Any devotee of Bez Compani's meticulously handcrafted pizzas at Mother Dough, the Los Feliz pizzeria that he opened in 2011, knows it's not a high-volume, mass-production operation.
Six nights a week, Compani shapes the dough made early in the morning from his starter and adds a restrained combination of toppings to each pie. He oversees every pizza that comes out beautifully charred around the edges from the wood-fired custom pizza oven that master builder Stefano Ferrara constructed in the restaurant.
It's a model that has proved to be unsustainable in the long-term. Compani is in the process of selling the restaurant, which will close at the end of December.
"I've climbed some of the tallest mountains in the western hemisphere, worked in kitchens in India in the middle of summer where the temperatures in the shade exceeded 110 degrees," Compani said. And despite those experiences, "serious burnout doesn't even come close to describing what I'm feeling."
The London native, who holds a master's degree from Milan's Bocconi University, learned some crucial lessons while making thousands of Neapolitan-style pies on Hollywood Boulevard.
"It's ironic because I got my master's in international trade and finance, but that academic training was no replacement for the on-the-ground experience you need in running a restaurant.
"I've always tended toward the more artisanal, more one-man-show type thing, growing up in Europe," Compani said. But "you cannot be involved the way I am," which has meant hardly seeing his two sons, or having much time for anything else.
"In Naples, three people do my job: Two pizzaiolos stretch and top the pizzas, and a fornaio attends the oven," he said. He never offered phone orders or delivery. If you want takeout, then you show up in person, place your order, and then scroll through your phone or contemplate the exposed brick walls while waiting for beautiful pies.
Pending license transfers and such, Mother Dough's closing date "looks like the end of the month," Compani said. That means just about three weeks remain to order classic Margherita pies, along with crowd-favorites such as Compani's zucchini with manchego and thyme, and baby clam pizzas.
"I am so grateful to everyone who supported us; seeing the regular faces coming in kept me going. I'm lucky to have built some wonderful friendships, and those sustained me when I was physically and emotionally battered," Compani said.
While you can't argue with these reasons for moving on, it's a considerable loss to the neighborhood.
Mother Dough, 4648 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 644-2885, www.motherdoughpizza.com.