We’ve been to Phoenix a couple of times and don’t particularly care to return, so we were skeptical when we heard people raving about the pizza at the original La Grande Orange, and how great it would be when Pasadena finally got said pizza. Really? The nouveau-riche land of strip malls has authentic, wood-fired, thin-crust Naples-style pizza? Turns out we had no reason to be cynical, because after more than a year of delays in building the proper pizza oven, the Luggage Room at La Grande Orange in Del Mar Station is now making the best pizza in Pasadena. (Okay, that’s not saying much, but still, we’re grateful.)
It’s a little strange getting to the Luggage Room, which occupies what once really was the luggage room of the historic Santa Fe train station. You have to enter La Grande Orange, walk through the restaurant and across the busy patio to get to the casual, dimly lit bar and pizzeria. (Seems like a separate entrance would be a good idea.) But that’s a minor quibble. The space is high ceilinged, hard surfaced and noisy, with a bar counter and simple wooden tables. You can’t make reservations, and it can get crowded, so come early or be prepared to wait, while sipping a Craftsman lager or tasty LGO margarita—or know that you can also get the pizzas to take home (and the valet parkers will watch your car while you run in to pick it up).
The menu is pure and simple: just two starters (iced Alaskan king crab legs and bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese), three salads and the pizzas, which you can either order off the menu or design yourself. We’ve tried most everything and find ourselves drawn back to the simple pleasures: the lemony, arugula-based Green Day salad; the margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella and roasted tomatoes; and a custom pizza, perhaps with prosciutto di san daniele and roasted peppers. What makes these pizzas shine is the crust—thin but with a satisfying chewiness, with a subtle sourdough flavor and a puffy, crackling rim. And they’re built with skill and a light hand, neither too dense with cheese nor swimming in sauce. Not all the combinations are winners—the Mushroom Party, for instance, is a bland mix—but the ingredients are all quality, so if you design your own to your taste, you won’t be sorry.
260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626.356.4440, lgostationcafe.com. L Sat.-Sun., D nightly. Full bar. AE, MC, V. $$