Joshua Knight and Mike Ortiz, the co-owners and chefs behind East Long Beach’s newest gourmet pizza spot, got to know each other over stolen pizza.

One year ago, Knight went to Little Coyote, a bustling pizzaria on Retro Row, where he found himself waiting about an hour for his order. That’s when the general manager, Ortiz, delivered the bad news — someone had eaten his pie. But not to worry — another was on the way.

“I like the way he handled the situation,” Knight said. “We chatted, we talked, we had a beer.”

It was the start of a friendship that would eventually lead to the creation of a restaurant group, Modern Patina. Soon the pair will open Pizza Parlor LB on Dec. 29 within the former Ottimo Pizzeria, which closed earlier this year.

The new eatery will serve its pies on naturally leavened sourdough crust, meaning no dry yeast is added to kick start the process. It also means the process takes days — going from a starter to a leaven, then a leaven to dough, which sits for three days before it can be used.  The fermentation process creates gas pockets that keep the dough light, airy, and crispy.

“It’s like masa and a good tortilla are to a taco,” Knight said. “Naturally leavened sourdough pizza crust is a vessel for everything put on top of it.”

One pizza on the menu will have a house-made bacon jam with red onion for toppings and they plan to rotate Texas-style barbecue meat on pizzas. Their “Double Trouble” pie will have bacon and spicy, hand-ground Italian sausage.

One of their pies, a nod to their friends in the Tijuana Panthers, a surf-rock band from Long Beach, will be topped with Fresno chili, jalapeño and pineapple.

The chef duo are adamant about the gourmet aspect and said they won’t be cutting corners. They’re using fresh mozzarella instead of pre-shredded cheese and they spared no expense on their Italian electric oven. A pastry chef will soon join to team to draft a dessert menu that will include classics like tiramisu.

An emphasis on detail and particularities around using certain equipment and tools, comes from years of working in the food industry.

For five years, Knight has owned and run a cafe near Long Beach Airport, COPA, where he’s served specialty coffee, baked goods and a host of breakfast and lunch items.

Initially, Knight had planned on opening a bakery just a few doors down from COPA in the same shopping center. But a pivot to pizza happened after he was faced with contracting conflicts within the center.

Born and raised in Long Beach, Knight is a successful entrepreneur. COPA found its footing in a part of town surrounded by residential homes, adjacent to the airport and, at the time, across from buildings where hundreds of city workers who had little food options nearby. Now, COPA is a beloved staple.

Ortiz agrees.

COPA’s OG Burrito is flour tortilla wrapped around two torta de huevos, avocado, tots, bacon and bacon jam (caramelized onions and bacon), cheese and house-made green sauce.

“It’s one of the best burritos I’ve ever had,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz, who isn’t originally from Long Beach, started at Little Coyote in 2020 a few months after it opened. He began in a front-of-house position before eventually working his way up to general manager.

His love for pizza started early on. As a child he often ate at places like Pizza Hut, but the acidity of pizzas served in fast food restaurants often triggered his acid reflux, making it difficult to enjoy the food he loved.

He recalls his mother buying him his first pizza maker, which probably came from QVC, he said.

“I’d go get me dollar dough from Fresh & Easy and just make weird ass pizzas,” he said.

After learning how to make a proper pie in his 20s, it became an obsession.

Today, there’s no shortage of pizza for Ortiz and Knight to test. Lately, they’ve admitted to eating countless pizzas, workshopping just how many pizzas they can cook in a day. And they’ve been working around the clock to find the right cooking speed, the window of heat for the oven, and so on. It’s time intensive, and at times grueling work, but they say it’s a labor of love.

“This side of Long Beach deserves something cool,” Knight said. “I own [a home] and my kids go to school up here.”

And although Long Beach has welcomed a good number of new specialty pizza establishments over the last few years, Ortiz and Knight aren’t worried about distinguishing themselves as a unique parlor. Rather, the challenge they’ve identified will be getting people to the suburbs.

“We want to make it a destination,” Ortiz said.

Pizza Parlor LB will open for its first day on Dec. 29, from noon until 9 p.m., or until pizza sells out. The parlor will open at 2936 Clark Avenue.