Ultimately, baklava basically boils down to phyllo dough, nuts, and syrup, but a deeper appreciation requires a keen understanding of geometry. Cashews fill the center of cylinders. Pistachios form layers in squares and rectangles. Even the forlorn rhombus gets in on the action, hooking up with walnuts on a regular basis. No L.A. baklava practitioner is more ambitious than Caesar’s Pastry, a family-run bakery that opened in a Granada Hills strip mall to end 2016.
Between Massage Envy and Balboa Dental Group in Knollwood Plaza, a Roman soldier will guide your way inside Caesar’s Bakery, named for legendary leader Julius Caesar. There’s no trace of the Roman Empire inside an old State Farm insurance office. Instead, pastries, cookies, and cakes fill display case and speckled countertops have been conquered by baklava. Specimens in dozens of shapes and sizes line circular steel trays that rest on barrel-like bases patterned after what the owners remember from Lebanon.
You’ll find flaky phyllo parallelograms and triangles containing crushed walnuts or pistachios and ladyfingers crammed with cashews.
The “Queen” looks like a sticky inner tube overflowing with crushed pistachios. From the side, Kol w shkor resembles a gaping frog’s mouth crammed with either cashews or pistachios.
Bourma balouria are squares of kadayif (pastry threads) that come in two tones, depending on cooking time, with two patties sandwiching pistachios, drizzled with aromatic rosewater. You’d do well to stick with any of these options, which each take just a couple bites to consume, but you might as well go big.
On top of the counter, at eye level, you’ll come face to face with Caesar’s queen and Caesar’s osmalia, which each rise and span about four inches. The former features a kadayif bird’s nest nestled with glazed almonds or walnuts, fragrant rosewater, and glistening sugar syrup.
Caesar’s Osmalia resembles an overturned kadayif-coated drum filled with ashta, a Middle Eastern custard made with heavy whipping cream, boosted with rosewater and sugar syrup.
Naim Khachacho has 36 years of on-job baklava experience, starting in his homeland of Lebanon. He hails from Saghbine, a city located inland, southeast of Beirut. He began baking professionally at Sea Sweets in Lebanon. For the past 20 years, he managed Vrej Pastry due south on Balboa Boulevard. In 2016, he joined wife Jacqueline, son Jean-Paul, and daughter Joelle in opening Caesar’s Pastry. They originally planned to call the bakery Cedar’s, in honor of a symbol of longevity depicted on Lebanon’s flag, but opted for a word that sounded similar, to make it clear they welcomed other cultures.
Baklava is the main attraction, but Caesar’s Pastry has plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Mamoul may look like madeleines from afar, but they’re coarse semolina cookies filled with pistachios, walnuts or dates, all treated to a rosewater shower and often dusted with powdered sugar.
Namoura is a moist semolina sheet cake embedded with pistachios and seasoned with orange blossom water and light sugar syrup. Atayef may look like sticky empanadas, but they’re actually fried pancake dough packets filled with ashta or crushed walnuts, both versions slick with syrup.
Naim Khachacho takes prides in his fruit pound cake, an exceptionally airy loaf “handmade 100% from A to Z” that’s studded with dried fruits, nuts, and raisins.
The country that is now Lebanon was part of Phoenicia, which fell under Roman rule right before Julius Caesar took power. While there’s no evidence that he was a baklava aficionado, the Khachacho family honors his legacy in delicious fashion.
Caesar’s Pastry, 11852 Balboa Blvd., Granada Hills, 818-368-4300