Masa of Echo Park
Masa of Echo Park was initially published in 2011 for the The Place: Los Angeles. I have since updated and expanded the review.
“Echo Park is the urban Mayberry,” says Rhonda Reynolds, co-owner of Masa of Echo Park, a mom and pop restaurant on the corner of Sunset and Lemoyne, famed for their Chicago style pizza. She couldn’t be more correct. Though it’s easy for locals and visitors alike to breeze through this west downtown neighborhood on their way to West L.A., Echo Park has a lot going on for itself. The first incarnation of Masa of Echo Park was not initially a restaurant, but a car dealership! Built in 1922, the building housed roadsters for the discerning motorists of the rapidly expanding Los Angeles population.
By the 1930’s, however, the building was tricked out as the Carty Bros. Bon Ton Market & Van De Kamps Bakery, handing the keys over to Sarnos Family in the 1950’s for Carmelli’s Italian Bakery, Market and Coffee Shop; then in the 1970’s El Carmelo + Carmelo’s Cuban Restaurant & Bakery had run of the place. It took a break some time in the 1990’s before being bought and done up by Rob Rowe and Rhonda Reynolds, who officially opened Masa’s doors in 2004.
A Chicago native with extensive experience in Chicago pizzeria’s, Rob not only knows his pizza, but imports signature Chicago staples such as: Scala’s authentic hot Giardiniera and “well-seasoned pans lovingly forged in the Windy City”. Otherwise, all produce is fresh and local. With friendly marigold walls and country kitchen chic style, Masa is welcoming in both atmosphere and attitude.
Knowing our pizzas would take forty minutes, my friend Natalie and I kicked off our meal by demolishing the garlic bread: an entire loaf of bread made in-house, toasted & drizzled with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic & Parmesan cheese, served with warm, house made marinara sauce. Neither one of us could name its rival. If I weren’t intent on finally devouring the elusive Chicago Style Pizza, I would have very much been content with this basic appetizer and the salad below.
Rhonda, one of the owners, kindly sent over the unrivaled Manchego salad: organic baby lettuces, dates, granny smith apples, candied walnuts, Manchego cheese and pear dressing, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and olive oil. It almost made Natalie and I feel like we had enough “green points” to justify digging into our own deep dish pizza’s.
Natalie, a staunch pescaterian (she eats seafood), went for this trifecta of cheesy goodness and declared it an instant hit. I cannot comment personally, because she would have stabbed the back of my hand with her fork were I to have gone after a bite.
Small pizza’s start at $13.45 with an array of toppings costing $2.50 or $3.50, depending on which list you pick from. All of mine came from the $2.50 list, which means my small pizza cost the same amount as a large from the prefab list. I’m not saying it isn’t worth every penny, but I do caution you to make sure you have someone to help you eat all of this! I only ate two slices before I had to call it quits in order to leave room for dessert (and trust me; Natalie and I were in desperate need of wheelbarrows to haul our butts outta there, we were so full!). I gave the leftovers to my family. The consensus was unanimous: extraordinarily quality pizza. Fresh as the morning sun, I could taste the ‘homemade’ with every bite.
Natalie and I were careful to only have two pieces each of our respective pizzas, for we promised ourselves the famed warm croissant bread pudding: chocolate, almond & butter croissants, pan baked in vanilla custard and drizzled with warm caramel sauce. How can I describe such bliss, other than to compare it to the Highlander: There can only be one.
Having only heard tales of the elusive Chicago style pizza my whole life, I was eager to finally check the deep dish pizza off of my ‘foodie bucket list.’ A cozy spot good for family, date night, small and large friends night out, Masa of Echo Park is not only worth a try, but worthy of visiting time and time again.
Masa of Echo Park
1800 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026