If there’s one thing to know about Quarter Sheets, the Echo Park pizza and cake restaurant, it’s this: Don’t call it Detroit-style pizza. “It’s really a pan-style pizza place,” says co-founder Aaron Lindell, who makes the pizzas while partner Hannah Ziskin makes desserts. “I’m picking and choosing from different styles I like,” he says.
The restaurant, which opened with a bare-bones takeout setup in early January, began as a pandemic pop-up on the porch of the couple’s 110-year-old Glendale home. Now it’s a real restaurant, complete with staff and diners and natural wines, having taken over the closed former Trencher space at 1305 Portia Street. These days, the mostly complete dining room is outfitted with exposed brick, concrete floors, banquettes, and a bar by local wood craftsman Cliff Mitchell. There are vintage lighting fixtures, and artwork scored at flea markets and on Etsy (much of it parrot-themed as a nod to the couple’s “mascot,” a parrot named Roni). Details like plastic grapes hanging over a porthole in a dividing wall read “old-school Italian restaurant,” while placards annotated with Glendale landmarks wink at Quarter Sheets’ history.
Lindell serves three styles of pizza: a thicker, crisp-edged pizza available whole or by the slice; thinner, chewier Sicilian squares; and fluffy, focaccia-like tomato pie. Meanwhile Ziskin’s desserts — including her layered chiffon cake slabs, domed princess sponge layer cakes, semifreddos, and chocolate pies — have won a fan base of their own. Recently, Lindell also introduced a handful of sides made with mostly Weiser Family Farms produce, like marinated roasted peppers served with soft hunks of Ziskin’s housemade feta.
The couple’s story starts in San Francisco, where they worked together at the Michael Tusk-owned Italian restaurant Cotogna. The pair eventually relocated to Los Angeles together, with Lindell transitioning to private chef work and Ziskin helping to open Melissa Perello’s now-shuttered M. Georgina at the Row DTLA. When the pandemic hit, Ziskin began hand-delivering bread and cakes under the name House of Gluten while Lindell continued to experiment with his pan pizzas, and together the pair began to conceive of Quarter Sheets as an ongoing pizza and dessert pop-up and, eventually, an actual restaurant.
By the fall of 2020 Quarter Sheets had become an LA pick-up darling, routinely selling out of its 45 whole pizzas and additional desserts in under an hour. The pair worked a frenzied pace to keep their weekend pickups going, prepping from Thursday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., cooking off food in their home oven and some borrowed M. Georgina equipment. Sharing a lowboy refrigerator was a point of contention. “We were limited by space — and our house never dropped below 90 degrees,” Ziskin says. Lindell adds, “It was a delicate balance.”
To help ease the burden, the couple transitioned to cook out of the closed M. Georgina space, and the time back in a professional kitchen made them realize that they could not return to their ad hoc home setup. With the help of a realtor, they secured their Echo Park location in October of 2021, though actually getting it open was another hurdle entirely. On a tight budget and with limited space, “a lot of the decisions were made for us,” says Lindell.
“We had limited financial resources,” says Ziskin. “We had to make the kitchen [work] as soon as possible. We literally ignored the dining room.”
They focused on bringing in ovens first, all while navigating LA’s often “Kafkaesque” permitting ecosystem, which can be painful for even the most seasoned operators, let alone restaurant newbies. Quarter Sheets’ first day of limited service was January 6, with a menu of whole and by-the-slice pizza and cakes. The dining room was basically non-existent, and those early days were not without hiccups (including issues with wait times), but it was their own.
“We may have opened as a slice shop and a whole pizza shop before we were ready — but we didn’t know how to start without just doing it,” Lindell says.
“We were still in this mindset of doing everything ourselves,” Ziskin adds, noting that they leaned on some chef friends with pop-ups to lend a hand here and there. ”There were three of us doing the work of six. We have a staff of 13 now.”
In addition to expanding their team, since January the couple has been chipping away at dining room updates; it has looked different from week to week. They’ve also been figuring out table service, operating with an order-at-the-counter model and tweaking things as they go. Before opening, the couple had well-intentioned goals of exploring new pay models and providing robust benefits to their employees, but they’ve had to make some concessions based on the reality of running a business.
“We may have jumped the gun on rolling all of that out,” Lindell says. “First and foremost, our priority is paying our team fairly.”
Despite it all, the restaurant has begun to hum along. On a recent Sunday afternoon the room was buzzing, with diners sipping natural wine, tearing into pieces of guanciale and pineapple-topped pizza, and sliding forks through layers of passionfruit-kissed slab cake on vintage plates. Despite being nontraditional (and a continued work in progress), Quarter Sheets has clearly tapped into something, selling about 140 pizzas a day, up from 70 in January. And unlike other restaurants, where desserts hover around 25 percent of orders, Ziskin’s creations are a big draw.
“Hospitality is a source of human connection. When we started doing this out of our house, no one had any human connection,” Ziskin says. “There’s been so much access to us, and we’ve been very open the entire time.”
“People get that it’s an expression of us,” Lindell says. “We made this into a place we wanted to be at.”
The menu doesn’t hurt, either.
“Pizza and cake — it’s like a kid’s birthday party,” Ziskin says. “On the other hand, it’s pizza, sure, but the amount of care is really special. Every element is carefully considered.”