LOS ANGELES — A hot, fresh pizza right out of the brick oven. What’s better than that? How about some spicy, crispy wings? Chef Mario Christerna put all his childhood favorites on the menu at Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co.
“Nostalgia triggers that part of the brain that makes you happy. It gives you a memory,” said Christerna.
The chef was born and raised in Boyle Heights. Community is really important to him, as well as honoring his history. He wanted to cook ever since he was little.
“I wasn’t a Saturday morning cartoon kind of guy. I was like, Julia Child on PBS,” said Christerna.
As an adult, he became a chef and worked around Los Angeles. When it was time to open a new restaurant, he knew it had to be back in Boyle Heights along the iconic Cesar Chavez Avenue, formerly known as Brooklyn Ave.
Christerna’s passion is preserving memories and paying homage to the past. This is why he decided to make pizza. The space used to be home to the Jewish Bakers Union, so it was only fitting to make dough himself.
“Every concept has to have a home and it just fits here. Our history is very important. It tells us where we were, where we are at, and where we are going. We need to preserve it,” said Christerna.
It doesn’t hurt that everyone loves pizza either. His creations are a blend of Neapolitan and Roman styles adding in a touch of sourdough, which gives it that crunch on the outside and soft texture on the inside. He once again uses flavors from his childhood, seen in his favorite pizza, “The Sinner” that gets its name from its toppings.
“They say putting pineapple on pizza is a sin. If that’s the case, then I’m a sinner,” joked Christerna.
He actually used to order pineapple, mushroom, and Canadian bacon on his pizza as a kid. This translated into a pizza topped with pineapple chutney that offers a spicy and sweet experience, homemade bacon, and roasted mushrooms. Christerna explained it is, “a 40-year-old version of what this six-year-old kid had at the time. A chef version of it.”
Controversial pizza toppings aside, Christerna hopes his restaurant will help give back to his community.
“This is my life’s journey. This is where I played kickball. This is where I came home with grass stains on my pants. It’s my community. It’s home,” said Christerna.
Get a taste of Boyle Heights at Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co located at 2706 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA.