Well-Preserved: Playa del Rey, Ennio Morricone and the L.A. Burrito
There are pressing matters of the sociopolitical sort, and pressing matters of the tortilla sort. We’ll take the latter first this week, namely Jonathan Gold’s column (“What Is a Burrito?,” October 22), in which the oft-asked Mr. Gold lists his top five L.A. sources for the ubiquitous soft, fat wrap, in the process dissing every other major burrito center. (Poor San Diego is home to mere “oozing tubes of cheese,” Arizona to “deep-fried mail bombs” and Colorado to “suppurating man-purses,” while that noble if insecure large city 300-some miles to our north can only offer a “moist, overstuffed monstrosity.”) It’s not easy to offend San Diegans (what, “Sea World sucks!”?), but clearly this burrito thing went too far.
“Of the hundreds of taco shops I’ve visited down here in the 619, I’ve yet to encounter a single one that would put any cheese in a burrito unless you were to ask for it!” admonishes the colorfully named Eyeball Jackson.
“Come on, Mr. Gold,” wrote Nico from S.D., “I would happily acquiesce to an Angeleno’s assertion of their city’s supremacy in the realm of the taco ... but take a poll of any Californian who has lived a moderate amount of time in both cities and ask them where to find the better burrito. I bet San Diego wins with at least a 70 percent margin.”
Whoa, Nico, them’s fightin’ words. By the way, Sea World sucks!
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San Franciscans were surprisingly quiet, though a couple of them put in votes for the Mission, notably Taqueria Cancun.
Our old friend and colleague Daniel Hernandez signed on from Mexico City, about which he’s writing a book: “There’s a good bean-’n’-cheese every now and then in San Diego, but you’re right, burritos there are a disaster. I’d have to concur with the other readers, though; the Mission District has the best California Mexican food anywhere, burritos included.”
Dude went to Berkeley; just saying. ...
Our international readers piped up over our coverage of the great Italian film composer Ennio Morricone (“The Italian Icon,” October 22), who canceled his Hollywood Bowl concert as we were going to press.
No matter, writes Hue from London, lamenting that such great directors as Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott had not worked with the “Grande Maestro.” “But thanks to L.A. Weekly’s imaginative tie-in, we all have anecdotes from one director, Barry Levinson, which should go some way toward explaining why the word that normally precedes composer Ennio Morricone is legendary.”
PRAYING FOR PLAYA
Tibby Rothman’s story about possible development in Playa del Rey generated a lot of heat from the locals.
“Those of us who are fortunate to live in Playa del Rey,” writes Cheryl, “are in a huge battle to protect this unique community, one of many battles in the grand war being fought across Los Angeles as the city allows developers to realize their high-density dreams, despite vociferous community protest. The fear for many in Playa del Rey is not change, but rather not having a say in what our community becomes. And we are not fighting just for ourselves. On any given weekend, Playa del Rey welcomes thousands of visitors to one of the few beach parks in Southern California not overrun by visionless development.”
That point is echoed by Beth Kudlicki: “One important aspect not mentioned in the article is that this is one of the few neighborhoods left with free parking for all the inner-city folks who come and use the park and enjoy the beach and lagoon on a daily basis. I have lived in the Los Angeles area for over 30 years and the last nine in Playa del Rey have been the most neighborly!”
“I’ve lived in Playa del Rey since 1960,” adds Ruth Lansford. “And I’ve seen many plans like this come and go. Mostly go. And for good reason. The village in Playa del Rey simply can’t support such intense development. This part of Playa del Rey is an island — blocked on the north by Ballona Creek and the Marina, the east by the wetlands, the south by the airport, and the west by Santa Monica Bay. There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to expand, and no way to increase parking or roadways.
“The City of L.A. never met a variance it didn’t like. I don’t remember a single developer who came in with a plan that fit the code. If it hadn’t been for the Coastal Commission, we would have been obliterated long ago. Why not hardship variances for neighborhoods like ours? The special conditions here are unique and they deserve respect.
“After all, you can’t fit 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag.”
And on that note, we’ll go ...
... BACK TO THE BURRITO
Here in L.A., burritos go best with nostalgia.
“So great to hear that Al and Bea’s is still turning out burritos worthy of fame beyond Boyle Heights,” says Carol from Long Beach. “My father owned St. Louis Drug Store caddy-corner to Al and Bea’s from the early 1960s until the early 1980s, and I have fond memories of walking across the street for a burrito. The way you describe it, as a “lard-scented creation,” brings the taste memory to the very tip of my tongue. While his store is now a very sad, run-down remnant of yesteryear (peek inside and you can see the original soda fountain that once catered to the cops and businessmen who crowded in for ‘Fay’s’ homemade cooking and kibbitzing), it is nice to know that 40 years later, Al and Bea’s is still standing and delivering comfort food.”
“Viva los burritos Angelenos! Ah, the memories I have of burritos over four decades in El Lay,” writes Louise Woo from South Pasadena. “While others bragged of their achievements in sports or academics, I wrote my college-admissions essay on my search for the perfect burrito. Harvard didn’t get it. Stanford was amused and waitlisted me. While I have known and loved many a burrito in my days, my heart always returns to one: the machaca burrito at La Abeja in Highland Park. Check it out, ese! Tell Roy that Louise sent ya.”
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