The oven at Viking Pizza wasn’t constructed in Naples. The pies don’t cook for three seconds at a million-and-a-half degrees, the dough isn’t a long-fermented science project, and there are a grand total of zero leopard-spotted air bubbles pushing past pristine white rounds of buffalo mozzarella. This may go without saying, but the combination of spiced kabob meat, tomato, onion, and a swirl of jacked-up mayo on what has become their signature pie isn’t what most would call “authentic.”
Still, against all artisanal odds, the pizza is delicious.
Even if people from other major cities would dickishly disagree, there are some phenomenal pizzas in L.A. Places like Sotto, Gjelina, Jon & Vinny’s, Bestia, and Mozza all have delicious pies with signature dough styles that crackle and blister and chew in their own unique ways. And their pizzas all make you think.
When you taste them, you’re supposed to consider the intent behind the amount of char on the crust, or ponder the chef pondering the amount of gluten development, or paint a picture in your mind of the specific region in Italy that inspired your lunch. I was once lectured by a pizzaiolo that their pies weren’t Neapolitan so much as a Neapolitan-Bari hybrid, making me feel wildly unqualified to put saucy cheese bread in my mouth. Which was one of the few things in life I thought I was truly qualified to do.
Thinking about pizza sucks. I appreciate the craft and artisanship behind today’s pizza juggernauts, but sometimes I just want to be able to shut off my brain, put something starchy, cheesy, and gooey in my mouth, and give in to unadulterated, sodium-rich joy. And since there’s no established precedent for Swedish pizza in L.A., that’s exactly what Viking Pizza lets you do. Literally anything and everything is fair game. Tuna ham and onion? Sure, why not. Kabob meat and mayonnaise? All day. Taco meat, jalapeños, and “salsa sauce”? Make that the national food of L.A.
The fact that the crust is a dead ringer for a well-toaster-ovened Tombstone pizza—and it really is—only adds to the experience. It’s a completely blank canvas for you to better enjoy all that fragrant kabob meat, and it follows the same through line of chefs reverting back to the squishy white burger bun. The glossy sheen and buttery mouthfeel (lol, mouthfeel) of brioche is all well and good, but sometimes you just need the nostalgic rush of bleached white flour and dough conditioner.
Viking’s pizza is pure fun and creativity, and I’m all for injecting that back into our pizza eating habits. Viva Tombstone. Viva CPK. Viva Viking Pizza.