Folks in Los Angeles weren’t exactly clamoring for Pittsburgh-style pizza when Gorilla Pies opened there in 2021, but maybe that’s because they didn’t know what they were missing. Now, thanks to the skills and talent of co-owner/chef Benjamin Osher, the pandemic pop-up-turned-restaurant is the talk of the town, especially after a recent segment on CBS affiliate KCAL.
The Los Angeles Times ranked Gorilla Pies, which offers “Pittsburgh-style pizza with California soul,” as one of the city’s “10 great new pizza restaurants” in 2022. In April 2023, Eater L.A. recommended it as one of “21 top stops for a meal” in the San Fernando Valley, describing Osher’s pies as “heavily charred, seriously cheesy [and] impossibly crispy.”
What exactly is Pittsburgh-style pizza? The key is in the cheese blend, Osher told KCAL—specifically, a combo of half mozzarella and half provolone. “That’s a very Pittsburgh influence,” he said. The result is a particularly cheesy pie, according to Osher.
Pittsburgh-style pizza has also found its way to the American Southeast, thanks to a three-store chain called Steel City Pizza in the Charleston, South Carolina area. Steel City Pizza’s website offers a more detailed description of the city’s signature style: “The classic Pittsburgh pizza is considered a vessel for cheese. In fact, there is usually so much cheese piled on top of the pizza that the crust has to be very thick so that it can support the weight of the cheese. In some cases, the crust will be as thick as small rolls and have perfect char marks from the baking process in the stone hearth oven. A Pittsburgh-style pizza crust usually comes out of the oven medium crisp, puffy, and chewy—a perfect combination! If you request toppings besides the cheese, then be prepared to come with a large appetite and an expectation of taking home plenty of leftovers!”
Osher has brought his own sensibility to the style, as Eater L.A.’s Farley Elliott wrote shortly after Gorilla Pies opened in the spring of 2021. “Osher laces each pizza with plenty of mozzarella to ensure an extra-cheesy result, and he isn’t afraid to load up his pies with lots of, well, whatever he wants. There’s pickled fennel on one pizza, pastrami and sauerkraut on another, plus the usual array of greens, Italian meats and red sauce options. There are even meatballs (including a vegan take), wings, and some of the best cheesy bread—called monkey bars here—you can get anywhere in Los Angeles.”
Osher formerly worked for a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, Junoon, in New York City, and as a sous chef for the international sushi chain, Nobu. After getting laid off from his job at Mama Shelter in L.A. during the pandemic, he started making pizzas in his kitchen at home. Like so many pandemic-era pizza entrepreneurs, he marketed and sold them via Instagram as an underground pop-up. “I used to take menus and leave them at my local coffee shop,” Osher told Eater L.A. “I’d put flyers on people’s cars, in their mailboxes. All of it.”
Before long, he’d built up a dedicated base of customers, and he and his brother, Jake, opened Gorilla Pies as a brick-and-mortar store in a former kosher bakery. The Osher brothers are Jewish themselves, but they note that their pizzas aren’t kosher. In fact, a sign in the pizzeria states, “It’s Osher, Not Kosher.”
“I’m inspired by pizza,” Osher told KCAL. “Pizza is universal. You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody on the planet that’s like, ‘Pizza? No, I don’t want that.’”