T H E H I S T O R Y O F "R O C K & R O L L P I Z Z A"
The New York-style pizza is hot, and the music is hotter.
As a founding member of the band Blondie, drummer Clem Burke is a card-carrying member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As a native of New Jersey, he is an opinionated judge of any pizza claiming ties to the East Coast.
So as Burke stood in the neon glow of the patio at Rock & Roll Pizza in Moorpark one night in January, the question was: Whaddya think?
"The cheese-to-sauce ratio, the charring ... they're just right," Burke said. "I'll confess. I've had four pieces."
Perhaps he was just building up his strength.
Later that night, Burke joined founding Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock and other members of their new project, The International Swingers, for a free concert on the pizzeria's 10-by-35-foot stage decorated with prayer flags and autographed drum heads.
The power cut out twice and the police showed up once. Or, as vocalist Gary Twinn, originally of the Australian glam/punk band Supernaut, announced from the stage: "That's rock 'n' roll!"
All of the above took place before 9:30 on a Sunday night.
"We brought the crazy to Moorpark. But we try to do it early so we don't bother the neighbors too much, " said David Vieira, who with wife Petra Vieira owns and operates the combination pizzeria, music venue and de facto rock 'n' roll museum.
The couple moved the business lock, stock and vintage poster advertising a string of 1981 performances by The Clash at New York's Bond International Casino, from Woodland Hills last year. It reopened in June at what had been Chuy's Mesquite Broiler on Princeton Avenue in Moorpark.
Along with Petra's Pollo Marsala and thin-crust pizzas named for people and places in David's native New York, music has always been part of the Rock and Roll Pizza mix.
But the Moorpark location didn't really show the couple's music-industry roots until something happened on the night of Dec. 9 that landed them on YouTube and in the pages of Rolling Stone.
That's when the Foo Fighters - a band fronted by former Nirvana drummer turned "Sound City" documentary filmmaker Dave Grohl - showed up to play an unannounced gig before setting off for concerts that month in Mexico.
About 200 people packed the restaurant's two dining rooms and patio for the impromptu, 23-song set, which started out as a secret. Nearly everyone present was armed with a cellphone, judging by the photos and video clips that popped up, in real time, on social media.
"Some people still ask, 'How come you didn't tell us they were coming?' It never would have happened if we did," David Vieira said.
CARRY THE NEWS
How did it happen at all?
For a partial answer, look to Studio 606, Grohl's personal recording space located somewhere in Northridge.
According to David Vieira, production has started for a documentary TV series about bands using the studio's old-school analog equipment to record songs in one or two takes. The series also may feature informal concert footage shot at Rock and Roll Pizza.
But the story really begins in the safety-pinned punk-rock culture of the 1980s, "when everybody in the music business knew each other," David said.
Originally from Munich, Germany, Petra Vieira (nee Tischler) was at that time designing clothes to sell at Redballs on Fire, the stall she operated at Kensington Market on London's Kensington High Street.
Petra's friends there included a woman who is now married to the manager of Studio 606. Clients included Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses and Stiv Bators of the American punk band The Dead Boys.
David also knew Bators, whom he met while creating posters and T-shirts for New York City bands in the late 1970s.
Flash forward to 1991, when Petra moved to California to take over Lip Service, the punk-gothic clothing line and Melrose Avenue store started by Drew Bernstein.
She called on David to help with everything from screen printing to the construction of store displays, and romance blossomed amid the dagger-print leggings and Jack Daniels logo belt buckles.
The Vieiras married a year later and went on to have three children, now ages 15 to 20.
Along the way, they sold the Melrose location to a partner, added a wholesale line that supplied mainstream versions of Petra's rock 'n' roll stagewear to Hot Topic stores, and opened a Redballs shop on Universal City Walk.
Pizza entered the picture when David and one of the couple's then-neighbors, fellow New Yorker Elliot Easton of the band The Cars, started talking about how hard it was to find a decent slice in the San Fernando Valley.
The result was the opening in 2006 of Redballs Rock & Roll Pizza next to Redballs the retail clothing store in the 6500 block of Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Canoga Park.
