Antonio’s Pizza doesn’t live here anymore

14 Aug
Antonio's PIzza

The long-closed pizzeria in North Torrance still stands empty and abandoned.

Antonios7If you’re from North Torrance you know Antonio’s Pizza. Hell, if you’re from the South Bay you probably know Antonio’s Pizza. And, quite likely, if you know Antonio’s Pizza you know that despite now being closed for something like 16 years, the once proud pizzeria sits empty and abandoned.

The lonely shell of Antonio’s Pizza is like a snapshot of what once was. Sitting prominently on Prairie Ave., where the busy boulevard intersects with 182nd St, the building that at one time served some of the freshest slices in the area stands frozen in time.

Antonio's Pizza

Antonio's PizzaThe exterior looks exactly as it did back the mid 90s, the last time I ate there. The red painted Antonio’s lettered across the storefront facade looks faded, but still reads clearly. The mustached Italian chef is still giving his knowing wink and OK sign. Wanna order a pie? There’s the phone number, in all its seven-digit glory, well before area codes became a mandatory part of the equation. Even better is the admonition painted above the entry door, “If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell us.” Sadly, there’s nothing left to like or share with your friends (hello Facebook!). Even the phone number remains disconnected. The days of Antonio’s much-loved BYOB policy are long gone.

The interior is the tell that Antonio’s Pizza is no more. Gutted save for a few miscellaneous bits and pieces, a large stainless-steel backsplash, industry range hood and a monstrous, commercial Hobart mixer. It’s like the ghost of a business.

I’d like to perpetuate the Mystery of the Abandoned Pizzeria, as it’s the kind of thing that generates its own myths and urban legends, but I know the puzzle has already been solved. My former colleague at the Daily Breeze, Nick Green, wrote a couple of stories back in 2007 on the real story behind Antonio’s demise, helped by info from former co-owner, Charlie Byrd. I remember Charlie. After Antonio’s he went on to run a joint called Cialuzzi’s in Redondo Beach. Cialuzzi’s begat Charlie’s, a New York Italian Joint that’s also in RB.

I don’t remember all the details of what happened and I’m too cheap to pay the entrance fee to get behind the Breeze’s archive system pay wall, but I recall there was some drama and personnel issues and tension and real estate problems. At least I think that’s what it was. I supposed I kind of like not remembering the details. I prefer the mystery that these photos illustrate. And I suppose I’m also too lazy to write a simple email to Nick to get some info. Again, the mystery.

It’s always strange making the trip back to North Torrance, easing into the intersection of Prairie and 182nd and looking to see if Antonio’s Pizza still stands, is newly inhabited or has finally met the bulldozer. A lot of the South Bay landscape I grew up has long been clear-cut to make way for many more mini-malls and dense housing developments. But there seems to be a few stubborn parts — some of them in North Torrance — that never seem to change. Maybe they get a facade makeover or some fresh new bland paint, but it seems that these places — businesses, apartments, houses, whatever — are left to be worn away by time, the elements and neglect. Like Antonio’s Pizza. I know this isn’t exclusive to the South Bay, but when it’s your own home turf, your own memory base, it just feels more personal.

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63 Responses to “Antonio’s Pizza doesn’t live here anymore”

  1. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Thanks for the likes folks. Turns out this story has some legs with many of the people I grew up with in NorTor. Yes everyone remembers how good the food was at Antonio’s Pizza, but even more so all are still puzzled that the building still stands in its current condition. Still, that pizza. Mmmmm.

  2. Mikalee Byerman August 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    This is such a beautiful tribute — I think everyone can relate to that “one place” from their history that seems iconic of a period of time or a memory. But to still have it standing, abandoned yet frozen in time…kinda bizarre, I would think!

    Nice job with the post — and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  3. cartoonmick August 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    If those walls could talk, there’d be a million stories.
    But those walls are probably marinated with the smells of a million delightful pizzas, which is even better.
    I do like that awesome drawing of Antonio (I guess) high up on the wall. If only some of my cartoon drawing (see my blog) was up to that standard.

  4. iconicallyrare August 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    It sounds like this place held a lot of memories for you. I enjoyed reading. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  5. free penny press August 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I have not been back to my hometown in many years and now i wonder what if any is still standing of some of my favorite places..
    Much enjoyed this post and yes, High Five on being FP!!!

  6. mdprincing August 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I am reminded of local icons each morning on the way to work where the siding on a rotting carcass bares the former sign of a business with a phone # of PL-5552 if I am not mistaken that was from when operators still directed phone traffic.

    I enjoyed your story

  7. hereinthisworld August 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Excellent story: well written and illustrated. I’m relatively new to the area but reading this story made me think of what the pizza might have tasted like and it makes me mouth water. Then again, I do like pizza. The pictures are terrific, by the way. Thank you for writing this.

  8. gibsongirl247 August 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    I’ve never even been to CA., but your story is something that we can all relate too. Pieces of history….pieces of our past. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder if all the new housing, and mini malls are worth it? They just don’t seem to have the character of places like Antonio’s.

