Norman Schweitzer started going to Pizza Bozza when he was 9 years old and a student at . He met his wife, Otilia, when she worked there some 30 years ago. And in 1994 he bought the restaurant and renamed it .
This popular neighborhood restaurant has been in operation since 1959. It stands in a 100-year old building on the busy corner of Sunset and Alvarado.
Schweitzer has seen changes come to the neighborhood in the past decades. He recalls that the actor Anthony Quinn used to swim in the Echo Park Lake, and that seeing movies like the Beatles’ Help! cost 25 cents at the Ramona Theater on Sunset Boulevard.
Pizza Buona Is Largely Unchanged
Pizza Buona, he says, “fits in perfect” with the pace of life in Echo Park. The sign and interior have remained largely unchanged, and the recipes are the same ones created by the original Abruzzese owner Vincent Bozza.
Schweitzer is of German descent, and his wife hails from Mexico. He laughs that people ask, “What are you doing with an Italian restaurant?” But the reason is simple: “Everybody likes Italian food.”
When the Bozza family was looking to sell, the Schweitzers decided it was time to buy. “My wife kind of pushed me,” admits Schweitzer. Otilia still works there five days a week. So does Norman. And they’re joined now by their son, Israel, in the kitchen. “He’s a good cook,” his father says.
Pizza Buona's staff Has Been There a Long Time
Veronica Palacios has been working at Pizza Buona for 10 years. That makes her a relative newcomer among the staff. She rattles off how long some of the workers have been there and the count is in decades, not just years.
Her brother Saul Palacios, for instance, has been there 20 years, mostly delivering pizzas. “I know all the streets of Echo Park now,” he says. Carlos, spinning dough in his hands, has been there about 35 years. Richard, stirring the sauce, has been there about 20.
But the recipes are older than all of them, and they’ve withstood the test of time. “Our specialty is pizza,” says Otilia. She also makes sure to note that “all the food is fresh.”
Pizza Buona Makes Its Own Pizza Dough
Pizza Buona makes its own pizza dough in a large 60-quart mixer. They also make their own sauce, bread, ravioli, lasagna and sausage.
Schweitzer says that the Special pizza, with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers, is a big seller.
He cooked one for me, and the sauce was reminiscent of my Italian grandmother’s homemade sauce. The crust was chewy and baked to perfection and not too thin.
I’ll admit it, I had seconds.
Veronica recommends the Rustica pizza, with marinated tomatoes instead of sauce. She also suggests the linguine with clams and shrimp or the lasagna.
Saul is partial to the sandwiches, like a hot chicken parmigiana or cold prosciuttio and swiss. And Otilia was the one who put fettucine alfredo on the menu, which her husband says continues to be one of the most popular items.
The menu is “old school Italian,” says Schweitzer. The tables have tablecloths and small vases of flowers.
The wine selections include lambrusco, montepulciano and chianti. The jukebox is loaded with remastered 45s of Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza and Enrico Caruso. “Where else are you going to hear this music?” Schweitzer says with a laugh.
Pizza Buona is open seven days a week, does not sell slices and only takes cash. What else should people know about this neighborhood institution? “We try to be as friendly as possible,” says Schweitzer. ”But you may hear us fighting in the background.”
Pizza Buona is located at 2100 Sunset Blvd. 90026 (213) 413-0800.