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  • Rachelle Liu and Kathleen Chen

Rose City Pizza: Modern Take on a Traditional Slice

Updated: Jan 18

During stressful times it is only normal to turn to comfort food, explaining why pizza consumption has increased dramatically during the pandemic. This is why this week, we’re excited to highlight Brian Nittayo, founder of Rose City Pizza and introduce you to or remind you of some of the best pies in town.

Brian Nittayo, Founder of Rose City Pizza

Brian graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. While still in school, he worked in a variety of restaurants from a sushi place to Outback Steakhouse and first experienced a love for serving and meeting people. After graduating, he gained experience as a front desk agent at the Ritz Carlton Hotel where he learned valuable customer service skills. Brian may have continued in hospitality, but two years into working at the Ritz Carlton, the 911 tragedy struck. The hotel industry was heavily impacted, and Brian decided to move on and return to food. His father was retired and “itching to get back into business,” so they opened their first Cold Stone Creamery location in San Dimas. For the next 7 years they opened and operated Cold Stone Creamery franchises. During that time, they felt a strong desire to open a restaurant which would allow them the freedom to create a concept and menu. In 2009, they opened Rose City Pizza, only three doors down from one of their original Cold Stone Creamery locations in Rosemead.

So you may be wondering, how and why did Brian go from ice cream to pizza? Brian walks us through his unique story.

“To be honest, I had no idea how to make pizzas. While I was working at Cold Stone Creamery, I approached the owner of the nearby pizzeria to teach me how to make pizzas. We made a deal that if he taught me how to make pizzas then I would agree to purchase some of his old equipment. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since we would need the equipment to start our pizzeria. Two months before our opening I asked the pizzeria owner to start teaching me. He had bad news and told me he was moving to Montana. I had no one to teach me how to make pizzas and Rose City Pizza would be opening soon. On a whim, my Dad and I decided to go to the Pizza Expo held once a year in Las Vegas. While we were there, we heard about Tony Gemignani and his pizza classes. I became one of his first students and graduated from his program in North Beach, San Francisco- a satellite of the main campus located in Italy. Tony certified me as a pizzaiolo from the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, but felt I was not ready to start my pizzeria until I apprenticed with his friend Bruno, who owned multiple pizzerias in New York. I worked with Bruno over the summer and learned to make true authentic New York style pizzas. The misfortune of not learning how to make pizzas from the guy next door actually led to me making a better pie. I was able to learn from some of the best in the business!”

While Rose City is a well known and loved establishment now, this was not always the case. The first few years of business were slow, and when customers did come in they would tell him that he should have opened in Los Angeles to charge more or get more attention from foodies. Brian being an Asian pizzaiolo is unique, but he says, “When I first started Rose City Pizza, people labeled my restaurant as inauthentic because I was not Italian. Just an Asian guy making pizzas.” Brian knew that people generally gravitated towards traditional pizzerias with their wood fired ovens and heirloom recipes. Brian says, “I couldn’t compete. I had to think out of the box and create something new.” And he did exactly that. Rose City produces pizzas unlike any other with flavors like Elote, Al Pastor, Birria, Char Siu, and Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Pizza. Brian says, “We draw our inspiration from the diverse group of cooks and staff we work with. Most of the time new pizza creations are created by us talking about what we are craving, Then we ask ourselves if that would work on a pizza. If we agree, then we'll start brainstorming on how to craft a new pizza creation. We've had great success with our fusion pizzas. I would say we are more of a modern pizza concept with roots in traditional Italian and New York style pizza preparation.”

Despite what people said about opening in the SGV, Brian could not be happier to be in Rosemead. Brian tells us, “The SGV is a destination for authentic Asian, Mexican, and innovative food creations. The community means everything to me.” Operating Rose City during the pandemic has been the most challenging obstacle Brian has encountered thus far, and he is extremely grateful to all the community members who have kept his business afloat. In addition to receiving love and support from customers, Brian also does his part to give back to the community through hosting fundraisers and donations and hosting monthly art shows to support local artists. Brian is planning on opening his second location next summer in Covina. He says, “Ten years ago, I would never have thought we would come this far. I believe the sky's the limit. I am looking forward to the future with great anticipation.”


Support Rose City Pizza!

Address: 3588 Rosemead Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770

Phone: (626) 280-8885

Website/Order: www.rosecitypizza.com

Order: chownow.com, doordash.com


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