For New York transplant Ronald “Ronnie” Ianniello, pizza isn’t lunch, it’s an art form, and he’s hoping the community loves his creations at the newly opened Melody Pizza as much as he does.
Ianniello was born and raised in Westchester County, New York and from a young age he knew he wanted to make pizza. As a child, he remembers visiting the local pizzeria and admiring the guys behind the counters.
“I’ve always looked up to the pizza guys,” said Ianniello. “As a kid I loved looking at all the pizza in the cases and watching them make the dough.”
At 15, he started rolling out bagels at a local shop before he was noticed for his skills and asked to help fill in at neighborhood pizza joints. His enthusiasm and technique soon got him a job making pizza full-time. He credits his time at Scarsdale Pizza Station and the guidance of the shop’s owner for taking him to the next level in his pizza making and credits the experience as “helping [him] get to where he is today.”
Ianniello made the jump from New York pizza maker to California executive pizza chef after connecting with Melody Bar and Grill owner Christian Warren. Ianniello and Warren were first introduced via phone by Ianniello’s cousin, who regularly plays at the Melody Bar and Grill with his band, after learning that Warren was interested in opening a pizza shop a few doors down.
Ianniello flew to California to meet with Warren to see if their visions for the pizzeria matched. The two immediately hit it off and soon Ianniello was creating the menu and overseeing the construction at the restaurant.
“I knew Ronnie was the right guy after my first conversation I had with him over the phone. He has the same passion about food that I have and we share a similar creative, outside-the-box thinking when it comes to food, whether it’s making pizza, salads, sauces or entrées. Ronnie is a pizza genius,“ said Warren.
For months, Ianniello has been hard at work perfecting his dough, finalizing the menu and testing out recipes for Melody Pizza with fellow “pizza guy” Antonio Talamo.
“I want everyone to come here and have the New York pizza experience,” said Ianniello. “I want to be that neighborhood pizzeria and I want people to have the experience that I had as a kid seeing all of the pizza in the display.”
Ianniello claims that the main difference between California and New York pizza is the water used in the dough. To combat the high alkaline content in the water here, he has installed a reverse osmosis filter to make the water comparable to New York.
In a city full of pizza places, Ianniello knows he is going to have to work hard to set his eatery apart from the competition.
“Everyone has their own niche for making pizza,” said Ianniello. “The thing that will set us apart is that everything is made to order, everything is fresh and there are no cutting corners. If the dough runs out, we’re done for the day.”
In addition to serving a variety of pizza, by the slice or the pie, including Ianniello’s signature Margherita, Melody Pizza offers calzones, heroes, wings, salads and dessert pizzas made with Nutella and peanut butter. In the near future, they will also be offering pasta entrées.
Patrons of the Melody Bar and Grill can also order food from the Melody Pizza menu to be delivered to the location’s dining room, which also has a full-service kitchen.
Said Warren, “I have been part of this amazing community for almost seven years, and I have a feeling that this neighborhood will love our pizzeria. The food, the pizza and the personalities have a mom and pop feel that Westchester is all about.”
While Melody Pizza is the newest restaurant in the downtown Westchester business district, other eateries are slated to open soon. A Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in the Ralph’s shopping center is scheduled to open this fall and according to Neighborhood Council President Cyndi Hench, Kanpai Sushi and LaRocco Pizzeria are looking for locations along Sepulveda Blvd. A Chick-Fil-A is also being proposed at Manchester Ave. and Sepulveda Blvd. at the site of the former Grinder Restaurant.
“Our hometown feel will help bring more people to the Sepulveda-side of Westchester. From locals to travelers visiting L.A. via LAX, we are helping this area to become a destination rather than a town you pass through,” said Warren.
For Ianniello, the thrill of coming up with new creations and delighting his guests with his pizza makes every day in the restaurant a new experience for the pizza artisan.
“It’s like an art form to me. I feel like every day I have to paint a new picture,” said Ianniello. “That’s what keeps me going and excited.”
Melody Pizza is located at 9146 Sepulveda Blvd. in Westchester.
For more information, please visit melodypizzalax.com.
Pictured: Ianniello (left) and Talamo pose outside the Melody Pizza.