Neapolitans abroad – from Los Angeles

Pino Daniele music brings Francesco back to childhood. He sits dreams and plans while listening to Alleria, A testa in giù. To Francesco origins and traditions are extremely important. He says they are like his DNA. “Especially if you are born in the heart of Napoli and grew up in a city that it’s unique.” Los Angeles is full of pizzerias but finding a pizza that has the same flavor and texture as the Neapolitan pizza was an impossible task until now. Often even happens to find butter in the dough. If in Los Angeles the Italian restaurants with an Italian cook are few Neapolitan pizza chefs in the Neapolitan pizzerias are even fewer. A few years ago, however, a new business opened. The owner is Neapolitan, the pizza maker is Neapolitan and except for the basil, which grows there at no cost, and so delicious, all the ingredients are imported from Napoli. The Neapolitan entrepreneur Francesco Zimone has lived in Los Angeles for about twenty years now. He is tied to his hometown to the bones but he also loves the city of Angels and the losangelino life style. So he solved the homesickness problem by bringing a little Napoli to Hollywood.

Placid and always smiling, the entrepreneur, together with his staff, welcomes guests putting them at ease, above all with the friendly hospitality characteristic of our culture. For Neapolitan people, the Pizzeria Da Michele which originally opened in Napoli, Italy, in 1870, and which, compatibly with the pandemic is still successfully active, is a landmark. Eating there is a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation and it is almost a sacred place for Neapolitan people and a must for tourists who crowd the square in front of the entrance, every day from 10AM, waiting for their turn, until late at night. At the Neapolitan original location they only serve two kind of pizza “ Marinara and Margherita. Francesco’s place is a stylish wide space and it cannot be otherwise in order to maintain a certain conformity with the Hollywood trend. You won’t find red and white checkered tablecloths nor the image of Vesuvius painted on the wall. At Antica pizzeria Da Michele a Hollywood everithing perfectly matches with the idea of luxury Italian garden.

Antica pizzeria Da Michele a Hollywood is the best place to taste Neapolitan pizza and other specialties in a location worthy of an American movie. The location is large but it is very welcoming and lends itself to scenographic and vibe changes that are currently helping the business to survive the pandemic’economic effects. In fact, among the countless initiatives that he has carried out over the last year he is hosting a new drive-in dining experience in the parking lot of the restaurant where customers can watch movies or sport games while comfortably dining in their cars. The Neapolitan enterpreneur Francesco Zimone is a continuous volcano of ideas that quickly leads to realization. He reacts, as any good Neapolitan can do, without being disheartened, but giving ample space to his creativity and carrying out a certain continuity of work and services that allows both workers and customers to resist in this difficult period.

Q – You have been in California for many years. What brought you here? –

FZ – I have been here since 2002. I came here to work for a film studio, Lionsgate. And then I was brought on board at Universal Pictures by legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis. –

Q – What do you like about Los Angeles? –

FZ – There are multiple reasons why I love LA. First and foremost, weather, green, space and ocean on my West. Exactly like Napoli. Melting pot of cultures, incredible energy from stars aligned over our head. A very organic culture that balance perfectly stardom. –

Q – What do you miss about Napoli? –

FZ – Napoli is the heart of the Mediterraneo. Napoli is history, strength, a port where things come and go. Napoli is only understandable on your skin. You cannot explain the land of the Greeks. Parhenope. It’s were my roots are. Where the feet are warm for the fire underneath the ground. –

Q – What do you do in your free time? –

FZ – I have no free time. I work on a multitude of projects always. I have always been this way. I don’t necessarily sleep for sleeping. I have ideas even in my dreams. I normally procrastinate in my own “dolce far niente”. I am an extremely interested and curious person. I read of quantum physics, of international trends, I love social studies and crave cultures. I relate everything together to create my own paradigm. –

Q – Was the choice to open L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Los Angeles your secret dream or it was an idea you conceived here?-

FZ – Antica was my excuse to bring the pizza I loved from Napoli. I missed the cheese and the tomato melting on it. Every other pizza didn’t have that alchemy. The truth is that I wanted to create a village. A place where people could feel at home. Antica was the perfect solution. –

Q – What is special about the pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Los Angeles? –

FZ – Antica was my excuse to bring the pizza I loved from Napoli. I missed the cheese and the tomato melting on it. Every other pizza didn’t have that alchemy. The truth is that I wanted to create a village. A place where people could feel at home. Antica was the perfect solution.

Q – What is special about the pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Los Angeles? –

FZ – Maybe I anticipated that a bit in last question. There is an alchemy in our pizza that is hard to find in others. And our place is the same. You walk in and suddenly you feel transported. It’s a work of love. –

Q – When you enter a restaurant for the first time what are the first 3 things you look at? –

FZ – I don’t enter into restaurants in the same why I did 5 years ago. When I was a kid I was in the car with my mom and my dad and we passed by this restaurant in Chiaia and we would always see people inside. So I told my dad: I am curious to see that place one time. So he brought us there. My imagination was completely different than the discovery. That gave me perception. Now a days, I see how it feels on my skin. And I understand when good thoughtful design makes things better or worse if the overall space has not being conceived right. –

Q – You have chosen a particular location for L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Los Angeles. Despite the size it is very cozy. What determined the choice of this location? –

FZ – This was a one of a kind situation. A 6000 se ft restaurant abandoned in a old street, hidden from the world and completely OUTDOOR. No one wanted it. And I loved it from the first day I walked in. I left with tears in my eyes. And sold everything I had to make sure was mine. After that, love grew day by day. I spent days inside the restaurant empty sitting in every corner to feel the vibe, imagine people around and learning about the space. It’s my House in Hollywood.

Q – How did you experience the L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele lockdown period in Los Angeles? –

FZ – The lockdown was the perfect gift for a Neapolitan like me. While everyone was closing and despair, I was driving myself crazy to find solution. I could not accept the idea that I could not find a solution to survive. So first we opened a market and then we realized that we could be of help for hospitals. We started zoom cooking class and got in people’s homes. On the second lockdown we went all in and opened a drive in movie theater and served food in people’s cars. A circus. –

Q – Does L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Los Angeles have any event planned for next Spring and / or Summer? –

FZ – We have something extremely cool in the pipeline. It will be announced in a few weeks. And it starts early in the day. Ciao guagliu’!-

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