When skating switch stance became popular in the early 90s it looked pretty fucking gross. Thankfully Salman Agah came along and was influential in changing the game. While most were pushing switch-mongo, aka piss pedaling—really fucking slowly—Salman displayed so much control and power on a skateboard that few knew which way he naturally skated.
And now, Salman is “switching” again, this time to a new career! Ha ha, sorry about that. But he is making pizza, and it’s fucking delicious. Along with his wife and brother-in-law, Salman opened Pizzanista! in downtown Los Angeles. Pizza snobs are always quick to shit on left coast slices, but they’re the same turds who think it’s impossible to have a good taco anywhere but California or Mexico. Lighten up guys. Even the dorks at Serious Eats agree that Salman’s shop is legit.
VICE: Why did you name the pizzeria after the weirdest Clash album?
Salman Agah:My wife Price and I really like the Clash, and rock and roll in general. Price came up with the idea of Pizzanista! after Sandinista!, and we thought it had a nice ring to it. We also liked the meaning of the Latin suffix “ista,” which refers to a devotee of something, or one who follows a principle.
What made you want to start a pizzeria?
When I was growing up my parents had a French bakery and café called Our Daily Bread in San Jose, California. It was a magical place and I wish it were still around. Our Daily Bread served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a full-on coffee roasting operation, smokehouse, and rotisserie oven. Lots of my friends who I grew up skating with worked there. There was a major emphasis on cooking and food in my upbringing.
My wife, brother-in-law, and I were inspired to open a pizzeria because there wasn’t really any place to get a casual, quick, healthy meal in our neighborhood. We thought pizza by the slice would be a good fit. The space we found just happened to be in the same building as an awesome bar called Tony’s Saloon, and we thought: What goes together better than drinking and pizza? A neighborhood pizzeria fit the location and the community in the downtown LA Arts District.
Why is there such a stigma about West Coast pizza? Do you believe the theory that the heavily treated NYC water reacts better with the dough, making bagels and pizza more delicious, or does it just come down to the ingredients?
People like to be proud of where they come from, and food is one way people define their community or culture. It makes sense that New Yorkers are proud of their pie—it’s good stuff. Personally, I think it really comes down to quality ingredients and preparation.
Do you get a bunch of skaters at your shop? Do you sometimes get concerned that they will balloon out, mess up their career, and no longer have money for slices?
We’ve gotten so much love from the skate community that it’s overwhelming when I reflect on it. Alva, Lance Mountain, P-Rod, Caballero, Koston, and the Gonz come to the shop. The entire Deluxe and Expedition crew visit whenever they’re in town. The Hundreds have also been huge supporters. We’ve done a King of the Road collaboration with Thrasher and catered the opening of the new Nike training facility around the corner. Etnies shot their lookbook here. We did 50 pizzas for Emerica's Wild in the Streets LA event a couple years ago. I’m embarrassed ‘cause I’m sure I’m forgetting some folks. Thomas Bonilla works for us. Guy, Gino. Shit, Biebel… love that guy! Now, they’re not all regulars, but they’ve been here, so we’re stoked!
As far as skaters ballooning up, I'm not too concerned. Skateboarders burn way too many calories and make way more money now. They should be able to afford slices for years to come.
What's next for Pizzanista!?
We just released the Persian pizza, co-designed with Ben, Bobby, Scotty, Benjie, and the crew at The Hundreds. We were so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a dynamic brand! It was a massive success.
Next up, we are doing an awareness campaign in conjunction the Keep A Breast Foundation. For the month of October, we’ll have a custom collaborative pizza box that was designed by Nathan Bell of Keep A Breast. We’re doing this to raise money and awareness about breast cancer prevention. Also in the works is a custom Christian Hosoi box and pizza to coincide with his recently published biography. In November, we’ll be releasing the “Pretty Sweet Pizza” and custom box designed by the folks at Girl Skateboards for the video premiere of Pretty Sweet. We also have a whole roster of exciting guest chef nights coming up in the next few months. Pizzanista! is also looking to expand, so if anyone knows of a cool location out there that would be a great fit, let us know!
Now that you've successfully opened a pizza shop in LA, would you ever try to open a taco stand in New York? I bet you could trick people by saying you fly the avocados and tortillas in but just use the same shit every other place does.
Nah, I’m going to leave that one up to someone else.