Who better to trust for an authentic New York slice than a man who grew up in the Bronx and loves the art of pizza?
Actor and Long Beach local Louis Lombardi is bringing his pizza company, Avalou’s, to the Partake Collective food hall where he’ll be serving up his simple but flavor-packed pies for one day only.
Avalou’s Italian Pizza Company will be the featured vendor on Nov. 17 at a new open mic series Partake hosts once a month. Pizzas can be purchased all day starting at 11 a.m. The open mic event will begin at 6 p.m. No ticket is required. Anyone can go up to the Partake kiosks and order pizza or stay and watch the performances.
Before starting his pizza company, Lombardi began his acting and filmmaking career in the early ’90s doing a range of television shows and movies. He landed on one of the most critically acclaimed shows ever made, “The Sopranos,” for nine episodes as FBI agent Skip Lipari. Later, he had a brief stint on “Entourage” and was a recurring character on the hit Fox network show “24.”
Lombardi has been part of the Long Beach community for almost seven years. He moved to the area after coming from the Bronx to Los Angeles about 30 years ago. He now lives in Belmont Shore and is co-parenting his daughter, Ava, who was the inspiration behind his company. The name Avalou’s is a combination of their names.
“I love it, I’ll never leave Long Beach. You’re gonna have to drag me out of here,” Lombardi said.
He spent two and a half years developing his pizza, which is made in New York. The dough is crafted with that magical ingredient — New York water — topped with a simple three-ingredient marinara sauce, cheese and toppings before being frozen and shipped.
Over the years, people have searched for an explanation why New York bagels or pizza can’t be recreated in L.A. Many have joked it’s the water. But for Lombardi, he says it really does make a massive difference in his product, and making the food his company offers with ingredients he grew up with was important to him.
“I’m a pizza nut,” Lombardi said. “I love exploring the food world, but pizza is my left hand — I’m a lefty. That’s my whole life, I can make a pizza with my eyes closed.”
If you asked him what his perfect pizza was, he would say the crust is the most important part.
“That’s what took me so long to develop my pizzas, you have to have it crispy, crunchy, and I like it lighter. I don’t like a big thick, fat dough ball,” Lombardi said.
He wants a simple, fresh sauce and goes light on the toppings because he doesn’t want them to weigh down the pizza or make it mushy.
“The texture in food is everything. The crust is crispy, the tomatoes are a little bit salty, but you’ve still got the tomato bite and you’re not sipping down soup while you’re eating pizza,” Lombardi said.
At the pop-up event, customers will have the option to customize toppings on the spot. They can order by the slice or a whole pie. Lombardi plans to offer a chicken and bacon pizza, a buffalo chicken pizza, and classics like pepperoni and sausage.
Although he’s now a proud Long Beach resident, Lombardi’s roots will always be in the Bronx where he was raised by Italian women and his study of the art of food began. He was always in the kitchen watching his mother cook for their giant family and neighborhood friends.
“We always had kids come in from the streets and my mother took in everyone,” Lombardi said. “It wasn’t about what you were making, it was more about who you were making it for.”
Lombardi wanted to create that same experience he had growing up for his daughter so they began cooking together each night when she was a child.
“To me, that’s my joy. I like to feed everyone,” Lombardi said.
Now that Ava is older and almost a college student, the company is in many ways just as much hers. Ava went with her father to check out the kitchen space for the pop-up, asked questions and knew exactly how things would run the night of the event where she’ll be with her father helping cook up the pizzas.
The company’s model allows customers to get fresh New York pizza at home and offers a simple franchise model as well as the option to order directly from the website.
Lombardi hopes offering people a simple, tasty dinner that takes less than 10 minutes to make with fresh, clean ingredients means more families can get back to sitting at the dinner table together and hanging out.
Lombardi is considering opening a permanent shop at Partake Collective in the future.
Partake Collective is at 456 Elm Avenue. Follow Avalou’s Italian Pizza for updates and orders.