Here's something that's always popular in SoCal food: putting unexpected meats on carbs. We'll do it with tacos, we'll do it with steamed bao, and we'll certainly do it with pizza.

Pizza Bandit, which opened last week, is one of the latest in a proud tradition of audacious local restaurant openings. The East L.A. pizza joint has regular pizza, to be sure, but it's the pastrami pizza that it's most proud of. Don't forget the mustard and the pickles.

The combo doesn't come completely out of left field. L.A.'s Eastside (original definition, as in, east of both downtown and the L.A. River) was the area in which many of the city's first Jewish residents settled, around the mid-1800s. The people brought with them their culinary traditions, including pastrami. The smoked beef clearly hit a nerve, as everyone else in L.A. quickly added it to their dining repertoire. And even as the center of L.A. Jewish life moved westward, pastrami stayed popular on the Eastside — that's why all the independent fast food spots in the area have signs announcing their TACOS BURGERS PASTRAMI. (Never forget, native Angelenos, that the trio is baffling to new arrivals.)

So, while pastrami pizza might seem bold at first glance, it is in fact a local specialty: The area loves pastrami on everything. More specifically, Downey Pizza Company has made its name on the dish. Looks as if Pizza Bandit isn't afraid of a little culinary tussle.

The restaurant also serves carne asada pizza.

6201 Whittier Blvd., East L.A. (323) 314-9352.

LA Weekly