Three decades of pizza on Pacific Coast Highway, Brooklyn Brick Oven Pizza

Brooklyn Brickover Pizza’s Jordan Morgan with all that’s left of his pizza by the slice at the end of the day. Photo by Kevin Cody

Brooklyn Brick Oven consistently delivers New York flavor. Want to argue? Fuhgettaboutit

 by Richard Foss

I had to try some pizza on my first visit to New York, and did so with low expectations. Expat Manhattanites like to brag about how good it is, but there seems to be an element of ritual about it. They also say the art scene, music, food, and everything but the weather is better in New York, and they occasionally waver on that last category. My brother and I stopped into a trattoria on Mulberry Street that sold by the slice, expecting to find pretty much the same thing I found in LA.

It was the best pizza we’d ever had, a thin crust that was miraculously crisp on the bottom but could fold for easy eating, and the perfect balance of toppings and sauce. My California pride took a hit.

That was in the early late ‘80s, and good New York style pizza was a rarity in the South Bay. We didn’t know it then, but a place was soon to open that would serve New York pizza very much like the item we’d had on that visit to Little Italy. It was in an office park on PCH that lacked the quaint style of that hundred-year-old cafe, but the flavor of the pies at Brooklyn Brickoven was pretty much the same.

If you walk into that restaurant today, a few things have changed. Some are from wear and tear, and the newspaper clippings, testimonials, and celebrity photos on the wall have yellowed with age. There are also local taps on the beer menu and some new menu items, and a lot more clutter and bric-a-brac on the counter. Otherwise, it’s the same, a homey, family friendly place where generations mingle for simple meals. Bob Udovich doesn’t quite have the same amount of hair he had in older photos, but he’s still behind the counter almost every day. There has been one other change, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

As the old saying goes, man does not live by pizza alone, though some teenagers have tried. BBO has the expected appetizers, an array of salads plus hot wings, garlic cheese bread, sauteed mushrooms, garlic knots, and bruschetta. They also add 21st century twists on the classics, a low-carb version of eggplant parmesan and Italian-style homemade meatballs and sausage made with turkey rather than pork. The most remarkable thing about the meatballs and sausage is that if you weren’t told about the switch, you probably wouldn’t know. Bob volunteered that about five years ago he switched from pork to dark turkey, which is more moist and has a richer flavor than the white meat, and it works. We had the sausage on other items rather than as an appetizer, but tried the “royale eggplant” as a starter. The classic version is floured, dipped in egg, and coated with breadcrumbs before being layered and topped with cheese and baked. BBO’s variant is coated with semolina, includes spinach, and isn’t broiled to toast the cheese, and that does make a difference. The semolina crust isn’t quite as crisp as the breadcrumbs but works, but that run through the oven concentrates the sauce a bit and adds some texture. This does have fresh vegetable and cheese flavors in a fruity herbed tomato sauce going for it, and works as an alternative to the classic.

The only other starter we tried were the hot wings, which were the standard item, fried birdie bits in a very spicy Cajun buffalo sauce, served with a side of ranch. This place doesn’t offer a variety of sauces at different heat levels, so if you don’t enjoy it hot, order something else. If you prefer cool instead of heat then I suggest the Caesar salad, the standard item with a decent robust dressing, or the Brooklyn citrus chicken. The latter works as a starter or a meal, lettuce with olives, onions, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and capers with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. It’s a modern set of flavors compared to everything else served here, but it’s a winner.      


Brooklyn Brickoven Pizza by the slice — meatball and sausage. Photo by Richard Foss


For the main event of the meal, BBO offers sandwiches, pastas, and of course pizza. The pizzas are offered New York style with a thin crust, Sicilian with a thick crust, or with a cauliflower crust for those who are gluten free. I have never had a cauliflower crust that I liked, and though I’ll try one if somebody tells me where they’re great, I favor the New York style. BBO serves that just as it should be, thin with a lot of rise and browning at the edges, a light topping of cheese and sauce and whatever else you want on top of it. If you’re getting this to go you might favor the Sicilian instead, since the thicker crust doesn’t steam and soften quickly so survives the trip home in the box better.

I’ve been ordering pizza here for so long that it’s hard to break habits and get something else, but one trip we ordered the lasagna al forno. The flavors were fine, the turkey sausage standing in well for pork or beef, but it was a disappointment because the noodles were overdone. I’m not a fan of mushy lasagna no matter how delicious it is, so the next time I order pasta there it will be something else.

A reasonable selection of local beers are on tap, along with cans of beer and cider, hard seltzer and red and white wine are available, but this isn’t a drinking destination. The only dessert available is cannoli, which are filled in advance but still arrive with the cookie crisp. Bob fills his with ricotta with white chocolate chips rather than the traditional Italian candied fruit, and though I usually don’t like white chocolate it does work.

The prices at BBO are slightly on the high side for the pizzas, a little low for the salads, beers, and subs, so it all works out. You can come here and have a good meal in a friendly old school environment without breaking the bank, and that’s what keeps a restaurant open for thirty years.  

Brooklyn Brickoven is at 500 S. Sepulveda #203 in Manhattan Beach. Open daily noon to 9 p.m. Wheelchair access good from parking structure. Some vegetarian items. (310) 379-6599. ER


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