The beauty of the San Fernando Valley (yes, there is a beauty to it) lies in its nostalgic past, endless blocks of an era long-gone elsewhere, yet continuing forward unchanged in this magical stronghold. As an example, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was shot on location at Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks—one of the most seventies-retro Mexican restaurants still in operation anywhere—because much of the San Fernando Valley looks exactly like it did during that decade. Whereas gentrification and modernization have completely revamped much of old San Francisco and other iconic California cities, you can still find plenty of throwbacks in the valley that harken back to a time when things were simpler. Pizza was just pizza. And the pizza parlor was the happiest place on earth.
Lido Pizza in Van Nuys has been making people happy since the 1950s, back when my colleague Dean lived just down the street. “This was our favorite place to get pizza,” he told me at lunch this week, in between bites of spinach ravioli with meat sauce; “My dad loved it, I loved it, and the crust is still unbeatable.” In 1958, the same year the Dodgers moved west from Brooklyn, it was taken over by a man named Frank Miccolis who operated a pizza chain in the valley called Chi-Chi’s, but Lido kept its name and its own identity. Still family-owned today, and having recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, it’s still a destination spot for Dean and I’ve been fortunate enough to tag along now and then.
Lido doesn’t just look like an old school pizza parlor, it tastes like one, too. The crispy crust, the flour still look on the bottom, the thick, gooey cheese on top, and the texture in every bite. The more I eat, the more I’m transported back to my childhood, each flashback made more intense by the surroundings that resemble it.
It’s not just pizza and pasta, either! Having stuffed my face with enough red sauce to feed a small country on our last visit, I decided to order one of Lido’s most popular dishes this time around: the hot roast beef sandwich with roasted bell peppers, served of course with a steaming bowl of au jus.
I did finish half of it.