This Pizza-Maker Wants You to Stop Talking About the Oscars
Wood Handcrafted Pizza was opened by the pizza delivery guy who crashed the 2014 Oscars and his brother. Two years later, his brother wants you to stop bringing up The Oscars and take his tasty Neapolitan-style pizza seriously.
All photos by Javier Cabral
Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of what shall forever be remembered as the day that pizza stole the show at the Academy Awards, when Ellen DeGeneres took matters into her own hands and fed a few lucky celebrities a slice. Not even Leonardo DiCaprio's emotional speech last night—or him pissing off half of LA because he claimed that he "grew up in East Los Angeles" when, in fact, he grew up in Silver Lake—was enough to make us forget such a grand moment in the world of pizza in Hollywood.
However, what many people don't know is that Edgar Martirosyan, the delivery dude who got his 15 minutes of fame on air that night in 2014, went on to open a Neapolitan-style pizzeria with his brother Erik in Los Angeles.
But after two long years of his restaurant Wood Handcrafted Pizza being known as "the spot opened up by the Oscars pizza delivery dude" in the post-hipster community of Silver Lake, Erik would sincerely like everybody to stop thinking that and start taking him seriously as a legitimate contender for the title of Los Angeles's best pizzaiolo. I found this out, somewhat awkwardly, as I picked up a couple of pies to enjoy during this year's event and asked him about how things are going.
"The idea for Wood was developed way before the Oscars, actually," Erik told me as he ever-so-gracefully caressed a ball of dough into a freeform disk for my white pie with lamb sausage and pickled onions. "Some people would come in just to see my brother, so talk to him if you want to talk Oscars stuff. Me? I've been here seven days a week, putting in a lot of sweat into the perfection of my pizza. I don't want to be involved with the Oscars stuff anymore."
He didn't look up at me even once while answering because he was so laser-focused on the consistency of each pie.
Erik is entirely self-taught in the art of pizza. When I asked him how he learned his craft, he simply answered, "I went to a few pizza shows and stuff, and watched how Italians work with pizza, but I mostly developed my skills here." He says his pizza obsession "just happened" out of nowhere. "There wasn't any kind of attraction that led me to pizza." Nonetheless, he does have some early memories of his mother, who is also a baker, making him pizza from scratch with fresh produce and local meats picked up from bazaars while growing up in Moscow, Russia. (Erik is originally from Charentsavan, a small town in Armenia.)
Last night at 5 PM, he was a well-oiled machine, single-handedly making about a dozen or so charred, beautiful specimens for take-out orders. Every pie that he carefully pulled out of his blazing, almond wood-burning oven is picture-perfect: slightly charred crust (that he achieves by lifting and rotating each pizza by hand so that it is closer to the hottest point in the oven), pillowy edges, and enough cheese and sauce to steam and make the center of the pie just runny enough. My mouth started to water as I anticipated a slice.
Erik swore that the secret is in the high-quality flour he imports from Italy. "You can taste the difference," he told me. "I'm planning on starting to import the water from Italy, too." I started to get the feeling that Erik is dead-serious about his mission to create the absolute best pizza that he possibly can. "There are no such things as recipes for dough. You have to feel it out and just bring it to a perfect condition."
Erik adheres to an old saying that a Neapolitan friend of his once shared with him. "He told me that if an Italian can eat two pizzas before going to sleep and wake up the next morning without having a bad feeling in his stomach, then it is a good, properly leavened pizza." He chose Neapolitan-style for his restaurant because of its history as being the first pizza ever enjoyed by man in the Roman era, and because it is difficult to master. He sells an average of 170 pies on any given day, but he will not stop until he reaches his goal of 300.
As soon as my two pizzas were done and boxed-up, I sped back home to enjoy each chewy, delicate, and pleasurably yeasty bite. I have no reservations about saying that Erik's pies are better than some of the more reputable pizzerias in town—Oscar break or not.