Saturday, June 30, 2007

Folliero's Pizza - Favorite East Side Italian

Two of my favorite Italian restaurants on the East Side are Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock and Il Fornaio in Old Town Pasadena. ( Mi Piace in OTP is also good.) But Casa B's is really a fave because of their yummy pizza (the rest of the menu is not worth a 45 minute wait). Even eating the pizza has become more of a take out tradition anyway. So my need for a yummy, convenient, kid friendly restaurant brought us to...

Folliero's Pizza and Italian Food is a neighborhood Italian restaurant that has been in Highland Park since 1968. (In a building that dates back to the 1920s.) I sense a lot of history when I walk in there. Years and years of weekly family dinners. It's the kind of place where familes would celebrate baseball victories, end of a school year, or just any old Sunday. (This sounds like some ad for TGI Friday's but at Folliero's the family-riented dining is not simply an advertising pitch.)

The Folliero's menu has some neat options for a relatively simple place. I'd like to try the Eggplant Parmasean one day, but there is also spaghetti, lasagna, raviloi and chicken cacciatore. The food is tasty. Not gourmet but never bad. A brilliant simplicity. The real star of Folliero's is the prices. Dinner dishes in the $6 range this good are hard to come by.

My favorite dish at Folliero's is the pizza, specifically the Ala Ramano Pizza which comes with only cheese, ham and rosemary on some of the best pizza dough in LA. The dough had a nice sprinkle of flour dust on it with a perfect mix of crustiness and chewiness that reminds me of a great Brooklyn bagel. Supposedly, the owner Tony hails from Naples and in his 70s still comes into the restaurant each morning to make the dough himself. A large pizza is roughly $10 (less than half the price of a Casa Bianca pie and easily the best pizza for the money in LA!) The pies are traditional Napoli style but with some So Cal choices (ham and pineapple or chorizo). I've read that you can order a pizza "overdone" to get it crispier. I'm going to try that not for crispier crust but for a bit crispier cheese.

We've also tried the spaghetti with meat sauce (pretty light on the meat to be honest) and it's best with a side order or two of meatballs. The lasagna is good too. One of the things I would change if I owned Foriellos would be to bolster the base tomato sauce a bit. It's fine for kids but could use some oregano, spices and some slow-simmering love.

Speaking of kids ... I've rarely had to wait too long for a table (but Folliero's is always busy). But on the occassion where the wait is more than a few minutes, there is a window into the kitchen that faces Figueroa. A lot of time can pass while watching the pizza chef throwing dough in the air.

One of the most amazing features of Foriellos is that the difference between an ala carte order and a "dinner" is a mere $0.25. The extra quarter gets you a side salad heavy on the iceberg but still a nice diversion from the meat and bread that dominates a typical American Italian meal.

Basically, every meal at Folliero's is a great deal. A side order of meatballs (2 for $1.50) allows for a great additional pizza topping. The meatballs are homemade and are very good. (Though I prefer Casa B's, Folliero's are pretty great and pass the baby taste test.) A side of Italian sauage is also affordable and more than adequate. A full carafe of wine sets you back $9. There is also a $2 corkage fee, should you want to drink a really good bottle. But a couple glasses of basic chianti go a long way here. Foriellos is the kind of place two families can dine for $40 (including wine and tip!) In these times, I think Folliero's deserves a medal of honor!

I've read (but never tried myself) doing a double bill of a discount movie night at the Highland Theater (just next door) and an affordable Italian meal at Folliero's. But that sounds like an epic Los Angeles night out.

Folliero's is located at: 5566 No. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles 90042

Google Map for Folliero's

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