On an Echo Park Corner, Jonathan Gold Finds the Neighborhood Pizzeria Reinvented

The Los Angeles food critic revisits a long-term pizza shop
Those mozzarella sticks
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Chef Zach Pollack's smokey mozzarella sticks are probably better than any mozzarella sticks you've ever had.

In one form or another, Pizza Buona has been holding down the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street since the early 1960s, a holdover from when the neighborhood still had a substantial Italian presence. There used to be a deli next door where you could buy provolone or pick up sandwiches to bring to a Dodgers game. If you walked through the intersection late at night, your nose tracked your progress through the garlicky aroma from the pizzeria, washes of grilled meat from the old carwash taqueria, and the smell of simmering green chiles from the original Burrito King.

Now the corner is occupied by Cosa Buona, a new restaurant from Zach Pollack, whom you may know from his excellent Alimento up in Silver Lake or his years at Pizzeria Ortica and Sotto. Cosa Buona is the kind of place the anti-gentrification guys like to gripe about — natural wine, fritto misto, and farmers market broccolini; a place where the couple ahead of you in line probably booked their spot on OpenTable; a dining room with low lights and high-backed booths that look as if they’ve been fitted into the tight space by the people who design furniture for yachts.

But Pollack isn’t re-creating obscure dishes from Caserta; he’s perfecting the mozzarella stick, which he makes with smoked cheese, a shaggy, ultracrisp breading and a little pot of marinara sauce. (You have never had mozzarella sticks this crunchy or this good.) Find out what other must-have dishes are at this restaurant.

Related Links
Jonathan Gold's 101 Best RestaurantsJonathan Gold Says the Time for Filipino Cuisine is Now, and The Place is Los Angeles