(Big Mamas And Papas Pizzeria)
Big Mamas And Papas Pizzeria holds the distinction of making the 36” Pizza which is the World’s Largest Pizza Available By Delivery!!
With headquarters on the West Coast Big Mamas And Papas counts Hollywood celebs among its patrons.
We talked with Founder Aro Agakhayan about the history of Big Mamas And Papas.
Q – Aro, are you the gentleman who started Big Mamas And Papas?
A – Yes, it’s me.
Q – What is your background? Did you work in the pizza restaurant business before?
A – Actually, I came to this country (U.S.) with my mom. We came from Armenia; I was only 12 years old. I was 16 I worked at Domino’s Pizza. I was a cook at Domino’s Pizza for a year and a half. Back then there was no pizza delivery or Papa John’s. So, Domino’s was really, really up there you know. Busy. I was a cook there for a year and a half. I was 171/2, still going to high school in Glendale, California. So, there was a pizza place called Roselli’s Pizza. It was located in Burbank, California. It was owned by Asians. The place was only opened from 4:30p.m to 10 at night. Closed on Wednesday’s. It was almost out of business. No sales, no business at all. I was almost 18. I had one semester left to finish high school. I was going to school early in the morning, from 7-9, taking a couple of classes. After school I’d go to work. Back then we had only 2 size pizzas and 2 sandwiches. Very small menu-----and no business. I don’t know how I did it. I have no idea. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I had no idea what the hell I’m doing. All I know is, I thought I’m a good cook at Domino’s. That means I can open up my own business. That wasn’t enough I guess, because for 4 years I struggled. I didn’t have a car actually. I rode a bicycle. Eventually, we had a really old oven and the maximum size pizza which I could put in was an 8” pizza. Very narrow. Then 2 years later I bought a Jeep Wrangler. Then I sold it to buy a new hood and oven. Then I went to having no car again. Once I changed the oven and the hood, then I put in a bigger, wider pizza oven. The same pizza oven Domino’s Pizza was using back then. The size of the pizza oven was so wide I could fit 2 28” pizzas right next to each other. Back then we were still Roselli’s Pizza. I just came out with the name Big Mamas. I don’t know why I came out with the name. So, it was Roselli’s Pizza that we were selling Big Mamas 28” pizza. Back then we didn’t have a Big Papa which is the 36” now. But, I did register both names-----Big Mamas and Big Papas. I go one day maybe Big Papas can be something. I don’t know what. But Big Mamas 28”, we were selling a lot of them back then. A couple of employees left and opened up locations around me. Competition. They called it Big House Pizza. Table Pizza. Same size. Same price. So, I said I gotta go bigger. I gotta do something different. I made 36” pizza. That’s the largest that fits in the oven from front to back. So, for a couple of years we were doing that. They were calling us by Big Mamas and Big Papas not by Roselli’s anymore. So, we just took out the name Roselli’s and we called ourselves Big Mamas and Papas. Five years ago it was only 1 location, the one in Burbank, California, the first one back at Roselli’s when I took over. So, in 5 years we grew from one to 18 stores. Three years ago I made a 54” by 54” pizza. The reason I made the 54” is to hold the Guiness Record, the largest deliverable pizza ever made, that you can deliver to your doorstep. Whoever holds the record right now is about 2,100 square inch pizza. Our pizza is about 2,916 square inch pizza. 800 inch larger than whoever holds the record right now. I have filled out all the paperwork for Guiness and paid all the fees. I’m just waiting for their response to tell me what to do. We didn’t pass the first time because it wasn’t a menu item. It has to be a menu item to prove you as a record-breaker. So, now it’s on our menu and on our website. (36pizza.com).
Q – How many 54” pizzas have you sold?
A – We’ve sold about 12 of them already in a month and a half.
Q – What’s the cost of a pizza like that?
A – Those pizzas with cheese is $199.99. Each topping is $14.99. For extra cheese is $29.99.
Q – People are ordering a pizza of this size for an office party? A Birthday Party? Certainly not for themselves.
