Still the best pizza in L.A.!

the line extends pass the waiting room and onto the sidewalk
New York transplants are obligated to say, "There's no good pizza in L.A." in order to maintain their street cred. They don't want others thinking they've gone soft. I'm not a New Yorker and am not privy to such pretension, but I have my own pizza-related issues. Namely, that I've never liked it. Until recently that is. As a child, when our family ordered pizza I'd opt for the side of buffalo wings. Throughout college I'd endure countless comments from my cohorts. "What's wrong with you?" they'd gasp, as if I had an actual answer to that question. They were just as incredulous when they found out I had never watched Star Wars. I tried multiple times, but got too bored. It's the same with pizza.

In fact, I kept trying pizza at everyone's advice. I was sure I'd stumble upon that magical slice that would turn me over to their side. There was an Aladdin's Express on Broad Street in Richmond, run by a Muslim family from New York. I was actually impressed by their pie! As I enjoyed my giant thin-crust pizza slice, employees would roll out mats in the middle of the dining floor and bow eastward to Mecca. But I graduated college, moved to Los Angeles and once again found myself in Papa John's hell. I stumbled upon a frozen pizza in the grocery store. Gino's Pizza was only $1.19 for a single serve pie, so I didn't have much to lose. It was incredible, and I couldn't understand why it was so cheap. "Because it's disgusting, that's why," each consecutive roommate blasted. They hadn't even tried it, and wouldn't, assuming the cost meant the company was hiding a dark secret.

After 11 years in Los Angeles, I was invited to a dinner at Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock. "Eagle Rock?" I asked. I knew it was an up-and-coming neighborhood, but there is bad pizza everywhere, so why go there? "It's the best pizza in L.A., that's why." This unassuming Mom and Pop shop has been around for over half a century, started by Italian immigrants from Chicago. Our party needed reservations way in advance, and when we got there, the people waiting in line spilled from the indoor lobby to the outside benches. This place meant business!
I love an old school cash register
Consider this: Everyone says that even bad pizza is good pizza. So not many can be trusted when asked where the best pizza place is. Myself of the other hand, finds most pizza intolerable. So if I say the pizza is to die for, in addition to the rest of this city agreeing it's the best in the land, it must be. And Casa Bianca is. 

The crust is crispy, then chewy. The thin slices are loaded with gooey cheese and a savory mix of mystery spices that set it apart from all others. I can finally say that I love pizza. Unfortunately, this alone will not convince others that I'm now normal, but it's a delicious place to start.


FIG Santa Monica - Reminding us why we moved to L.A. in the first place

In my hometown on the East Coast, I'd to listen to Walk, Don't Run by The Ventures and imagine my future in California. In my mind, it looked like FIG restaurant in Santa Monica. Airy with big windows, offering views of swaying palms and an aqua blue pool. The faint sound of waves crashing in the background. Avocado slices on every plate.

The food is delicious without being fussy. I have to give credit to any restaurant serving the After School Special; a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. If you ever find your soul crushed by 405 traffic and clueless middle-aged women disfigured by plastic surgery, head to FIG. You'll remember why you came to California in the first place.


So unpretentious and amazing, it almost feels pretentious

Much ado is made of sushi in Los Angeles. During the 80's financial boom, Americans who power-lunched with Japanese businessmen made sushi popular among the elite. Sushi made frequent appearances in 80's movies; a staple for the wealthy and cruel.

Luckily, I live by Sushi Row in Studio City, and have dined at the original Katsuya (heaven!) among others. But nothing compares to Fuji in Pasadena. They don't need a website or Groupon deals. Though their sushi isn't #1 in L.A. (though it's really good) it's their abusive Korean BBQ that keeps me loyal. It's the best I've had in Los Angeles, and I know my way around Korean food. And insane Korean roommates.

With incomparable Korean BBQ, great sushi, proximity to boba joints and located in the center of happy, happy Pasadena,  this unassuming and inexpensive restaurant is my favorite.


What's with the music industry?

Twins who carry the burden of trying to bring long hair back to rock
It's not that I believe actors should be homogenized for aesthetic pleasure. In fact, it's sad to see girls all the same shade of peroxide blonde, with matching pumpkin-colored skin and noses courtesy of Dr. 90210. People should embrace their differences, and not be afraid to stand out, save for their new breasts. 
Fake hot goes beyond L.A.!

But why is it, that in the music industry people work just as hard to look different? And not just different, but aesthetically displeasing? As hard as actors try to fit into the mold, musicians work just as hard to break it. The effect is just as contrived.

I went to an MTV Awards pre-party, and the place was positively crawling with manufactured "freaks" -  musicians and wanna-be rock stars. Perhaps it's because the party was thrown by the self-promoting con artist  David Harrison Levi. Or perhaps it was the desperation to stand out without the aid of American Idol. Some musicians tried to bring back long hair (see above). Others decided to cover their clothes with rock 'n roll band pins, but looked like deranged extras from TGI Friday's Servers Gone Wild

with Chris Dennis of Confessions of a Superhero

Girls made dresses from silly string, boys wore blue lipstick. You couldn't escape the feeling that they all went home, removed their "weird" and sat in front of Glee with a bowl of cereal. It was their schtick.

So to all of those homogenized actors and anti-homogenized musicians: JUST BE YOU. I'm not saying that the real you is great. Hell, it may not even be good. But it's got to be better than what you're making us deal with now.

"Starmaker" / con artist David Harrison Levi



Trashy Lingerie, Los Angeles
Gentlemen, you do know that this never happens in real life...right?

To set the record straight. girls NEVER:

- Have pillow fights in lingerie

- Kiss one another, unless it's for shock value (Madonna & Brittany Spears), album sales (Katy Perry) or to get guys to like us (COLLEGE)

- EVER want to have a threesome, unless it's two guys, one girl

- fart


Mashti Malone's - Flavors as original/abusive as their sign!

Mashti wackiness!
The Mashti Malone's sign has always been a hot mess. There's Arabic writing, English writing, a giant ice cream cone and a four leaf clover. L.A. Times calls it "culturally confusing." But it's a relieving visage a town where suburban outskirts are building out homogenized strip malls, with tidy store logos sharing one big sign. Inside of giant parking lots, these strip malls are styled like Mexican haciendas with clay-tiled roofs, but with Japanese pergolas. Don't ask.

Too boring for Mashti wackiness:

Little did I know that Mashti Malone's was the epicenter of a delicious movement. I attended a studio party where they had catered sweets, and that's when I realized they were more than just an ice cream joint with a sarcastic name. 

sample, please!
They used pure ingredients before using pure ingredients was cool. Whole Foods took note and started selling pints in their stores. Bon Appetit and LA Weekly covered them in their publications. But Angelenos can get healthy ice cream from anywhere, so why Mashti Malone's? It's their exotic flavors, popular in the Middle East, such as: rosewater saffron, orange blossom and pistachio. 

Upstarts will imitate and maybe even master these recipes one day. But these are old school, and passed down from Iranian family members. You can't uncover their recipe secrets. And if you move into a modern homogenized strip mall, you certainly can't have their sign.