In our polarized society there are very few things that receive universal adoration. Yet, despite a culture that rewards and promotes contrarianism constantly, pizza stands out as one thing that every human loves. Seriously, try and find somebody who claims to hate pizza, you’re not going to be able to do it.
Pizza is one of the few foods that is loved by people of all ages and backgrounds, and if we’re being fully honest, it may be the one common ground that unites us all. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s closer to true than false. Plus, it tastes pretty damn good.
As Pizza Hut was planning to release a bold new menu of Spicy Lover’s Pizzas they wanted to make a splash. People are passionate about their pizza, passionate enough to wear that love on their skin for the rest of their lives. So Pizza Hut turned to one of the most-revered tattoo artists in the world, Nikko Hurtado, and set up the world’s first-ever spicy pizza and tattoo parlor.
Hurtado’s Black Anchor Tattoo in Los Angeles was transformed into Fire & Ink for a very special pizza and tattoo themed pop-up. For one fun-filled day, Fire & Ink was serving up delicious pizza and tattooing pizza lovers with ink pulled from a flash sheet created specifically for the event. The exciting day came to a culmination when Hurtado tattooed an homage to our two favorite things on Earth—pizza and tattoos.
We spoke with Hurtado about Fire & Ink, his own love of pizza and how he brought together his entire team for the event.
Inked: How did Fire & Ink come together?
Nikko Hurtado: Pizza Hut reached out letting me know they were gonna release a spicy pizza and they wanted it to be bold. I've seen the commercial that shows this guy getting tattooed on his arm, and I thought it was a really cool idea. They wanted to go bold, and I mean, what's more bold than a tattoo, you know? And so I think it's a perfect collaboration and it was cool that Pizza Hut reached out. I think it's a great opportunity for the tattoo industry in general. I think that Pizza Hut is such a great and family-oriented brand so it's really cool for them to invite tattooing into that.
We’ve seen tattooers involved in advertisements in the past, Mister Cartoon’s Modelo ads come to mind, but Pizza Hut is a far more family-oriented brand than a beer company. Seeing a company that is more wholesome embracing tattooing is pretty interesting.
That’s the best part about it to me. My experience with Pizza Hut first came in the ‘80s. They had a commercial with a kid having a pizza party, and I remember being 8 or 9 years old and thinking, “Yeah! I want a pizza party at Pizza Hut!” Fast forward to today and I’m 40, I’ve been tattooing for 20 years, and this brand that’s been around longer than I’ve been alive and says they want to do this bold idea, and I was like this is part of my history, even prior to tattoos. I’ve ordered and enjoyed Pizza Hut with my family, so it was really cool. I love seeing tattoo being brought to families through Pizza Hut, I think that’s just another avenue to expand, like when tattooing went on TV. I know some people will think, oh whatever about [tattoo artists] working with brands, but I think high tides raise all ships. So when I do a collab with a brand like Pizza Hut I think it’s great for everybody in the community as it makes tattooing more legitimate. It means the artists will be taken more seriously, like chefs, and that’s what I want to see. I want to see tattooing elevated. And I have to thank Pizza Hut for giving me that opportunity
We have to ask, how’s that Spicy Lover’s Pizza?
It was awesome. It was bomb. As I’ve gotten older I like spicy things a lot more, so it tastes amazing. Having a spicy pizza is perfect.
Can you tell us a little about the flash sheet for the event?
This was a collaboration with the artists at my shop. I ended up doing five or six designs that were pretty intense for the final tattoo. Since this was a pop-up event, originally we were thinking about doing a walk-in event, and the way we normally do that here at the shop is that we all work on the flash sheet. We all came up with the designs together, it was more fun to involve everybody since they’re going to be tattooing them. It’s fun to share things like this with the entire team. I wanted everybody to bring different flavors to the idea of Pizza Hut, so it was really cool to work on together.
Tell us about that rad dagger and slice piece you did.
What I did was this kind of hybrid realistic piece with a bold outline. I took the traditional concept of a dagger punching through a skull or a heart and I applied it to a slice of pizza. It’s one of the Spicy Lover’s Pizzas and it’s got the Pizza Hut tablecloth print on the handle. It’s cool, man. It’s in true Nikko Hurtado fashion—realism with a little bit of a twist.
This should be obvious since pizza and tattoos were involved, but the event was a blast for all who attended. While you can't go back in time to experience Fire & Ink, you can pick up one of the Spicy Lover's Pizzas for yourself and enjoy this gallery of shots from the event. And who knows, maybe you'll be inspired enough to go get a pizza tattoo of your own.