Cosa Buona Is Echo Park's New — Yet Old — Pizza Joint
Dylan + Jeni
Pizza Buona, an Echo Park landmark practically since its opening in 1959, closed its doors a few years ago, shortly after a car crashed into its storefront on the southwest corner of Sunset and Alvarado. The business moved a few blocks south, and now operates quietly out of a strip mall while the Pizza Buona signs remain in place up the street.
Those signs are the source of some contention now. Rising L.A. chef star Zach Pollack, who runs Silver Lake's highly regarded Alimento, has purchased the restaurant, remodeled it and created a menu that's still Italian-American comfort food, but totally different from Pizza Buona's more straightforward offerings. The similar names and the location of the Pizza Buona signs over the Cosa Buona restaurant are the cause of some distress in the community, with people arguing over the line between homage and ripoff. Google's confusion about the two restaurants isn't helping.
But to walk through Cosa Buona's doors is to know you're somewhere different from an old-timey, mostly takeout joint that was known for its willingness to deliver single beers with sub sandwiches. The old interior was very charming, but this newly remodeled version is beautiful, all sun-dappled green marble. (Though the tables are uncomfortably close together and one wonders how long until the lovely walls of glass are tagged and/or smashed. Nothing's perfect.)
The food is quite good. Everyone's got an opinion about pizza crust, but I think it's nice to enjoy all well-made varieties. The crust at Cosa Buona is spongy and tangy, with not a lot of char except around the edges. This will be extremely offensive to some people, but I think it's great.
The menu is split between pizzas and a number of smaller plates. The meatballs are flavorful, as they should be — which raises the question: Why are so many restaurants these days serving meatballs with a dollop of burrata? I mean, it's to raise the price, but burrata is a most delicate cheese, and the flavor is always lost when paired with seasoned meat. (It'd be a problem if the flavor wasn't lost.) But that's the biggest complaint about the food.
The crustless cheesecake (I'm told all desserts are made in-house) was perhaps the best I've ever had. A harder sell is the eggs tonnato: "soft-boiled eggs with tuna sauce" isn't a phrase that will inspire an appetite in many, but you really should give this small appetizer a try, even if you think you don't like anchovies, which are also in the sauce. (My dining companion blamed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the popular anti-anchovy stance in this country.) It's a lick-the-plate kind of dish, and if anyone side-eyes you doing so, tell them L.A. Weekly said to.
Pizza Buona is still a solid choice for take-home pizza. Cosa Buona is a wonderful place to spend an evening, where the food is much better than it has to be (here's hoping they keep up that can-do attitude). May the two live in harmony, and may tonnato take L.A. by storm.
2100 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 908-5211, cosabuona.com.
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