Meet the Advertising Madman Behind Sizzling Tongue Pizza

By Rick Hynum

As a former indie rocker and songwriter, Alex Koons, proprietor of Sizzling Tongue Pizza in Los Angeles, is aware of the way to placed on a present—and he’s not in the slightest degree camera-shy. His Instagram Reels for Sizzling Tongue are a musical, magical mixture of the surreal and the wildly absurd. Grown males in ridiculous wigs dancing to pop ditties about ranch dressing and pineapple as a pizza topping. A thin dude in a green-man physique swimsuit who “is aware of good pizza” as a result of he’s from New York. “Farming” the brownish water of the L.A. River to make pizza dough.

Watch just a few of Koons’ off-the-wall Reels—a few of which may also be discovered on on YouTube and TikTok channels—and also you may assume he isn’t all that severe about his craft. However you’d be fallacious.

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It took his spouse, Jackie, to place him again on the (considerably) straight and slender advertising path. “We’ve slowed down on the Reels, as a result of she stated, ‘Pay attention, you’re very severe about meals, and it’s not coming off in your Instagram presence,’” Koons recollects. “She goes, ‘Your Instagram is frightening, dude. It’s only a bunch of bizarre dudes in wigs.’” He laughs. “However she was proper. Once we search for a brand new restaurant, the very first thing she does is go to their Instagram and have a look at the meals footage.”

However, when you’ve seen one in all Koons’ crazier Reels on Instagram, you need to see extra. Luckily, he has loads of handsomely crafted pies to indicate off, too. And did we point out that they’re all vegan? Factor is, Koons doesn’t make an enormous deal about that. As a result of, so far as he’s involved, his pizzas are pretty much as good as—if not higher than—something with meat and dairy.

“Each side of your expertise right here is vital to me. And the visualization of strolling in—you’re presupposed to be, like, sort of strolling into my mind.”
— Alex Koons, Sizzling Tongue Pizza


Sizzling Tongue staff members Andrew Alvarez, Josh Cardona and Michael Hiller. (Photograph by Miriam Brummel)

A New Course
“Folks eat with their eyes first,” Koons says. (Photograph by Miriam Brummel)

When he wasn’t taking part in keyboards and singing in native bands, Koons labored as an audio engineer—till he bought laid off throughout the Nice Recession. He was broke and crashing on a buddy’s sofa when he bought employed as a pizza supply driver. “That catapulted me on this new route,” he says. “That job actually saved my life. I liked it.” He quickly found he had a very good head for the pizza enterprise. He was promoted to supervisor at that pizzeria, then took a brand new job at Purgatory Pizza, additionally in L.A.

When he first arrived, Purgatory Pizza was a little bit of a multitude. “It was punk rock,” Koons remembers. “There weren’t a whole lot of guidelines or rules. And the proprietor on the time simply let me do no matter I needed. I actually loved having the ability to see the outcomes with higher administration processes and the meals. And inside a yr, I spotted how a lot I liked the restaurant business and the way good I used to be at it, as a result of I might see how I’d improved Purgatory.”

A Candid Dialog

In a unique, Alex Koons talks in additional element about vegan pizza, creating pies which are simple on the eyes and advertising past Instagram.

Learn it at

Koons turned half-owner of Purgatory Pizza in 2017, however, now well-versed in pizza making and pizzeria administration, he had concepts for a unique sort of restaurant. In 2022, he based the all-vegan Sizzling Tongue Pizza within the hip, eclectic Silver Lake neighborhood, simply seven miles from Purgatory Pizza. “It has a totally completely different menu, utterly completely different vibe, utterly completely different emblem, however the identical values and integrity,” Koons says. “Every little thing I imagine in remains to be in place—the pillars of what a very good store needs to be.”

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Associated: Alex Koons’ 4 steps for interviewing potential pizzeria workers

(Photograph by Miriam Brummel)

“I don’t essentially need solely vegan clients. I’m probably not advertising to them. The thought is to open individuals’s minds to a delicacies that’s equally as scrumptious.”
— Alex Koons, Sizzling Tongue Pizza


All the way down to Clown

The vibe at Sizzling Tongue Pizza displays Koons’ personal rock-and-roll rebel-with-a-cause persona, if that trigger is stunning individuals with how scrumptious—and funky—vegan pizza might be. Surrealist paintings by L.A. artist Deladeso traces the partitions. The Sizzling Tongue identify itself, blazing in neon-pink letters above the outside doorways, hints at sultry, maybe forbidden delights. The emblem—a pair of full lips with an outstretched tongue—evokes recollections of The Rolling Stones of their heyday.

