LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – During the pandemic, one in three restaurants closed permanently, which put a lot of people out of work. However, one young chef whipped his despair into a recipe for success.
Gorilla Pies, the hottest new pizza place in North Hollywood, is run by brothers Ben and Jake Osher, who make it feel like home.
They’ve covered the walls with their family history: a 1988 dodgers pennant, a Kirk Gibson Trapper Keeper, and childhood toys and family photos celebrating their Jewish heritage.
“This is our family, approximately around 1920 in Toledo, Ohio,” Ben Osher told CBS2’s Suzanne Marques, pointing out an old family photo on the wall of Gorilla Pies. “And this was kind of a shoutout to the Orthodox community that’s like, ‘Look, this is where we came from. It’s not necessarily who we are now.’ But you know, all of our great uncles were kosher butchers in Ohio.”
Their North Hollywood spot used to be a kosher pizza joint, and sits next to a kosher bakery. They have a welcome sign that jokes, “Osher, not kosher.”
“The most unique signature that I do is called The Rabbi, which is a pastrami Reuben in pizza form, basically,” Ben said.
Their delicious and creative pizzas have been a huge success. They sell out of their artisan pies every day. It’s a success that may never have happened if it was not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just after Thanksgiving, when I got laid off from my job at Mama Shelter, I just decided that it was time to do something for myself, and something that made me happy,” Ben said.
With experience at restaurants like Nobu and Mama Shelter, Ben did a pop-up and started selling pies out of his apartment. However, he hit another roadblock.
“People started commenting and talking and raving and raving and raving, except for one person, one person took issue with the fact that I was doing it out of my apartment,” Ben said. “They reported me to the health department. And, yeah, so that was my signal that time, you know, fun and games were over, it was time to get a little more legit with the operation.”
That’s when Ben called his brother Jake Osher, a successful DJ and producer, who was also out of work because of the pandemic. Jake normally travels the world DJing for massive crowds. He even created the entrance song for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jake, an expert marketer, said he wanted to choose a name inspired by their Pittsburgh roots, his brother’s talent, grit and smile.
“We’re like trying to come up with names and, the idea of like an underground Guerilla-like movement…that was like where we started at,” Jake said. “And I was like, ‘You know what, like, let’s do gorilla the animal, because it’s just so much more of a fun, marketable thing.”
Gorilla Pizza was born out of brotherly love, a Pittsburgh-style pizzeria with California soul by two brothers laid off during the pandemic, putting their heads together and persevering.
“It’s absolutely been a series of things that could be seen as negative,” Ben said. “Like, if I didn’t lose my job, I wouldn’t have thought to do this, period. Like I wouldn’t have taken the chance, I wouldn’t have taken the leap. I probably would have been stayed in a relatively comfortable executive chef position and kind of, you know, just gotten by.”
They’re so busy, that if you want to order from Gorilla Pies, call ahead, because they sell out daily.