Among the many reasons Southern California stands out as a culinary destination is the unfettered number of different cultural cuisines represented. Cultural cuisines, however, are not the only exhibition of range that is worth noting. The Los Angeles and Pasadena dining scenes span a gamut of bacon-wrapped hot dogs outside of the Rose Bowl to the more refined brats from Dog Haus. That dichotomy of an apparent high and low is what led to me to break down two different takes on the same favorite — pizza.
For my experiment, I chose Ameci Pizza Kitchen in Glendale and Pitfire Pizza in Pasadena. Pitfire elevates the concept in terms of ingredients, offerings and service, while Ameci is all the classics: subs, pastas and pizzas delivered.
Pitfire has a vibe; they have a full bar, craft beers and rotating seasonal menus. Ameci offers little in terms of dine-in experience and a less expansive menu.
Pitfire is big and meant for social dining. On the night I went they were holding a paint night in the main dining room and they hold various events throughout the month. They have two-top tables and a full bar area or more intimate booth seating. You order and pay for your food at the counter but a server brings your drinks and menu selections to your table. I hesitate to call Pitfire fast-casual, as I think it definitely undersells the level of service they provide.
At Pitfire the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fire oven, so you get crispier crusts and a natural smoky flavor that suits their more earthy flavored pies, like the seasonal wood-roasted pumpkin pizza ($12) served with goat cheese, greens and pepitas. Their pizzas are only available in one size — each is essentially a personal pizza — so do not expect a communal pizza experience unless you order several. As wood-fire grills work with open flames, crusts can come out singed black in spots, it is part of the charm of real pizza ovens and not something to be alarmed about.
Pitfire does offer some takes on classics, like the meat lovers, with what they humorously call sausage party ($13) with every cut of pork imaginable, including bacon, sausage, salami and coppa with tomatoes.
To underscore just how different these two pizza destinations are, Pitfire offers an all meat charcuterie board ($11) with prosciutto, salami and coppa with smashed avocado toast ($9).
Ameci is a small storefront, seating maybe 10, with a black and white landscape photo of the New York skyline and a neon picture of pizza with the words “you wanna pizza me?” in fluorescent neon pink lights. Ameci does not have a bathroom, but they do have a large TV, which I assume is more for the entertainment of carry-out customers waiting a few moments for their call-in orders. As I live outside the delivery radius of Ameci, I dined in and unlike some picky Yelpers I was not thrown off by eating pizza off paper plates.
In my burn-out of holiday foods and to ensure I did my due diligence as a critic (and only for that reason, ahem) I went all-in on the Ameci menu, ordering more for two people than is ever socially appropriate.
I started off with the fried cheese raviolis ($6.99), eight raviolis fried with breadcrumbs that are crunchy on the outside with warm cheese on the inside. It is a simple dish, but you cannot go wrong with fried cheese.
Ameci’s specialty pizzas come in four size options: personal ($9.99), medium ($14.99), large ($17.99) and jumbo ($19.99), which come with four, six, eight or 12 slices, respectively. I tried their signature and well-known (or at least most photographed) hot-Cheetos pizza. Its cheese pizza with crushed hot Cheetos, baked under a layer of cheese, which once done is covered in whole hot-Cheetos. As far as the hot-Cheetos on everything trend, putting them on a pizza does feel like one of the more logical concoctions. In short, it’s good.
The Cheetos on top have a hard time staying on, but the texture they add makes the balancing act worth the payoff. If you are looking for a heavenly culinary mashup on the level of chicken and waffles this may not be it, but it is a significantly more fun option than a plain cheese pizza.
While the hot-Cheetos pizza brings people through the door, the chicken pesto and the Mediterranean among the other signature pizzas really sealed in my approval of Ameci. The Mediterranean, served without sauce instead uses a creamy ricotta cheese as a base and is topped with feta, cubed tomato and basil. It is subtle and will please vegetarians and carnivores alike. The chicken pesto is heavy on the chicken but light on the pesto sauce, understandably as pesto can often overpower everything in its vicinity.
Ameci is James Dean in a white T-shirt, whereas Pitfire is George Clooney in a three piece suit, both good choices, just suited for different occasions and experiences.
If you have spent all day taking down Christmas lights and packing away the holiday season and just want a bite with your family before vacation ends, you cannot go wrong with a call to Ameci.
For a more social evening or a fun date night, Pitfire is the right spot.
Both Ameci and Pitfire do share some mandatory pizza shop musts, offering pastas and sandwiches. At Pitfire, if you must stray away from pizza, I suggest delving into childhood memories with the mac and cheese ($11) made with a five-cheese sauce and topped with breadcrumbs. At Ameci, if you are ready to indulge or carb-load, go with the fettuccine alfredo ($9.99) with an optional $1 upcharge for chicken.
In addition to the Glendale location, APK has two other locations in La Crescenta and Burbank. Pitfire also has two Los Angeles locations; Mar Vista and West LA, and four others across Southern California.
Ameci Pizza Kitchen
728 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale | (818) 247-9944 | amecipizzaandpasta.com
Major Cards/ No Alcohol
730 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena | (626) 376-9005 \ pitfirepizza.com
Major Cards/ Alcohol Served