You may say Koons is making plant-based pizza horny—but outrageously humorous—for the plenty.

“Each side of your expertise right here is vital to me,” he says. “And the visualization of strolling in—you’re presupposed to be, like, sort of strolling into my mind.”

That mind is a fairly fascinating place, thumping to the beat of its personal drum machine. On the one hand, Koons is a businessman by means of and thru; he runs a decent ship and expects his staff members to indicate up on time, keep centered and produce meals to his exacting requirements, with each taste and esthetic attraction.

Alternatively, he’s a nut. And he likes to rent different nuts.

How he finds the time to create these Instagram Reels is anyone’s guess, however they’re screwball classics. Koons and his staff members, bewigged and outrageously clad, dance, prance, wiggle and twirl about to catchy tunes—some made well-known by hip-hop or pop acts (assume Fugees or the Backstreet Boys), and others, like “Pineapple On Pizza” and “Ranch Dance,” that Koons writes and information himself.

All of the individuals within the membership
Throw your arms up, present some love
Should you’re prepared, do the dance
Dip that pizza within the ranch

Sizzling Tongue staffer Gabby Giuliano. (Photograph by Miriam Brummel)

When Sizzling Tongue solid members aren’t wiggling their bottoms for the digital camera, they’re getting excessive on contraband marinara sauce (snorting it, no much less) or impersonating Draco Malfoy making an attempt to pay for an order along with his magic wand.

To Koons, advertising a pizzeria just isn’t in contrast to selling a band. “While you’re in a band, it’s all about making flyers, colorfulness, creativity and placing on a present,” he says. “I feel I’m fairly artistic, and it helps that everybody within the store is extremely artistic, too. Everybody’s right down to clown when the digital camera goes on, and we simply cook dinner up these loopy concepts, after which I movie and edit them, and the remainder is historical past.”

For Koons, authenticity is every little thing—and he is aware of increasingly more clients, particularly youthful ones, really feel the identical manner. “I do put up images, however, just lately, I bought sick of constructing captions, so I’ve simply began posting songs with images as a result of I don’t need to simply be faux and make up one thing.” In his tamer Reels, Koons merely pans the digital camera throughout Sizzling Tongue’s slice show case, exhibiting off numerous pies recent out of the oven. They burst with colour and eye attraction in addition to taste, so why not allow them to communicate for themselves?

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Whether or not you’re capturing stills or movies, sturdy visuals are paramount. One widespread Instagram advertising mistake, he notes, is “dangerous digital camera high quality, dangerous lighting or sound. The Reel simply doesn’t look good. One other factor that’s sort of cringey is when individuals are making an attempt to be humorous and it doesn’t come off as genuine. While you’re actually making an attempt exhausting or wanting one thing to hit, I feel it’s simple to see by means of that. Should you’re not humorous, don’t attempt to be. Should you’re not good at it, I feel it is best to pay for it. There are many individuals as of late that make full careers out of operating social media accounts.”

Luckily, Koons is excellent at it. And getting his staff members concerned in social media additionally lets them know that they’re precious and that their concepts are welcome. In lots of the wackier movies, Koons himself by no means seems on digital camera. His staffers are the celebrities. “They’re good at getting on digital camera and having a very good time, and, yeah, individuals get pleasure from them. Typically, they act like, ‘Aw, dude, are you severe? One other one?’ However when the digital camera begins rolling and the completed product comes out, I feel everybody’s stoked. It’s a break from the day, and all of us create this factor collectively.”

Koons’ Best Hits

Alex Koons is a frequent contributor to PMQ’s sister web site,, in addition to PMQ’s print version and For his newest column on making a profitable pizzeria tradition, click on right here.


