Dear Mr. Gold:

This weekend, we're having some fellow parents over for a playdate with our 2-year-olds, and then dinner. With all that 2-year-old energy going on, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to buy a lasagna, so I don't have to slave away in the kitchen. The dilemma: One of said friends is Italian, and I want to offend neither his palate nor his national pride. This time, I'm not going to buy a frozen one from Costco or Trader Joe's. Do you have a recommendation for where to buy a whole tray of well-made, delicious lasagna?

—Catherine, Altadena

Dear Catherine:

If you have money to spend, and you happen to be on the east side of town, the lasagna at Porta Via on California in Pasadena is very, very good, if kind of expensive. I think you'll also find that the lasagna in the freezer case at Roma Deli is perfectly delicious. Claro's in San Gabriel, Mario's in Glendale, Pinocchio's in Burbank and the ubiquitous Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica are other good choices. But as far as takeout lasagna in Los Angeles these days, nothing really beats the lasagna “cupcakes” from Heirloom L.A. These capsules of fresh, saucy pasta, compact enough to eat with your hands (though you don't have to), are stuffed with things like roasted root vegetables, osso buco with saffron, lamb ragu with fresh mozzarella, or a wild-boar bolognese — and they pack more flavor than lasagna 20 times the size. It's kind of the takeout dish of the year. Heirloom L.A. is primarily a caterer — they can hand-deliver the lasagna cupcakes if you get a lot of them, or even ship them frozen through UPS, but it's probably easier to pick them up at the Intelligentsia coffeehouse in Pasadena, where they will cheerfully sell you some to go.

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