Piece O’ Pizza
Piece O’ Pizza was the brand name of a string of eateries that once decorated the Southern California landscape…an amazing reach considering the awfulness of their signature product. Do you like pizza where the crust tastes like matzo, the toppings have the thickness of carbon paper and you can’t decide whether to eat the pizza or the box it came in? If you do, you’d have loved Piece O’ Pizza pizza. Just awful. What kept them in business, it seemed to me, was their great, racy slogan (“Had a piece lately?”) and the fact that there then weren’t a lot of other places where one could grab a fast pizza to take home.
Also, they served a decent meatball sandwich and a more-than-decent (and very cheap) spaghetti plate. Many of the Piece O’ Pizza stands were in “Skid Row” style areas, and I bet that spaghetti plate kept a lot of homeless people alive.
Like I said, they were all over L.A. There was one on Pico just east of Sepulveda, one at Beverly and Fairfax, another on La Brea just south of Hollywood, another on La Cienega near Airdrome, another on Western just south of Hollywood…and (I’m guessing) at least 200 more. As far as I know, there’s only one remaining. It’s down on Venice Boulevard about a half-mile west of Sepulveda. A year or two ago, I was in the neighborhood and in need of rapid lunch, so I decided to go in and have the spaghetti plate, just to see if it was still the same. Since there is no parent company now to supply the preparations, I was expecting totally different cuisine…but the meat sauce was more or less what I recalled, or at least it seemed to have evolved from the same recipe.
I probably won’t go back since I now have better places to eat. I suspect that’s what killed off the Piece O’ Pizza chain in or around the late eighties. As Numero Uno and Pizza Hut and even Domino’s spread, everyone had a better place to get a quick pizza or to have one brought piping-hot to their door. Speculating further, I’d guess that too many of their stands were located in depressed areas, which made it difficult for them to upgrade their product. It would have been awkward to simultaneously improve their menu (thereby making most items more expensive), advertise that they’d done this…but still service the crowd that just wanted the cheapest-possible plate of pasta.
I don’t exactly miss the places since they weren’t that good. On the other hand, I’ve been to fancy Italian restaurants where I enjoyed a $20 entree a lot less than I liked the Piece O’ Pizza spaghetti plate. Even in the early eighties, it didn’t cost much over two dollars…and that included garlic bread.