A city comes to life at night. The sun goes down but the evening gets brighter with the slow crescendo of illuminating lights waking up from its daily slumber. People strip off their daily burdens and find energy in good friends and better outings, and nothing brings a night to life like a great meal. Though Chicago and Los Angeles couldn't be further away, the two cities are brought together by one bite in a small restaurant serving big love. This is Masa of Echo Park.
The store front of this Italian eatery is usually covered by small trees placed around the corners. A few two seater tables lay out front but compared to the buzz inside, it doesn't match the spectacle outside: a growing crowd. Masa is probably the worst kept secret when it comes to one of the best pizzas in town. Huge crowds of people will be the normal decorations for Masa, with wait times lasting as long as two to three hours for a seat. It might sound ridiculous but when a crowd of people are willing to wait so long for dinner, it speaks volume for the quality of food.
Once entering past the long wait and receiving the euphoria of being seated, the servers try their best to take care of you while juggling the sea of people around. They are similar to the demographic expected of Echo Park; well dressed hipster hybrids with a charismatic smile. Friendliness is key and they are inviting without the need for the generic personalities found at your local Olive Garden or BJ's. There's a naturalness to their personalities and it's just the first in refreshing differences that make Masa special.
The food is what everyone is anticipating. In fact, the first time you see the crowds a bug enters your mind and the buzz of curiosity stays with you all the way till the food lands on your tongue. Unfortunately, there is a 45 minute wait to get your pizza once you order it. That's right, you heard right, 45 minutes. This is why the lines are so long to get a table. People usually are seated for at least an hour and a half for their food. The smartest thing to do is once you have your name down on the waitlist you tell them your dinner order so they can prepare it ahead of time. Do not worry, the food still comes out warm and fresh and that's important because the freshness of ingredients can be tasted.
Masa is known for their Chicago-style deep dish pizzas. If you've never had a deep dish pizza, it's hard to fathom the type of comfort food you're about to fall into. Deep dish pizzas have been described as pizza and lasagna making sweet love. Some have described it as a pizza in actual pie form like chicken pot pie. What you really need to know is deep dish pizzas are comforting and tell a story unique to each happy eater. Using a cornmeal base for its dough, the dough is lush and rich, almost like a delicious, frothy beer. It's one crust you definitely don't want to throw out at the end. The slight tart and citric flavor of fresh tomatoes infuse their essence with each bite, and the cheese is smooth with a slightly chewy texture, making it both fun and delightful to play with as it rolls around the tongue. Garlic is a key ingredient in each bite so hopefully you have an affinity for the herb. Place them all together with your own toppings on top and you have 2" of food-coma inducing happiness. But, it doesn't stop there.
It would be a shame to finish a meal at Masa without getting their signature dessert, the warm croissant bread pudding. Whatever you thought of bread pudding before, throw it away. Masa's bread pudding will redefine your expectations. To make this dessert extra lush and even a bit sophisticated, they take buttery croissants infused with chocolate and almonds, pan bake them together, and dress it all up with vanilla custard and drizzles of caramel sauce. It even comes out in the shape of a thick pizza pie slice, and just like the deep dish pizza, it is incredibly decadent. Every bite is heavenly and after tasting heaven you'll find yourself reaching for another forkful to get back to those puffy clouds and singing harps. It is one of the best ways to end a meal and should not be missed.
The great thing about food is when done right, it tells a story; a history relived through flavors. Masa of Echo Park doesn't only make dining delicious, they also make it interesting. You'll find yourself gabbing to your fellow diners about what different aspects you can taste or what different pizza combinations sound amazing. The food inspires conversation making it perfect for socializing and making your own stories. Though the wait time might discourage some, like all great things, virtue rewards the patient. Practice patience and you will be rewarded with incredible things at Masa of Echo Park.