The brick-and-mortar clothing store later turned into Petra's design studio and headquarters for online retail orders, which continue at http://www.redballs.com.
"The pizza really started working. The pizza, and the music," said David, who as a first-time restaurateur tapped friend and chef Danny Harold for help in creating recipes for the house-made sauces.
The list of musicians who played the 1,100-square-foot space included Easton, Kira Roessler of Black Flag and Gary Ballen, who now leads singalong sessions most Wednesdays at the new location in Moorpark.
A SENSE OF PLACE
So why move?
"We were in a strip mall next to a pet store. They only allowed us three parking spaces," said David.
"We didn't have any space and we didn't have beer. Music and pizza goes with beer," added Petra, cutting straight to the chase.
When a joint venture with the owners of a Woodland Hills bar and music venue didn't work out, the Vieiras looked elsewhere. A friend who owns the Princeton Avenue building encouraged them to consider Moorpark.
The couple spent six months transforming the space into a showcase for rock 'n' roll memorabilia. They left no surface untouched.
Patsy Cline and Exene Cervenka keep a watchful eye on the ladies' room sink, courtesy of a row of photo-transfer tiles laid by the Vieiras themselves.
Autographed guitars and framed band photographs are arranged against a wallpaper fashioned from individual concert flyers. The bar top is inlaid with guitar picks, 45s, LPs and silver studs originally destined for leather jackets. Bar stools bear the no-last-names-needed monikers of such punk-rock luminaries as Joey, Jello and Iggy.
Several of the beers served at that bar are local. Enegren Brewing Co. of Moorpark has three selections on tap; 805 Blonde Ale by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles is available in bottles.
But the pizza dough is shipped in twice a week from Piscataway, N.J. - a must not only for the 20-inch pizzas with names like The Original Manhattan Cheese Pie, but also for sandwiches like the supremely messy Massapequa Meatball Wedge.
"I want you to close your eyes, taste the pizza and be back in New York," said David. "I want this to be like the places that Elliot and I grew up with that were in Greenwich Village but are starting to go away, like CBGBs."
THIS AIN'T NO DISCO
He's not the only one making comparisons to CBGB & OMFUG, the music venue that from 1973 to 2006 witnessed shows by the Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith and other acts encompassed by its acronym for Country, Blue Grass, Blues & Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers.
"This is a real rock 'n' roll venue, like CBGB's," said Gary Twinn, who chatted with friends and fans before taking the Redballs stage with Burke, Matlock and guitarist James Stevenson, who has played with The Cult, The Alarm and Billy Idol's Generation X.
Formed in 2012, The International Swingers perform whenever its members are on the same continent, which isn't often. Twinn said the Jan. 19 performance in Moorpark would be followed by two days of recording at Studio 606.
On stage, he led the foursome through an 18-song set that included references to Blondie ("Call Me"), Sex Pistols ("Pretty Vacant"), David Bowie ("All the Young Dudes") and The Ramones ("Blitzkrieg Bop"). Original songs included "Gun Control" and "On Something." When Twinn told the crowd Burke had written the latter and that it would be recorded later that week, a cheer went up.
When Twinn announced that police had arrived to investigate complaints about noise, the music came to an end.
Burke marked the moment by standing up from the Pork Pie drum set that is in permanent residence on the Rock and Roll Pizza stage. Sweat dripping from his black The Who T-shirt, he playfully tipped over the hi-hat in a mock display of rock 'n' roll-induced frenzy.
What happened next wasn't for show: A woman snaked through the crowd, reached down and carefully peeled the set list from the floor of the stage, black electrical tape and all. Then she turned and was gone.
ROCK & ROLL PIZZA
What: Rock & Roll Pizza, a combination restaurant, music venue and unofficial museum of rock 'n' roll memorabilia.
Where: 480 E. Los Angeles Ave. Simi Valley, CA 93065 and other venues. Call (805) 526-9822 or visit http://www.rockandrollpizza.com.
On the menu: Thin-crust, New York-style pizzas by the slice or by the whole pie, wedge sandwiches, salads, pastas and finger foods.
Changes, additions and last-minute announcements: Check the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rockandrollpizza. (Don't expect to see much advance notice about supersecret Foo Fighters shows, though.)