  9. cmsaunders August 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Great post. We must embrace change but remember our past. Love the sales tag… If you like it tell your friends, if you don’t tell us. Haha!

  10. positivegreenford August 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    I love this post, not surprised it was FPd. There is something about empty premises, I can understand why urban explorers take risks to get inside sealed buildings but there is something particularly sad about retail outlets that close down. We have a similar place, am empty but reasonably tidy former shop called “Gilberts”. Since I mentioned it online some people have contacted me to share memories of it when it was in use (http://wp.me/p267Ik-bu). You remember eating pizza at Antonio’s but I’ve never been into Gilberts. Any idea of what will happen to Antonio’s? Someone wants to knock down Gilberts which I think is a terrible shame. I hope the resources are found to bring both Antonio’s and Gilberts back to life.

  11. Alli August 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed! I’m all the way on the other coast, so no familiarity with the area, but I found these images beautiful and the story both typical and touching. What a great way to talk about what neighborhood change means. Thanks for posting!

  12. TdF August 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    ciao do you think it would be possible to re-start with the pizzeria? would be to rent or to buy? thank you for any infos and have a nice afternoon. ciao. a.

  13. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Yeah that’s a great tag line. If I were to ever have my own diner I’d steal it. Thanks for reading.

  14. brendaloveladyvideography August 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    It is sad when it’s on your home turf. The businesses that add personality and culture to the community are always endeared to us.

  15. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks for reading. It really did have great pizza. Onward!

  16. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I really don’t know. There is some strange situation surrounding the property owners.

  17. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Thanks for reading and the congrats. Its interesting how much emotion we can harbor for places like these.

  18. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Thanks. I’m hugely drawn to places like this. Just turns out this is in the old ‘hood. I’ve seen some of the images “abandoned Detroit” and can’t imagine whole neighborhoods sitting empty and fallow.

  19. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Thanks. The pizza was great. And even back in high school (many moons ago) they’d do a drink and a slice special. Perfect.

  20. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Thank you. Strange our attraction to places like this.

  21. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    It’s strange to live near your childhood home. Although I lived nearby well after childhood, the area is still frozen in a certain era. Combine that with the abandoned worn down feel of many of the areas and its very melancholy.

  22. TdF August 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    italian mafia? padrino brother’s? i have a lot of friends in california and would be a dream to re-open the antonio’s pizza and live there. i have a lot of frineds even in sicily, do you think it would be better to ask them any help before? 😉

  23. oficcionista August 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    “I prefer the mystery that these photos illustrate.”

    Me too.

    🙂

  24. Heather C.J. Atkins August 18, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    I had never even heard of Antonio’s Pizza and I’m feeling depressed about their empty run down shop on Prairie. Kind of sad. 😦

  25. Long-Distance Dad August 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Nice post. I’m fascinated with abandoned buildings that once were filled with so much life. You can imagine the ghosts of so many different experiences in those places. And, yes, the abandoning of huge stretches of Detroit is amazing, if sad.

    Love the name of your blog. I lived in Long Beach for a very short time… moving from the East Coast for an ill-fated relationship. I walked to places until I found a car — and drivers looked at me like I was a lunatic. I mean actual turned-head stares! In less than a month I moved to San Francisco and lived there happily for ten years… and never owned a car!

  26. MJ Conner August 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! I think most people can relate. I know I can. Thanks again for writing.

  27. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Thanks for the thanks.

  28. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    It leaves me a little melancholy whenever I drive by.

  29. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I do too. Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs don’t take much stock in the past. Progress paves the way. I can say this for certain, we can’t possibly need any more mini malls. Thanks for the note.

  30. Wendy Lawrence August 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I didn’t now Antonio’s, but we all probably have our own versions of it. I drove down a long line of chain restaurants today. It’s sad to think how every city is becoming increasingly more like every other city. Pretty soon, we won’t need to travel at all…there will be no reason to.

  31. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Here in the heart of Los Angeles/Orange County/Riverside/Whatever, that seems to be all there is. Lame. Thanks for reading.

  32. Wendy Lawrence August 19, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Yep. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  33. Mountain Gypsy August 19, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Your post really hit “home” for me also. I now live just a few short blocks from the building my grandparents owned, lived in and had their Grocery Market. Found the year they purchased in old city archives, 1924. It now lives a life as a bodega and windows are cinder blocked and the front door wears iron. As it happens, I work in the suburb my parents raised us in. Where 6 lane intersections are now, were once just one lane/one light. I remember when Rochester Institute of Technology campus was a farmers land. Now it’s beyond gigantic brick, mortar and concrete.
    I can’t decide if I’m melancholy, sad, old or indifferent……but Thank You for a great post.

  34. roboclow August 19, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    This building looks so sad. I never actually ate there, but I drive past it all the time on the way to a friend’s house. Thanks for the detailed pictures. I only ever see it from the road.

