Los Angeles is often described as a city that does not value its past. Every day, it seems, some historic home, building or restaurant is newly facing the wrecking ball. That is especially true of the latter, though several key eateries have managed to weather the test of time. Hollywood’s iconic Musso and Frank Grill has been shaking up martinis for over 100 years now. Bay Cities Italian Deli is still slinging sandwiches in Santa Monica over nine decades after its inception. And Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant has been a San Fernando Valley staple pretty much from the day it first opened way back in 1945.
Situated on a busy corner of Valley Glen, Barone’s is an undeniable oldie but goodie and location managers have certainly recognized it as such, cementing its status as a go-to for any L.A.-based film or television show in need of a retro establishment. The place is such an industry stalwart, in fact, that it has prominently figured into the background of two recent productions set in the Los Angeles of yesteryear.
Not only does the restaurant pop up numerous times throughout Hulu’s 1990s-set “Pam & Tommy,” but it also appears in the new HBO series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which takes place during the so-called Showtime era of basketball. (While countless websites claim that Barone’s also stands in for Tail o’ the Cock in the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film, “Licorice Pizza,” that is incorrect. The movie instead made use of the now-defunct, though still intact Billingsley’s Prime Rib and Steak House located at the Van Nuys Golf Course.)
A veritable Valley institution, Barone’s was founded by siblings Josephine Barone and Tony, Frank and Mike Arpaia, who initially set up shop in a small corner spot in Sherman Oaks that had previously housed an eatery named Barto’s. As a cost-saving measure, the foursome decided to dub their new venture “Barone’s,” as it allowed them to easily change up the old Barto’s signage by dropping the “T” and swapping in an “N” and an “E.” And thus, Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant was born.
The rectangular-shaped Neapolitan-style pizzas for which the eatery is now known were also born out of a cost-efficiency measure. Fashioning the crust into a four-sided shape rather than a typical circle permitted the family to fit more pizzas into their tiny oven and therefore serve more pies to more customers.