The Ultimate Pizza Crawl Through Northeast L.A.
The 110 has no merge lanes—but it’s bordered by some good pizza joints
The Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway is the oldest freeway in the West. The serpentine six-lane highway wends its way from Pasadena to downtown, with nary a sufficiently long freeway entrance lane in all its curvy 9.5 miles.
That stretch of the 110 swings through a diverse collection of neighborhoods along the Arroyo, past parks and museums, old homes and new developments and—perhaps surprisingly—a whole heap of excellent pizzerias, which makes it perfect for a pizza crawl. Just mind the merging.
From a tiny window wedged between a coffee roaster and a CrossFit gym in a Pasadena shopping center, owner Joseph Hogan is slinging some outstanding New York-style pizza. He makes his own sauce and dough in house, and features a menu of simple, unfussy combos. Grab an awesome slice, maybe a crisp cold brew from Jones Coffee, and you’ll feel as invigorated as you would after any workout, without all that gross sweat and soreness. 691 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 720-7095.
Tomato Pie has become a neighborhood institution at its locations in Silver Lake and on Melrose, and the three-year-old South Pasadena branch is working toward that noble goal too. At this location, as at the others, the small chain is serving what it calls East Coast-style pies, with a thin, slightly sweet crust and a bright tomato sauce.
The Grandma is a standout, with whole peeled tomato, a hit of garlic, and a Pecorino Romano crust, but there’s also some far-out combos, like a Syracuse-style hot wing pizza with chicken and a hybrid spicy ranch wing sauce. 1130 Mission St., South Pasadena; (626) 399-0459.
It’s only a few months old, but Triple Beam—the Roman-style pizzeria from all-stars Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina, and Randy Clement—has already established itself as a Highland Park go-to for lunch, dinner, and any meal in between. Instead of pre-determined slices, they cut little rectangles to your specifications, weigh them, and charge by the ounce, so it’s a particularly good stop for an afternoon snack.
As you might expect based on the team behind Triple Beam, the pizza is excellent—thick with oil but still crispy, and topped with an immaculately curated selection of interesting meats and vegetables. There’s green garlic and leeks on the sausage pizza, and the potato and rosemary is a fan favorite. The classic Margherita might be the best of them all. 5918 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; (323) 545-3534;
Much fuss was made over the remodel and reopening of Highland Park Bowl, a 90-year-old bowling alley smack dab in the middle of the trendy section of Figueroa. The space is gorgeous, the cocktails artisanal, the per-hour bowling prices astronomical.
It’s an impressive, attention grabbing spot, but that fuss was misplaced—the best part of Highland Park Bowl’s remodel is the pizza oven. That oven churns out beautiful Neapolitan pizzas, classics like Margherita and marinara and bowling-appropriate pepperoni but also more ornate options with prosciutto and arugula, and a full complement of seven white pizzas.
And at their very excellent happy hour, you can get about a dozen basic cheese pizzas for the same price as an hour of bowling. 5621 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; (323) 257-2695.
There’s a lot of new competition within a few blocks, but Folliero’s, which turns 50 this year, may still be the best pizza in Highland Park. The quintessential neighborhood joint serves outstanding pies, with sharp, tangy tomato sauce and a puffy crust that sags just so at the center.
It’s an easy stop for a deeply satisfying casual Italian dinner, with good, simple pastas and chicken dishes to go, all at a stunningly generous price point, to boot. 5566 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; (323) 254-0505.
Speaking of generous price points, Junior Pizza in Cypress Park may be the most affordable independently owned pizza in the city. You can walk in with a $10 bill and walk out with a large pizza and plenty of change, a bargain almost too good to be true.
It’s a tiny spot without much ambiance inside, overshadowed in its own strip mall by the mammoth burritos and inhalable potato tacos at El Atacor next door, but the pies at Junior Pizza are excellent. They are simple and well balanced, the perfect thing to pick up on the way home, a great pairing with a beer and your couch. 3520 N. Figueroa St., Cypress Park; (323) 222-9984.
Written by Ben Mesirow, Los Angeles Magazine
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