In the vast expanse of the greater San Fernando Valley, it’s easy to lose sight of one-off restaurants tucked into tiny strip malls. Burger places, Thai stops, and Greek restaurants all pass by out the window endlessly, with only social media, Yelp, and personal recommendations to act as a pinpoint. Thankfully that kind of overwhelming wealth can also lead to some pretty fantastic food finds from time to time. Here now, three great strip mall restaurants doing fantastic pizza.
Last year’s Unit 120 pizza pop-up brought Detroit-style pies to the forefront of LA’s pizza conversation. Unfortunately with Alvin Cailan now in New York City and Isa Fabro working on other projects the project has gone dormant, but there’s no need for Valleyites to worry: Padrino’s Pizza is here. Pushed into the endcap of a stunted strip mall off Burbank Boulevard, this Sherman Oaks eatery is mostly known as a takeout space but does offer some limited indoor seating. That’s good news for fans who like their Detroit-style medium-deep pizzas hot and fresh, with the blackened cheesy edges still sizzling. At well under $20 for a pizza that feeds two, Padrino’s is good news for everyone. 13328 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
Reseda’s Flame Pizzeria is a certified strip mall pizza sensation, thanks entirely to Richard Florczak. The former celebrity chef has cooked for Tom Cruise (and just about everyone else in town), but now spends his time working the dough at an unassuming space off Vanowen Street. It’s easy to see just how seriously Florczak takes his pizza-making: he still turns each one himself, standing in front of a large wood oven anchored to the middle of the dining room. The pies are light and well-burnished, a proto-Neapolitan style that shares some similarities with Pizzeria Mozza and Desano but ultimately feels like a niche all its own. It’s uniquely Flame Pizzeria, and that’s a very good thing. 19309 Vanowen St., Reseda.
True Northridge takeout pizza fans know Pizzasaurus Rex. Not only does the place have a fantastic name — and associated logo wherein a dinosaur in a sweater is hand-delivering a pizza — it also turns out some of the better pies in the area. In fact, Pizzasaurus Rex has been doing just that since 1987, offering mostly takeout and delivery service to the heart of the Valley. They keep it simple too, with a menu of build-it-yourself pies along with sides like mozzarella sticks, wings, and dessert items like fudge cake. Let the nostalgia swirl by adding a $1 Kool-Aid jammer to the next delivery order. 17646 Lassen St., Northridge.