At the tender age of 18, Brandon Gray, a.k.a. Brandoni Pepperoni, whipped up meals for his fellow sailors in the U.S. Navy. Twenty years later, he’s plating what Los Angeles Magazine has called “some of L.A.’s most exciting pies.”

Gray, a graduate of culinary school at the Art Institute of California Los Angeles, paid his dues at some of L.A.’s trendiest, Michelin-starred restaurants, none of which were pizzerias. But, according to his website, when a friend asked him if he knew how to make pizza, he lied and said yes. Then he proved that he wasn’t a liar after all. The pizzas he made were so good, his friend told her friends, and somehow word about his talent got out to local radio host Evan Kleiman, who mentioned the pies on her show, Good Food.

That was during the pandemic, and the reaction to his pizzas sparked a career change for Gray. In April 2020, he started holding pop-ups under the Brandoni Pepperoni name. Today, he fires up the oven every Thursday and Friday evening at Bar + Garden in Culver City, California, and caters parties and events as well.

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Gray is no stranger to critical acclaim from the food media. In his tenure as culinary director of Cape Seafood and Provisions in West Hollywood, he was praised by the L.A. Times in 2018 for “smoking and curing some of L.A.’s best sustainable seafood.” Vice also profiled him in 2017.

According to the L.A. Times article, Gray was watching No Reservations on TV in 2010 when he saw Anthony Bourdain raving about the menu at the Royal Mail Hotel in Australia—specifically, veggie dishes like carrots. “I just remember looking at that, and I was, like, ‘Who is making carrots that taste this good?’” he said in the article. “I bought a one-way ticket to Australia the next day.”

Thus began a culinary journey that ultimately led him back to Los Angeles and into the kitchens of celebrated restaurants like Providence, Trois Mec and Best Girl at the Ace Hotel. Since 2020, it’s his pizzas that have been earning the rave reviews, and Gray is not shy about branding himself as “L.A.’s wizard of ‘za.”

This photo shows a pizza topped with smoked jidori chicken, mozzarella, green onions, Calabrian chilis and a citrus glaze.

Gray’s So Fly pizza features smoked Jidori chicken, mozzarella, green onions, Calabrian chilis and a citrus glaze. (Brandoni Pepperoni / Instagram)

Food writers seem to agree. Writing for Bon Appétit in March 2021, Elyse Inamine described “the giddy-making magic you feel when you place the order via text and pick it up at Gray’s home.” According to Inamine, Gray uses two Italian flours—very fine Tipo 00 and stone-ground Buratto—as well as one local flour, Rouge de Bourdeaux, to make his 24-hour fermented dough. “The result is a pizza crust with just the right amount of chew and crackle,” Inamine wrote.

In August 2023, Dolores Quintana of the Santa Monica Mirror heaped praise on Gray’s “Check Yo’Self” pizza, the latest addition to his pop-up menu. “This mouthwatering creation features a harmonious blend of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds,” Quintana wrote. “Picture this: fresh prosciutto, locally sourced Murray Farm Black Mission Figs, creamy mozzarella cheese, crisp Tamai Farms arugula, and a generous sprinkling of Santa Barbara pistachios. It’s a delightful marriage of savory and salty notes from the prosciutto, perfectly complemented by the sweet and ripe essence of the figs.”

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Most of the pies on the Brandoni Pepperoni menu verge on the extraordinary. We’re talking about the Steady Mobbin, featuring an arugula pesto, grilled squash, squash flowers, faux lemon ricotta and basil, and the Function, topped with spiced lamb, homemade chili crisp, red onions, mozz and cilantro. Then there’s the Californication, showcasing steamed lamb shoulder, chickpeas, pickled red onions, Oaxacan cheese and salsa borracha.

The pies range in price from $16 for the Poetic Justice pizza (simply red sauce and mozz) to $29 for the Big Bank (baby leeks, wild arugula pesto, truffle burrata, grilled artichokes and black summer truffles.)

Brandoni Pepperoni even made it onto Thrillist’s survey of “The Absolute Best Pizza in Los Angeles” in 2021, noting that Gray “is serving up some of the most absolutely gorgeous pizzas you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

Food & Ingredients