Los Angeles is an exciting place to be a foodie; it offers a slew of diverse dining choices, from meals on wheels to storied eateries, giving a diner immense freedom of choice, like the ability to eat Korean or Ethiopian in an evening sitting—as long as one is willing to drive. However, with all that LA graciously provides, I still find myself pining for some foods outside of LA’s sprawling limits. Particularly, pizza—with the exception of Diavola pizzeria in Geyserville—when I want to have pizza, I hold off on ordering Papa John’s or traveling to the ritzy Pizzeria Mozza, and instead, I bee-line it to La Mirada, CA to Gondola Pizza.

Housed within a large strip mall, Gondola pizza hardly piques curiosity. It sits obscured, buried squarely in the middle of an odd assortment of shops; if you drive too quickly you might miss it. Without a point of reference, you might also miss the recent remodel (updated benches, countertops, etc.) but otherwise the place is the same, a family style restaurant that specializes in generously made pizzas.

So what distinguishes this pizza from the hoards of other parlors? Most noticeably, the pizza’s toppings are unparalleled in distribution. Not only are the ingredients incredibly fresh and flavorful, they load the pizza to the brink. If you dare to eat the slices without the assistance of fork and knife, then you will have to keep the pizza propped up by spreading your phalanges wide, keeping the pizza’s thin body from caving in to gravity. The pizza ratio of toppings to cheese is also in proportion, so while there might be a lot of meat/vegetables (depending on your preference) the cheese is equal to the task. The crust has a unique texture, the crisped outside yields a chewy consistency that is not expected. The effect is akin to dense foccacia. The choice of Gondola’s is for that fullness that is different from thin-crusted pizza or one that has the texture right but opts for a gourmet touch on top, like Z-Pizza. A true pie experience.

To say nothing of the restaurant’s consistency would be missing something, for as long as I can remember they have been serving the same pies for about twenty years, but it is the homey style that makes them unique.

The last reason (and most important for me) is that it wields magical powers, with one bite of the sausage and olive pizza; I am eating pizza in my grandmother’s dining room, remembering the bygone days when I would visit her, much like the transformative bite of ratatouille, in Ratatouille.

I introduced some friends to Gondola Pizza last Friday after taking some wrong turns (it had been too long since my last visit). After an hour’s worth of driving, we settled into the casual restaurant with an order for sausage and olive pizza. I had decided, in advance, to pair the pizza with a bottle of 05 Hécula Monastrell to match with the intense flavors of the sausage and the acidity of the sauce.

We had an ordering mishap and received a second pizza…gratis to compensate for the mistake. Aside from the error the pizzas were exactly the same as when I had had them the last time. Ample and awesome.

The Monastrell was full bodied and boasted some big tannins that helped it match the flavor intensity of the food. I was able to detect a noticeable amount of oak and some dark, ripe fruit on the nose. The flavors were similar with a little vanilla, and ripe cherry, but what was nicest about the wine was the texture. A couple of minor caveats were that the wine was, for a lot of palates, over-oaked, it was a little heavy in alcohol and it also spit a lot of sediment, so, in our experience (one of the eaters was the recipient of too much sediment), a decanter was sorely missed.

While it would be a lot easier to stay in Los Angeles and find another suitable styled pizza that just isn’t how I roll. I prefer to trek long distances, to eat the foods I will not have to settle for and instead, go to the places that have served me well for years and that I can always count on for quality. Gondola’s Pizza may be too far for some to drive but it is definitely a pizza with few peers.