At some point last week – he doesn't remember which day – David Miscimarra and his business partner decided they no longer wanted to run their cult-favorite deep-dish pizza operation Hollywood Pies.
On Friday, they put up a notice on their website saying that "all good things must come to an end." And as customers processed the news in shock, Miscimarra, 51, took off for Las Vegas to visit family for the first time since the business launched two years ago.
"If I were 31, maybe I'd be doing things differently," he said. "I'd love for it to continue, but I don't want to be the man behind the oven."
Back in Los Angeles on Monday, Miscimarra told The Times about the decision to close the Chicago-style eatery. The rationale was personal, not financial – the company's sales have "increased incrementally every month" it's been open, he said.
Instead, Miscimarra and his partner were just ready to do something different, he said – maybe revisit his mechanical engineering background, or build on his passion for cars, or spend more time with his 82-year-old mother living halfway across the country.
There was also the sense that cosmically, the timing was right to close, Miscimarra said. The 1-year lease was up and had reverted to a monthly plan. One of the key employees, a skateboarder, blew out his knee and couldn't work.
Still, Miscimarra describes Hollywood Pies as his "baby," of which he is "very protective."
"I'm sad; it's hard," he said. "I guess I'm not good at letting go."
Hollywood Pies began as an experiment, opening in Los Angeles in June 2011. Throughout its run, it operated like a start-up, bouncing from location to sometimes unlisted location, opening a dine-in space earlier this year.
"Not even a restaurant, but a little pizza factory," Miscimarra called it.
The company never paid for advertising outside of the fliers it distributed in its first few weeks, Miscimarra said. Instead, it gained its fan base – including celebrities such as Jane Lynch and Rhonda Rhimes – "totally by word of mouth… solely organic growth."
Midwestern transplants flocked to buy the pizza, and some swore that it could only have been shipped in from Chicago. But Miscimarra swears that he's "the originator of the recipe."
Now, it pains him to keep catching himself talking about Hollywood Pies in the present tense.
But he won’t miss
"All it takes is one moron," he said. "You take it personally."
He's "not an L.A. person" – doesn't really like it, doesn't consider it to be a particularly friendly place – but plans to stick around for now.
Miscimarra knows he won't collaborate again with his partner. He doubts he'd be able to duplicate the business somewhere else on his own. The least likely option is for him to single-handedly renew the lease and relaunch Hollywood Pies, he said.
Still, "everything is conceivable," he said. He's had discussions with customers who want to buy out the company. There's talk of launching a joint venture with a brewery.
He says he's not ready to say that Hollywood Pies will fade away – it's not the outcome he wants.
"But we could not have executed more perfectly what we set out to do," he said. "It's a great ending."