Koons, his spouse Jackie and their son, two-year-old Levi. (Photograph by Miriam Brummel)
Pizza for Everybody

Additionally they create some wonderful pizzas collectively. Sure, they’re vegan pizzas, and that’s a serious promoting level in a metropolis like Los Angeles. However, Koons notes, “I don’t essentially need solely vegan clients. I’m probably not advertising to them. The thought is to open individuals’s minds to a delicacies that’s equally as scrumptious. You don’t must put dairy and meat on every little thing. Eat this pizza as soon as every week—simply strive it. As soon as I get anyone in right here who’s a devoted meat-eater or loves dairy and so they sit down and benefit from the pizza, they’re, like, ‘That is unimaginable!’ And that’s the purpose.”

Koons, now 37, went vegan when he was 20 years previous. Opening a vegan pizzeria, for him, isn’t about capitalizing on a pattern. He’s serving what he likes to eat. “The muse of any nice pizza is the dough course of,” he says. “Should you don’t have good dough, your pizza is gonna suck. Gentle, ethereal, crispy, an ideal crumb construction: There’s a whole lot of love that goes into that course of. I nonetheless tinker with the dough recipe daily. It’s one thing I’ll preserve taking part in with for the remainder of my life.”

Associated: Alex Koons: Don’t be afraid to interrupt the principles

A stickler for conveying the normal pizza expertise—after which one-upping it—in plant-based kind, Koons makes Sizzling Tongue’s vegan cheese in-house. Like mozzarella, it melts splendidly on the pie, but stands by itself as a high-quality ingredient. “It’s presupposed to be one thing completely different,” he says. “It’s a cashew cream that sort of emulsifies and has an identical texture [to mozzarella], but it surely’s utterly completely different. If I didn’t must name it mozzarella, I wouldn’t. I’d name it what it’s: a cashew cream. I’m not making an attempt to interchange mozzarella, as a result of that’s 100% unattainable. It’s actually nearly doing every little thing with 100% integrity. And I feel everybody who is available in right here can style that.”

“I don’t like being put in [the vegan] class as a result of it’s like, dude, let’s go toe to toe. I’ll make a cashew-based vegan cheese, and we’ll put it up subsequent to your New York-style cheese, and let’s see who’s bought the higher product.”
— Alex Koons, Sizzling Tongue Pizza

Koons additionally makes his personal plant-based meats, together with pepperoni and crumbled sausage. “I’m not focused on utilizing anybody else’s meats however my very own,” he says. “And, actually, it’s not one thing that I like that a lot, so I’m in all probability not going to increase that a part of the menu.”

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Actually, whereas Sizzling Tongue Pizza is a vegan pizzeria, Koons bristles on the label. “I don’t like being put in that class, as a result of it’s like, dude, let’s go toe to toe. I’ll make a cashew-based vegan cheese, and we’ll put it up subsequent to your New York-style cheese, and let’s see who’s bought the higher product. I don’t need to be within the vegan class. I don’t need to be listed among the many finest vegan eating places in Los Angeles. I need to be on that high 15 pizzerias record, interval. And rightfully so—I deserve it.”

However Koons is fast to offer props to his fellow pizzaioli, too. In January, he launched a podcast, “Pie 2 Pie,” now streaming through his Sizzling Tongue TV channel on YouTube, Apple and Audible, amongst different platforms. Right here, he chats along with his L.A. pizzeria and pop-up friends—together with the house owners of Fortunate Nick’s Pizza, Ozzy’s Apizza, Secret Pizza LA, Rose Metropolis Pizza, Secret Vegan Pizza and Quarantine Pizza—in a Q&A format, with every reply timed at 60 seconds.

A few of his “Pie 2 Pie” friends deal with vegan pizza, whereas others provide each meats and vegan choices. For Koons, good pizza is simply good pizza.

“I’m not on a spiritual campaign,” he says. In spite of everything, veganism generally is a loaded time period in immediately’s hyper-politicized period. “I’m not right here to make anybody really feel a sure manner about animals or dairy cheese. I’m right here as anyone who’s operating a restaurant that makes nice meals with out these two substances. There are different individuals who market their meals as cruelty-free, and that’s cool, too. I completely get that. I simply assume that may be off-putting to lots of people. Possibly they’ll’t eat dairy cheese as a result of their ldl cholesterol is tousled. Possibly they’ve celiac illness or they’re lactose-intolerant. Or perhaps they only don’t need to eat meat daily. I feel individuals need choices. Having a extra plant-forward food plan—perhaps not consuming as a lot meat or as a lot dairy—is one thing that’s already taking place. And also you’ve gotta be welcoming to everybody.”  

Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor in chief.