A – They do it for other reasons. We do have a contest with this pizza as well. If 4 people can finish it in 2 hours we give them $1,000, which two times they failed. Now we allow 5 people. We want someone to win. People who are buying it? It is for businesses. We delivered one to a house on Halloween night. It was in West Hollywood. It was a Halloween Party. We deliver it ourselves. People are just paying $50 to deliver it. They go ‘Send it to us. We want it’. It’s just so big. It’s fun. The way this pizza is made, the pizza door stays open. The pizza sticks out about 2’ (feet) out. An attachment goes over the door. That’s how we have that size of a pizza.
Q – Do you make any smaller pizzas than 54” and 28”?
A – These are sizes we have: 10”, 13”, 16”, 18”, 24”, 28”, 36”, and 54”. The 54” is the only one that is square. The reason we did a square is we can get more square inches out of it for Guiness. 54” just covers the whole pizza from left wall to right wall. It sticks out for about 1 1/2’ – 2’. You can see the whole process of making that pizza on Youtube.
A – You’re primarily on the West Coast?
A – Yes. They’re all in L.A. County. We have one in Vegas on Flamingo and Maryland Parkway, right next to the UNLV. Originally we opened in that area to hold the copyrights. We want to go national eventually, to all the States. So, we had to open one in a different state and show the copyright we are expanding in different states.
Q – So, you want to be on the East Coast-----eventually?
A – Of course. We want to be in New York. Actually I was in New York about a year and a half ago. I tried all the pizza places. I wanted to see what is a New York pizza. To me it’s just like L.A. There’s good pizza and there’s bad pizza. It’s just the experience. People say New York pizza is the best. It’s not the pizza it’s the whole experience of being in New York and eating there. I don’t think it’s just the pizza.
Q – Do any of the Hollywood stars eat your pizza?
A – We have a location in West Hollywood and Brad Pitt ordered one of the Big Papa ones. We drove over to his house when he was married to the girl from France. I don’t remember her name. They had a huge gate. And they had guards in front of the gate. We had to go over the gate to give the pizza to the guards. It was inconvenient. Eventually the gate was opened and Brad Pitt walked out from his house. He wanted to see the pizza. Jay Leno was at our Burbank location about 10 years ago. We have other actors. We have their pictures on the walls. They go eat there. They sign pizza boxes and all that stuff.
Q – Why do you refer to your restaurant as a pizzeria?
A – The reason we call Big Mamas and Papas pizzeria is pizzeria is more an existence, more homey. It’s not a pizza joint. That’s what were aiming right now to expand. We became a franchise. We’re starting to franchise. There are franchises. We want to expand to the national level, not to be like McDonald’s or Dominos, not to sound like a fast food. One of our systems in place we want to have quality control. We don’t want customers to walk into Big Mamas and Papas and feel like it’s a chain. We don’t want them the feel that. The way we design the place, we have a huge wall paper. The whole wall is covered by images of people eating pizza and something about the city they live in, a theme of the city itself. We have a location in Little Armenia Los Angeles where the whole wallpaper is people eating pizza. There’s a whole background of actual pictures of Armenia, which we call on the wall ‘Welcome To Little Armenia’. It is called Little Armenia in L.A. right now. It’s about a 4 mile area. It’s called that. We give that personal touch. It looks like a pizzeria. You have awnings, outside sitting, delivery. We do make the biggest slices. We’re the only chain on the West Coast that I know of that you can walk in and get any slice pizza. The slices are made from a 28” size pizza. You gotta eat it with two hands. Each slice is a whole meal.
Q – As you expand, it has to be very difficult to maintain that quality of product and to find the people to maintain that quality.
A – Yes, it is very difficult. Very few chains get big. If you hire the qualified people to work in your kitchen, and delivery and qualified owners, hopefully we can keep the consistency in quality as long as we can.
Q – What do you look for in a qualified owner?
A – To be a qualified owner you need to have a history in the restaurant business, in any kind of restaurant. And they have to believe in the concept. They have to see the name Big Mamas And Papas is very catchy, and the way we design our stores. We have the biggest pizza in the whole world. I think the size makes a difference. Quality is very important. When you have a 36” pizza in your hands and you’re walking down the street or walking through an office building for delivery everybody they just turn their heads and start talking about it. It’s like a beautiful blonde walking down the street.
Official website: bigmamaspizza.com
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