Words and photos (except for the Chinese diaper baby) by Dave Carnie
Salman Agah opened a pizza place in downtown LA. I wanted to begin this review with some sort of corny reference to pizza and switch stance, but someone beat me to it.
“When Salman Agah pioneered the switch stance, he made his mark in professional skateboarding,” wrote Jenni Simcoe on blogdowntown.com. “With that move, Agah was able to ride his skateboard ambidextrously. With his next move, . . . Agah hopes to put his professional mark on the Arts District in the form of a neighborhood pizza joint.”
Get it? MOVES!
One of the most interesting things about Toddy G’s Pizza (named after Salman’s partner and New York native, Todd Giordanella) is that Heath Kirchart was the delivery boy.
“Wanna do a short interview?” I asked Heath.
“I kinda don’t,” Heath said.
“Well, I know you kinda don’t,” I said, “but I kinda do.”
Heath was very kind, and apologetic, and didn’t want to be a dick, but he didn’t think anyone would be interested. “On the contrary,” I said, “we’ve only been talking for about five minutes and this is very interesting.” But, alas, Heath’s pizza delivery days are over. He was just filling in for someone who was having a baby.
“You can raise a child on a pizza delivery boy salary?” I asked.
“I made really good tips,” Heath said. He claimed to have made around $140 the night before. What do diapers cost? I don’t think children should even wear diapers. Fuck ‘em. In China babies have crap doors, or ass windows, in back so their butts just hang out and they shit wherever they please like horses. I saw a lady holding one over the gutter and squeezing it like a tube of toothpaste.
“I didn’t even know Heath until a couple weeks ago,” Salman said. “I saw him around obviously, but I met him at a Holiday party and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m looking for a job.’ And I said, ‘Would you be interested in delivering pizzas?’—as a joke. But he was so enthusiastic about it that then I was feeling weird because I had to give him a job. Apparently he really loves doing it. I think it’s rad that I actually paid him something.”
I was bummed Heath retired from pizza delivery because I really wanted him to deliver me a pizza and ambush him on his little moped. Can you imagine getting a pizza delivered by Heath Kirchart? That would have been a great photo. And I didn’t even get to provide him with the pizza delivery tips I got from his old boss, Tony Hawk.
“Be punctual,” Tony wrote in an email. “And don’t carry too much change so tips have the potential to be bigger.”
Jenni Simcoe missed that skateboard/pizza reference, didn’t she? That’s why I’m the greatest hard-hitting skateboard journalist ever, and she’s not. How do you like those moves, Jenni?
For my next move, I went to Toddy G’s to try the pizza. It’s on 7th Street almost directly between The Berrics and Dyrdek’s Fun Factory. But as you can see on the map, Toddy G’s (C) is a little further west of The Berrics (B) and Dyrdek’s (C), thus making it the tip of the shaft of an imaginary skateboard pizza power penis. Or something.
“Which one is the pizza that Heath likes?” I asked the fella behind the counter. It was Todd G., Salman’s partner. He was very friendly. “Heath said he liked the meat one.”
Heath’s one of those kids that only eats a handful of things, and one of those things is meat. “So I like the meat pizza,” he said. “And I like the white pizza.” I found the latter an odd choice for him. Seems too exotic. But then he did go through a white phase a couple years ago where all he wore was white.
“Oh he liked this one,” Todd said pointing to the menu, “the Meat Jesus.”
“Jesus,” I said to myself looking at the price. “Well I’ll have one of those to go. And I’ll get a slice to eat while I wait. Is the bar open next door?”
Toddy G’s is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It’s in a dark warehouse district right on the river. But it happens to be next to a cool-kid bar called Tommy’s Saloon. And Tommy’s and Toddy’s have a nice thing going there.
“Yeah,” Todd said. “And we can send your pizza over through the secret window.”
“Secret window!” I squealed. I love secret windows.
“The Meat Jesus?” Salman said after I told him what I ordered. “That’s one of my creations. The funny thing is I have to tell Edgar [their chef] constantly that when you eat a slice of Meat Jesus, the point of it is to die afterwards: you just ate so much meat that your heart stopped and you’re in Jesus’ presence. That’s why it’s called that. So can you please pile the meat on?”
“Has anyone been offended by the name?” I asked.
“No, people love it,” he said. “And you know I have a background proselytizing for the church, I’m cool with it. There’s a church group that comes in on Sundays usually around 11pm and they all order it. It’s their favorite slice.”
