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Jan 9, 2007 07:00 PM

Petrillo's Pizza, Van's Bakery, and Beard Papa's

How do I adore thee, my fellow chowhounders? Oodles and oodles and oodles!

Thanks to this board, last night we got take-out pizzas from Petrillo's on Valley Blvd. Definitely the best we've had since ... actually, just damn good, solid pizza. (Haven't braved the lines at Casa Bianca yet - that's our next pizza adventure. And while we love Zelo's, sometimes one just wants a "normal" pizza.)

We got two mediums - one of their "special" pizzas and one of their whites, too. And, thanks to this board, I remembered to ask for the pie cut (actually, I first asked for a "pizza cut" and got a blank look from the girl taking the order). Hefty pies, way overloaded on the toppings (especially on the special), and a decent, middle-of-the-road crust. The two pizzas were a bit costly ($20 each) - I was initially worried, as the S/O can happily put away 1/2 of a large pizza in one sitting. My concern was for naught, though - he stopped at three slices last night! So lots of leftovers - a decent value, I think.

As for flavor - I've a nasty head cold, so I couldn't taste much on the white pizza - should've ordered some garlic on that one. But what flavor did come through was solid and tasty. Flavor was considerably more pronounced on the Special - excellent sausage and other meats, lots of fresh onions and bell peppers - my one complaint was the canned mushrooms. But that's a personal preference.

Anyway, while waiting for our pies to bake, we ventured 'cross Valley Blvd. to check-out Van's Bakery - the colors! the tantalizing scents! the brisque sales people! the pushy fellow-shoppers! - seriously, though: it's well-lit, clean, and has some incredible food in the bakery cases (and the various sample wedding cakes 'round the front are stunning), on top of lots of imported, bagged or tinned cookies. We made back out the door with a pair of iced coffees and some fruit tarts.

After the mad dash back across Valley (def. not a road for the pedestrian), retrieval of our pies, and return to our car (parked several blocks away, on a side street), we drove a bit further west to Prospect Plaza, since I've been having a serious craving for cream puffs, after reading about Beard Papa's here on CH. A dash in and out (three vanilla, three chocolate - all freshly prepared with lots of smiles and bows) and we were on our way home for a rather international, incredibly delicious meal.

And cold pizza and cream puffs for breakfast, too!

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  1. Hi. Nice reviews, thanks... Casa Bianca tends to use canned mushrooms, too. There were a slew of posts from last year that debated the chemistry/science angle of fresh vs. canned mushrooms, as regards which type yields more moisture in the baking process. Beyond that, its personal preference. Give 'em a try...

    1. YUM!! I drove past there last night and was SO tempted to pop in to take a Pie for SO (He's never been!) Hopefully we'll be by soon! And Thanks for the reminder about the canned Mushrooms... BLEH!!


      1. I prefer canned mushrooms on my pie.

        (Flame-suit on ...)

        6 Replies
          1. re: WildSwede

            Yeah, canned mushrooms withstand the heat better in the oven.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Absolutely, therefore making them not as dry.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            Absolutely required. Fresh ones just get frazzled if the oven's as hot as it should be (as noted above).

            1. re: Will Owen

              I'm feeling abashed that I'd not thought of the "fresh mushrooms just dry out" reasoning behind the canned mushrooms - now it makes sense why they'd use 'em.

              Still can't stand 'em, though.

              1. re: Will Owen

                A gentle saute' before placing them on the pie prevents this... add a little garlic and oregeno during the saute' and the mushrooms become the star.

            2. What I adore about Petrillo's speciality pizza (hold the green peppers) is that the meats are not greasy. I hate eating pizza with super greasy pepperoni... their's is super fresh and not greasy -- I figure high quality meats is how they accomplish that. It's the pefect pie to me... and I've been the Casa Bianca route numerous times -- there's always is really greasy.

              1. If you liked Beard Papa's, you will bow in unworthiness to the Cream Puffs from Patisserie Chantilly in Lomita - 2383 Lomita Blvd - corner of Lomita and Pennsylvania. ALL of their desserts are amazing - their coffees and teas are amazing - but their Cream Puffs - Oh Heaven Above... The puff pastry is eggy and substantial, but not overbearing... and there are two types of fillings... no, not green tea or chocolate or strawberry - no gimmicks here. Your choices are either a light sweet choux that sings in your mouth, or a very unique but excellent black sesame seed filling that has no equal in this hemisphere. Moreover, the cream puff with the black sesame choux filling comes topped with candied soy glaze drizzled on top with a dusting of Kinako (roasted soy bean powder).