  35. Anthropology Gallery August 19, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Love this. Thanks for sharing! I have leanrned the importance of nostalgia to our society by studying archaeology. This post is sure to make a lot of readers happy. Cheers! 🙂

  36. Brad Nixon August 19, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    Thanks for featuring Antonio’s. I’ve lived in the South Bay for all my time in California, but just missed seeing the place open. Like you, I’m fascinated puzzled by how the place can stand there, derelict, with no effort to make something of the property. There’s clearly a story to be told.

  37. Brad Nixon August 19, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    SO… the Palos Verdes Library — and certainly other libraries — can let you read the Oct. 21, 2007 article by Mr. Green online if you have a library card. I just did that. I’ll summarize: the chef, Charlie Byrd, left after equipment started breaking down and the owner , Antonio Venuto, wouldn’t repair/replace it. Byrd left to found Cialuzzi’s, and eventually, Venuto died, without a will or any immediate family, apparently accounting for the current derelict state of the Antonio’s site. Thanks for motivating me to look this up.

  38. Brad Nixon August 19, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Um, not to beat a dead horse overmuch, but the property was purchased by a Long Beach businessman in 1997. In a DB story predating by a few days the one referenced above, that gentleman says he has plans to redo the building. Obviously, that hasn’t happened in the ensuing 5 years.

  39. kitchenmudge August 19, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
    who never mourned a pizzeria?

    In West LA, it was La Barbara’s for me.

  40. lexiesnana August 19, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    We live in a community that has those old buildings of my youth and your story made me take my camera and start shooting.Thank you for giving me something to share with my grandkids.They will love hearing about their Papa and me dating in the old bowling alley food booths.

  41. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    Thanks, Brad for the detailed info. I thought about the library, but again, the laziness factor. And I wrote and posted this about 11 pm one night. It really is fascinating, isn’t it? Cheers,Dennis

  42. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    “They will love hearing about their Papa and me dating in the old bowling alley food booths.” – Excellent. Thanks mucho.

  43. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Oh yes.

  44. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    It is very sad. And strange. Thanks for the thanks and for reading.

  45. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Strange how drawn we are to these things. The power of place always amazes me. There are a few other spots like this, but not as if they’ve been trapped in amber. Cheers, Dennis

  46. paintlater August 19, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    What character! I love the old signage and colours. I like to think on my trip to the US I begat a piece (“slice”) of pizza from Antonio and didn’t know it. Cheers Sue.

  47. onetenthblog August 19, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Happy childhood have rich memories. Always the past is the place where we look back simply because it brings smile to us. Thanks for sharing your post!

  48. filmcamera999 August 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    hey! why dont we buy antonio’s and bring it back to life again? im sure people will turn up in their thousands….;) love the blog, tho…just love abandoned places…

  49. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Redondo Beach is in California. I really dont know what you’re asking.

  50. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Yeah, I too love abandoned places. Good stuff.

  51. Kerri Sinnenberg August 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    By chance I found this story today. I was talking to my current co-workers about how I used to work at Antonio’s Pizza (I was a waitress at Antonio’s during 1992 +/- thru 1994)…The Daily Breeze did a review of the restaurant and commented about how friendly the waitress was…her smile lit up the room…(that was me 🙂 ) When I started there Charlie and Flynn were the co-owner’s. Charlie left for whatever reasons described (I don’t want to speak for him). I designed their t-shirt with a peace sign in pepperoni on the front and “have a slice of me” on the back….And boy did we have sooooo much FUN there!!! I will never forget Antonio’s. Thank you for the photos. It definitely brings back many memories. I have a photo of me in the restaurant during the period when I worked there…I will have to find it and post….Thanks again!

  52. nobodywalksinlongbeach August 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Hello Kerri,
    Whoa.Thanks for the comment. Very cool that you were able to find my blog post. I used to eat there at least once a week. Loved, loved, loved it. Would love to see your pic from the Antonio’s days.

    Cheers,Dennis

  53. Dan Almond May 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    2 notes: regarding Torrance. 1) In Facebook there is a page: You know your from Torrance… “https://www.facebook.com/groups/Torrance.Group/ ” 2) And I don’t know how to accomplish this…create a virtual gazetteer of current locations and what they use to be(address, from opening date til closing date, or just year).

  54. nobodywalksinlongbeach May 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Hi Dan, Thanks for the note. I do like that FB page. I also like the idea of doing a current locations and what they used to be. In Torrance alone that could fill half the Internet.

  55. Edward Anthony Green June 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    My brother and I painted the signs, and use to work for Flynn….Hell all of my brothers worked there at one time or another…..Thanks for the great story and pictures.

  56. nobodywalksinlongbeach June 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Hi Ed, That’s crazy. Thanks for reading this. DEnnis

  57. Glenn A Beard June 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    does anyone remember angie’s pizza on Yukon ave. they were good too

  58. Kathy Wilson March 29, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    Wow, I was so sad to see they closed down. I went to North Torrance and my friends and I walked to Antonio’s or Steve’s for lunch every day, mainly Antonio’s. I spend many an afternoon/evening helping Flynn, Charlie, and Finn with folding boxes and later delivering for them when I got my license. Cool to see the building is still standing.

  59. Dave August 8, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    On yukon and artesia? If so it was called bonos pizza when I was a kid.

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