Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 1

In March 2008, cousin Q suggested we try Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta in South Pasadena for lunch. I'm rather indifferent to most pizza, except for the occasional nostalgic pangs for Giordano's Chicago-style stuffed spinach deep dish and Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana - Monterey Park if I want something more gourmet. Not to say that I don't like pizza, just that I'm pretty easy to please.

The mamma in the name is not the original mamma of the restaurant. Cousin Q told me there was a bit of controversy with the restaurant. A quick Google search after I got home turned up several Chowhound posts about a dissolved partnership, rumors of embezzlement and sabotage, and dueling pizza parlors. But since I'm not in the habit of writing about rumors, I will point to this Pasadena Weekly article that indicates it wasn't all speculation.

The current owners, a husband and wife team, bought the business from the original partners, one of whom named the restaurant after his Italian mamma. The pizza recipes were supposed to be handed over with the sale, but the new owners were given faulty recipes instead. It took weeks for the other partner to sneak out the original recipes, but by then, the new owners had hired a pizza consultant and the restaurant's new recipes were supposedly better than the originals. Pretty crazy, right? It gets crazier, the not-so-stellar partner's daughter, granddaughter of the mamma in the name, then opened a pizza restaurant on the same street, the next block over and named it Nonna Pizzeria - South Pasadena, after her grandmamma.

Now, it's really crazy! And competitive!

Or is it?
At Mamma's Brick Oven, ten different pizzas are sold by the slice all day long.

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 2

We ordered six piece garlic knots, $1.75, baked with fresh garlic, Parmesan, parsley, and olive oil. Except for the overly baked knot, these were garlicky breaded bits of goodness.

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 3

A slice of The White Pizza, fresh garlic, basil, sun dried tomatoes, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella, $2.95.

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 4

Pepperoni, $2.75.

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But during lunch, buy two slices of pizza and get a free drink.

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 6

We also got a pepperoni roll, $4.50.

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Months later, those garlic knots were calling my name. I went back to take advantage of the lunch special to-go and got slices of pepperoni and The Brick Oven, pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, mushrooms, olives, onions, and fresh mozzarella, and a drink, but couldn't pass up on adding the garlic knots too.

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The pizzas were good, but I just couldn't believe the craziness over just pizza. Upon further Google searching, I also stumbled upon blog posts about the original Mamma's Brick Oven with comments from someone claiming to be the original owner asking bloggers to remove the photos of his mamma that were part of the restaurant's logo since the ownership had changed. They're blog posts. Written when that mamma was the face of the restaurant where they ate. It just made him look even worse.

Aside from the drama, how did the new Mamma's Brick Oven and Nonna Pizzeria, which supposedly featured the original recipes from the former Mamma's Brick Oven compare? Honestly, the pizzas, garlic knots, and sauce weren't that much different, but it was the behavior I witnessed of the granddaughter, the owner of Nonna Pizzeria, that tilted me decidedly in favor of the new Mamma's Brick Oven.

As for the pizza wars, Mamma's Brick Oven now offers gluten-free pizzas and pastas and have opened a second location in Pasadena east.

There's also a Papa John's on the same street, but evidently no one considers that competition. :P

Other South Pasadena posts:
Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar - South Pasadena
Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain - South Pasadena
Farmers' Market - South Pasadena
Gus's BBQ - South Pasadena 
Mike and Anne's Restaurant | Bar - South Pasadena

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta
710 S. Fair Oaks Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

1 year ago today, Triumphal Palace Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum) - Alhambra (Closed).
2 years ago today, money tree plant.
3 years ago today, a repurposed vinegar bottle as a vase for some roses.


  1. Ah jealousy! The best revenge for "the brick oven pizza and pasta" is to do better than the former joint. I love a good pizza. One of the best I ever had was in Moorea. They didn't use mozzarella but another tasty cheese. It was delicious! In Hawaii, we used to buy spelt frozen pizza crust from "Graindance" at the health food store. Excellent crust! I wish I could find it in LA. I asked Whole Foods twice to get it, but they never did. I have to inquire about it again.

  2. Nadege,
    Exactly! I really respect that the new owners just kept plugging away and are doing well. I used to eat spelt flakes cereal for breakfast, but otherwise am not too familiar with it. I wonder what that crust tastes like?


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