                Chantilly will create your Cream Puffs upon ordering them. They do this out of total esteem to quality so the Cream Puffs do not get soggy - and I would strongly suggest eating them there and only ordering enough to go where you will eat them within an hour or two after taking them home.

                After trying Chantilly's Cream Puffs - I capitalize out of the utmost respect - Beard Papa's is more like assembly line products from the Golden Arches that have no soul. A trip out to Lomita for this Cream Puff is worth your time.

                12 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Thanks for the heads up. I noticed you mentioned this place on another thread so did some investigating and found some posts and pictures online. Looks like a serious place. Currently I have to drive near there for some physical therapy several times a week and now I have reason to look forward to it! Hope the added weight gain doesn't set me back.

                  1. re: Feed_me

                    My pleasure... This place is amazing - so much attention to detail. I've tried many items in the case while waiting for the Cream Puffs and I am so impressed with it all - could this be their plot?!? Have their customers order and east some other pastries while waiting for the Cream Puff order? Well, they've pulled me in!!!! I hear the Japanese restaurant next door - Gaja - is supposed to be great as well... they do the izakaya - lots of traditional japanese small dishes and what-not that you typically only find in Japan or pubs here that service mostly Japanese businessmen-types - kind of like Japanese style tapas that go good with beer/sake. But their specialty is supposed to be okonomiyaki. Haven't had a chance to try this place but I've had my share of okonomiyaki so I am eager to go there. Anyway, maybe you can starve yourself for a few days, go to your physical therapy, and then have a grand meal at Gaja, then top it all off with a 5-piece box of Cream Puffs from Chantilly...YES!!!

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Thanks "bulavinaka." Been there twice now. Very impressive...I got some for friends both times. I got both types of cream puffs the first time. I ate the custard one the first time and it was very high quality. Today I got the 5 cream puff special and a couple of gateau marron (chesnut), gateau fraise (strawberry) and chocolat amour. I opted to eat the black sesame cream puff. Wow! That was super good. Good as the custard one was, the black sesame one was truly tasty and unique. I love the toasty flavor of the seeds and the slightly sweet cream. You're right, the attention to detail even down to the nicely pumped in cream with a swirl. I like Beard Papa and Angel Maid (or is it Made?), but's on a whole 'nother level. I should mention the prices are higher than other two places. I haven't been a poster here for long, but I did a search and found Patisserie Chantilly has had a few recommendations in the past. My friends also loved the goodies. One of them said he could eat the black sesame cream puffs all day. Even though he's very nice, I know he wasn't just being nice. He loved that cream puff. I'll definitely be watching out for your posts in the future.

                      1. re: Feed_me

                        Glad you liked it... Angel Maid bakery has been in the area for quite a while - been downing their cream puffs for years! Always pick these up when we are going to get-togethers. And of course - they are the first thing to go! Everyone who has had these little gems can't get enough of them... I just don't care for Beard Papas - after I got over the initial hype - have you ever watched those folks frantically pumping the "stuff" into those pastry shells like they were manning bilge pumps? Can't get that out of my mind! My kids love them though...

                        Another place you might want to try - although I don't think they have cream puffs - is Sweet Lady Jane on Melrose. Their attention to cakes is just as high as Chantilly is to their cream puffs. You can get whole cakes of different sizes, or by the slice - a very generous one. Usually have at least eight to 12 different cakes to choose from in the case. Just had a coconut cake 20 minutes ago - such a great balance of flavors, mouth feel, and just the right sweetness. Keep us posted if you make any cool finds!

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          I've not yet made it to Chantilly, but I do, very much, appreciate the raves and it's now on my list.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            So far, I still like the Beard Papa's, but now I do have a new benchmark. Too bad my mom quit baking years ago. She made a pretty spectacular cream puff which had a layer of custard and another layer of whipped cream. That Chantilly cream puff was quite a nice surprise. I've read several cheers for Sweet Lady Jane, but I saw those cake prices. Gonna have to save up for one of those babies. I get my fancy cakes at Caprice French Pastries on Pico in Santa Monica. Nice Frenchman who owns the place. He isn't quite as consistent as he was in the past, but he can make a mean cake. I've wondered if my lack of criticism has caused him to provide a sometimes less than spectacular product when he's running behind. He really can do a great job sometimes, but not always. Those free samples too.... I bought a cake at Angel Maid and it was a pretty good
                            one at a pretty good price.

