This may come as no shock, but Americans (including yours truly) are addicted to pizza. Generating $32 billion annually, there are 3 billion pizzas sold in the U.S. each year and 5 billion worldwide. In the U.S. that’s 23 pounds of pizza per person, per year. (Burp.)
In fact, as a country we annually consume 252 million pounds of pepperoni because 36 percent of all our pizzas have pepperoni as one of the toppings. (Be careful before you try to work that into cocktail conversation.)
Eating pizza is so remarkably popular that reading about pizza is also remarkably popular. In our Santa Monica library system there are over 200 books on pizza while Amazon.com has 5,441 books on the subject. (Imagine an author contemplating writing his or her first novel, “Hmm. Melville already wrote ‘Moby Dick,’ maybe I’ll write about pizza.”)
As for me, no matter what size the pizza, if it’s in my apartment or on my plate, it’s toast. (By “toast” I mean I can’t stop eating pizza until it’s all gone.) It can be downright embarrassing, especially if I had to bully a 10-year-old for the last slice. Even the next morning, cold from the refrigerator, the leftover pizza, while perhaps not the “Breakfast of Champions,” somehow can be more delicious than the night before. Or maybe it’s just part of my pizza addiction.
Speaking of which, what if there were a 12-step program, Pizza Anonymous? (Instead of AA, it’d be PA?) That way, when I eventually hit bottom, like finding myself rummaging through my trash in order to lick cheese remnants off the greasy cardboard pizza box, I’d have a place to turn. I can just see myself at a meeting. “Hi, I’m Jack, and I’m powerless to pizza.”
I mention all this because lately I’ve been writing about the history of my neighborhood. (“Ocean Park’s walking Wikipedia” and “Little Indians of Ocean Park ride again.”)
Well, it turns out two brothers, Peter and Ernest Lepore, Ocean Park residents since 1992, are part of a proud family which, for five generations, has owned the famed Ferrara Bakery and Café in New York’s Little Italy for 121 years. (How’s that for history?)
Reportedly Ferrara is the oldest bakery in the world. Peter and Ernest also own and operate the newly remodeled Bravissimo Café and Pizzeria in Ocean Park.
Consistently delicious, Bravissimo’s pizza is authentic New York style, thinner crust, rich in sauce on fluffy but crispy dough baked on the premises daily. (My mouth is watering as I type this.)
Known for “the best desserts in the world,” Bravissimo ships in from Ferrara delectable cannoli and, soon to arrive, N.Y. cheesecake, tiramisu and triple chocolate tort. (My mouth is watering even more, which I realize is TMI, too much information.)
Bravissimo opened in 2002, but just recently underwent a complete makeover. It’s now bright and airy, with a beautiful outdoor patio. The place feels like New York, but with a relaxed vibe, which I know is a contradiction in terms but, trust me, it’s true.
Above all, at Bravissimo it’s about food and love. “The Lepores’ theory,” Peter says passionately, “is to put the same kind of love into our food that your mother used to give you with hugs and kisses.” (Spoken like a true Italian.)
As a bonus, the staff at Bravissimo is friendly, fast and hip. On occasion they get assistance from Peter’s son, Jett, age 8, who is the fifth generation of Lepores in the bakery business. Shamelessly, I’m already buttering up Jett, pardon the pun, for when he becomes manager of Bravissimo.
While I could happily exist on pizza, I’m not the connoisseur that some of my friends are. “You haven’t lived until you’ve had this or that pizza,” they say condescendingly. Frankly, they can get like snooty wine tasters with their “pizza expertise.” I just picture them as a fellow pizzaholic sharing at a PA meeting. That said, they rave about Bravissimo.
Who knows, maybe when I’m through with writing columns, I will take on the great American novel. With apologies to Melville, I think I may already have my opening paragraph.
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago, I thought I would sail the world. But, prone to sea sickness, instead I pleasantly purchased a pizza at Bravissimo and was one happy Ishmael.”
Bravissimo Café and Pizzeria is at 2400 Main St., (310) 392-7466. They deliver and are open to midnight weekdays and to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. They’re at www.bravissimopizzeria.com. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.