The Meat Jesus. Praise Jesus. (That is the only time I will ever say “Praise Jesus” and mean it.) Salman spent about two months perfecting his pizza with the help of Italian chef Steve Samson, and bona fide New York pizza guy, Uncle Charlie. “I mean the dough is the big one,” Salman said, “because you gotta deal with just the environment alone. And then our dough is sourdough, so we do have our own starter that we feed and take care of—I mean, the dough is like having kids, you have to take care of it.”
But New Yorkers, are they offended? By the pizza, that is. New Yorkers hate pizza. Unless they’re in New York. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a subject worth getting all riled up about. I’m not going to argue about a fucking pizza. It’s either good, or it’s not. And I really hate New Yorkers and their pizza tears. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Who cares? Even when it’s the best pizza in the world (I’ve had pizza in NYC and even in Naples), it’s still just a fucking pizza. WOOO! You win! New York has the best pizza! New York rules! I don’t give a shit. You know why we don’t have great New York pizza here in LA because—get this—this isn’t New York. I don’t go to New York and whine about how shitty your Mexican food is, so shut the fuck up and go home to your blizzards.
“On my street,” Salman said, “someone put these stickers up all over the place that say, ‘I miss New York,’ or something. And there’s another person on our street that writes on the stickers, ‘Go back then.’ It’s funny because there’s this dialogue on this sticker between these people who don’t know each other. But New Yorkers inherently have this pride about New York, and I get it. It’s a gateway city for an entire country, and there’s a lot of history there and whatnot, but it’s funny we get New Yorkers, they come in here and they bust our balls, but then they have the pizza and they’re stoked. So I kind of like it. It’s a fun ritual.”
“I think they’re ridiculous,” I said. “Like Reda. What’s he think?”
“Oh Reda was like, ‘I’m never eating there! That aint fucking pizza! You can’t make dough in LA!’ And, dude, Reda is on the team. He’s in here five times a week. We’re going to have to name a booth after his ass.”
“Look,” Reda said about Toddy G’s, “the fact that the guy who invented skating switch opens a pizza joint in LA that can make any New Yorker say ‘Damn! This shit is good for LA!’ aint too fuckin weird to me.”
It’s really difficult for me to not Photoshop a giant cock into this photo.
Wow. He, a New Yorker, actually likes it? But note the “good for LA” clause. Still, I’m surprised we even got that out of him.
And while I’m the greatest hard-hitting skateboard journalist ever, even I am sometimes guilty of throwing a few softballs every now and then. “What’s it like,” I asked Salman, “going from skateboarding to making pizza?”
“To me,” Salman said, “it’s just like doing a trick. A difficult trick now would be, like, a switch 360 flip to switch crooked grind to f/s half cab flip out down a 15 stair rail. Someone probably did that today. I don’t want to learn that trick, because I know how hard it is to do, so I was like, ‘I’ll do a different trick: I’m going to trick out a pizza spot.’ So now my new tricks are pizza recipes.”
And he’s landing his new trick every time!
HAHA! Oh my God. Sorry. Fuck me. I can’t resist this corny journalism shit. These are my MOVES! Hold on, let me try another one:
Salman Agah is still grinding, but now it’s the daily grind of running a pizza business. And from the taste of it, this might be his most radical grind yet.
BAM! Oh my. Somebody stop me.
Salman may have traded in his wheels to roll dough, and the only board he’s flipping now is a pizza peel, but he’s stomping the—
Sorry, I can’t do it anymore. I’m going to throw up.
I took a seat at the bar next door in Tommy’s Saloon and ordered a beer. My pizza did indeed arrive through a secret window at the end of the bar. “Eeeek!” I kind of squealed again.
Love secret windows. Love them. And I had my Meat Jesus. It was good. It was really good. It tastes “normal.” When I want pizza, I want a pizza that tastes like how a pizza is supposed to taste. Like when I order a beer, I want a Beer. I don’t want any fucking pumpkin or raspberry fish heads or anything in it. And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. I’ve found that it’s surprisingly difficult to make something that approaches “the thing in and of itself.”
“Yeah it is,” Salman said. “It’s like the simpler you make it, the harder it is to make.”
But Salman does make it. And Toddy G’s pizza tastes a lot like how I think a pizza is supposed to taste. It’s really good… for LA.
If you’re cool, your pizza comes in one of these boxes. Apparently I’m not cool.