old sucks!

  • Mary says:

    I DO hope they reopen somewhere soon! I love their pizza!!

  • Steve says:

    How sad! I used to eat at the Robertson location for lunch frequently when I worked for my dad, whose office was walking distance. I loved their pizza, and the sub sandwiches that came with a little cup of caponata on the side. I went to the Pico location a few times, but I didn’t like it as much. There was a crusty (in a N.Y. kind of way) but entertaining waitress at Robertson named “Bea”, who left there when it closed and she ended up a Chris’s Pizza on Venice Blvd. in Culver City, which was also very good and now also gone.

  • Tamara says:

    And you could count on getting afterhours alcohol here! They would serve the beer or wine in white coffee mugs so no one was the wiser. Love them.

  • Charles Sheen says:

    The one on Robertson was our spot. What i remember about the building was that it was in a strip mall and had a photo box store in the parking lot,dad would drop off his film,we would order the pizza and take it home.Now the cool part was that they put the pepperoni underneath the cheese! I still think thats the coolest thing ever.We never went to the one on fairfax which was closer,we didnt even think it was apart of the chain.

  • Raul says:

    I would like to thank the owners of animal for shutting down damianos. I worked there for 9 years and have been unemployed for 5 months. I’ve been struggling to find a job, I have two kids, I struggle every month to pay my rent and all of my expenses. Sometimes I don’t even have money to put food on the fucking table for my family. Thanks again guys!

  • Brian says:

    Los Angeles. 3:00 a.m. You’re home. You’re stoned. THERE WAS NOTHING BETTER than Damiano’s. It is sadly, sadly missed.

  • Hortencia says:

    So sad. Had the best Shrimp pizza ever.

  • Kelly says:

    Damianos was and will always be the best pizza in LA. I was so sad when it closed. I moved out here when I was 22 and now I am 42. My friends and I were staples there after a night out partying. They would bring carrots and blue cheese to the table. Simply the best.

  • Suellen Liker says:

    I went to Damiano’s every two weeks on Robertson S. of Pico. There was a laundermat next door where I washed the clothes. And yes, there was a man named Damiano!! it was in the mid 70’s.

  • RobbPizza says:

    Mr. Pizza was started on Roberton Blvd. in the middle 60’s by Dominic Albanese. He was a wonderful man, who built his own, small empire of Italian restaurants. Before opening his 1st Mr. Pizza, he was the chef/manager of a famous Italian eatery on Vermont Blvd. His dream was to open his own restaurant, but he lacked all the necessary funds, so, over a period of time, he would say a table had broken, or a couple of chair needed to be replaced, a pan cracked or silverware was missing and he’d order replacements for the restaurant, while removing the perfectly good table, chair, pan or silverware. After a great deal of time, patience and larceny he had enough of everything to get started.

  • Jon says:

    Sad to hear it closed. This was where you could get a real, old-fashioned, NY style pizza, when you weren’t in the mood for blintzes, pastrami, or traditional Cantor’s fare. The other pizza joints that were newer, just didn’t have the knack that Mr. Pizza had.

  • Daniel says:

    Their pizza was great, R.I.P. If you guys want a great NY style pizza you should checkout Brownstone pizzeria on Colorado blvd near Eagle Rock. I know, I know it’s a schlep, but trust me (I’m a born and bred NYer) it’s worth it. And for those who refuse to eat at Animal are really depriving themselves of an awesome meal. Their Poutine will make you forget all about Pizza. Just sayin’.

  • Mitchell Kitay says:

    My late father was the founder

  • Mitchell Kitay says:

    The comment earlier from robb pizza about dominic albanese is pure BS! Albanese worked for my dad. He was his 1st employee in LA.

  • David says:

    Damiano’s is legendary, as far as I’m concerned. First of all, they had the best pizza. Secondly, they had this wonderful salad in sections including various vegetable, beans, lettuce, dressing etc. Additionally, when I was a kid living in the Pico-Robertson area, my friend Ronnie and I would go there every New Year’s Eve. Lastly, my friend Al would go there to pick up a few pizza pies to break the fast for Yom Kippur. I truly miss that place and their food.

  • Lazy Aussie says:

    I first stumbled across this place back in 2007 whilst my 1st travels to America, whilst staying at Banana Bungalow just up the road & returned back every year till its closure. This place had the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, and the dark atmosphere reminded me of the old Gino’s Pizza here in Lalor, Melbourne, Australia. It traditionally became the first place I’d eat in America, & the last place before boarding the plane & heading back home to Australia.
    Luckily, in Sept ’12, I managed to bring back a large pizza, in the box, with menus after a 16 hour flight back home, to show my friends & family! How’s that for delivery!?
    R.I.P. Mr Pizza, I miss you!
    Loyal & Sad Customer from July 2007 till Sep 2012 :(

  • Lazy Aussie says:

    Oh, and I still have the box! :)

  • Dave Moylan says:

    The comments from mitchell kitay are FALSE! DOM ALBANESE from Bensonhurst, NY is IN FACT the original owner. One of his 1st hires from outside the family was Irving Kitay, Mitchell’s dad. Irving was very hard working and rose to GM of all Dom Mr Pizzas. Dom loved Irving so much he willed Mr Pizza to Irving Kitay upon his passing. When Irving Kitay passed, his son MitchellKitay became owner. Mitchell simply did not understand the business and the rest is history. MrKitay is now managing apts in Weho.

  • RobbPizza says:

    Dave is absolutely correct and Mr. Kitay is full of crap. Dominic was a close friend of my family and we loved and admired him.

  • Bob Pono says:

    Stoned at 2:11am, and all I want is a sausage and egg sandwich delivered. A true shame…

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