It is that time of the year when exciting, gripping, edge-of-the-seat sporting events seem to be everywhere we turn. There is, of course, the Super Bowl on Sunday. There are the struggles of our sundry basketball teams, with the Lakers trying to be, well, the Lakers again — and the Clippers trying to make this a Clippers Town. (I mean, we've got Doc Rivers, right?)

And lookie here, the Winter Olympics are about to kick off with all those crazed skiers, snowboarders, skaters and, of course, the great mystery of how ski jumpers actually do what they do. (Logic dictates that they should break every bone in their well-toned bodies when they land!) And the parallel mystery of the Biathlon. (You ski, you shoot, you ski, you shoot.) Don't get me started on curling, which no one understands, including the people who curl.

 

Like many, I prefer to enjoy my sports in the company of a cheery group of beer swiggers and pizza eaters (Buffalo chicken wings fit well too), and in Whittier, there are more than a few destinations of choice. One of the choicest of which is Brickhouse Pizza.

Brickhouse sits on sedate Bright Avenue, a short stroll from the organized chaos of Greenleaf Avenue — a small oasis of sports, beer, pasta and sandwiches. The beer selection is small, far from artisanal, but it is served by the bottle, the glass and the pitcher. And when watching an exciting game, a pitcher is much appreciated.

 

The beer goes very well with the pizzas, which range from the usual suspects to somewhat wacked out. I mean, who wouldn't like pepperoni, mushroom, sausage, olives and onions on a pie known as the Combo? The crust could be crisper, but the toppings are generous enough — it's a greatest hits collection on a pie.

Then how about the Pastrami Lover's, a crust covered with pastrami, pickles and mustard akin to an open-faced pastrami sandwich hot from the oven. There's a Chicken Alfredo Pizza, for those whose cholesterol can stand a hit of chicken, parmesan, mozzarella and Alfredo sauce — too creamy for my tender sensibilities. There's a Lasagna Pizza as well which is, well, a lasagna on a crust without the pasta.

 

If you need more, there are 14 pastas, 10 salads and 19 sandwiches, both hot and cold. There are family pasta meals that serve four, with garlic bread and salad. But really, I'm there for the pizza, the beer, the game. Life is best, when life is simplest.

Ordering may be even simpler over at Pizzamania, a rambunctious rec room of a restaurant, with lots of long tables populated with locals who show up to cheer, eat, drink beer and generally act like sports fans who are exactly where they want to be.

 

There's a section on the menu dedicated to Pastrami Pizza, which seems to be a local favorite — that may or may not have originated at the Downey Pizza Company (“Home of the Famous Pastrami Pizza”). Once again, it's topped with pastrami, pickles and mustard, over a base of cheese. It's a crazy creation, but y'know, it's hard to stop eating the darned thing. There's an all meat model as well with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ham.

But lest you think there's a sign at the door announcing that non-meat eaters are unwelcome, there is a vegetarian model topped with green peppers, mushroom, olives, tomatoes and onions. Though really, without a nice layer of meat, the pizza seems to lack a sense of purpose; it's a vegetable sandwich.

 

As befits a big room filled with lots of people who want something to eat between the first and second down, the menu is dominated by stuff that can come out of the kitchen fast from Buffalo chicken wings, potato wedges (with or without bacon and cheese), mozzarella sticks and garlic bread (with or without cheese).

There's a generic antipasto, a handful of salads, including a Caesar with chicken on it, and a handful of sandwich options (no surprise that one of them is pastrami with pickles and mustard). And, splitting the difference, there's a Pizza Sandwich with roast beef, ham or turkey on pizza dough and all the fixin's. The menu says, “Don't call it a calzone.” But it sure is close.

 

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him email at mreats@aol.com.