                            1. re: Feed_me

                              Wow - your mom used to make cream puffs? LUCKY YOU! I still feel Chantilly is so far and above anything else I've tried. And I just can't get into Beard Papa's with that hasty pump-and-toss mentality of theirs. I am picturing in my mind the person frantically pumping the puffs full of the custard/choux like she was Molly Pitcher loading ammo for all the soldiers in battle! Grab-puncture-squirt-toss in the box...repeat as fast as you can! Sweet mercy - I hope they never do this on an assembly line belt or memories of that "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy makes a failed attempt to keep up with the chocolates will play over and over in my head! OK, sorry for bashing Beard Papa's. Everyone has their preferences.

                              Sweet Lady Jane sells just about all those cakes in the case by the slice - not cheap, but definitely affordable. The slices are big enough to split - unless It's me that one is splitting it with - and the selection is pretty amazing. I don't think you want to get a whole cake unless you are serving other people as well. The temptation would be too great - at least for me - to keep slicing off pieces until the whole cake vanished in a couple of days.

                              Caprice is a great place to visit unless you are trying to keep your weight down. Jean-Louis is the proverbial "devil on your shoulder" when he opens the door - come into my lair - then tempts and taunts you with the trays of pastries and cakes. He is a very nice man and he really does know how to make a mean anything and everything. He aims to please and I think if you give him the lead time, he won't fail you. I think those free samples have made him sales 10X.

                              Angel Maid has always been our, "everybody likes their stuff so let's order a cake from there" place. I think unless the person who the cake is for really has a strong preference for a particular place or cake, Angel Maid is great place to get cakes.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                What???? I'm not the only one getting samples? Jean-Louis is just a lot of fun. I've never had him whip up something "different" from his usual goodies, but maybe I should. I'm sure he might like to do something different from the usual and he does know his stuff. I know when I order a cake with an inscription the decorating seems to be something he enjoys. Oddly enough, one of the other threads on the board is about cake places and somebody mentioned they thought SLJs' cakes were kind of dry and several others agreed on later posts. I'd at least give them a shot, but I've noticed when somebody says something negative after several positive comments it seems the camp thinking the other way piles in there so it gets kind of tossed back and forth. For me, my taste buds are my ultimate judge. The bad part is my stomach is a generous grader. In a way it's good mom has gotten older and stopped baking. She used to make those cream puffs "Costco-sized," and I don't burn it off like when I was young.

                                1. re: Feed_me

                                  SLJ supposedly has had issues with their commercial bakery making the the cake portion of their cakes until lately - I can only tell you that I have always enjoyed their cakes. I start to feel like I'm the only blogger in Chowhound that likes them - that's fine.

                                  Speaking of Costco-sized cream puffs... have you seen those Costco-sized cream puffs at Costco? I'm tempted but you have to buy a whole box - I think it's a dozen - and I don't know how fresh they are... kudos to your mom. I am sure those cream puffs of hers are cherished memories...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    Thanks "bulavinaka," I really hadn't thought of those cream puffs until I ventured upon this board. I've spotted several of your posts and I do respect your taste and judgement. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Look forward to seeing more of your posts.

                                    1. re: Feed_me

                                      Thanks, but I'm a neophyte compared to so many of these folks... just throwing in my two cents... looking forward to your postings as well...

                        2. re: bulavinaka

                          I finally got a chance to make the trek down to Chantilly last night and tried their two cream puffs -- I liked the regular flavored one, it’s quite exquisite. I also bought some of their cookies but haven’t tried them yet. I also bought the macha tea sponge roll but I didn’t care for it, it was bland. Everything is made and packaged very preciously and I liked the clean modern décor. Thanks bulavinaka for the tip about Chantilly!

                          On second thought, I do like the black sesame cream puff too. I only took a bite of it yesterday and thought I didn’t really care for it, but today I finished it and it’s just as exquisite as the regular one, although more exotic.