It was a sweltering day in the San Gabriel foothills, and the mammoth silver oven at the back of Koko’s Bakery was at full blast, but the Armenian baked goods were so good that it didn’t matter.
Northeast Pasadena features a treasure trove of Armenian, Syrian and Lebanese eateries. This particular spot is situated next to the intriguing Torino Sandwiches, in a charming timeworn building. Krikor “Koko” Saghbazarian and wife Houri opened their bakery in 1991. Koko’s grandfather was a baker in Armenia who was forced to escape to Lebanon during the genocide. Koko and his wife moved to Boston, where son Michael was born, then proceeded to Pasadena to continue his craft.
A dry-erase board lists 14 styles of savory Armenian breads and pies, including spicy cheese, spinach, olive or lahmajune (lean ground beef or mushroom). They only sell flatbreads in pairs or larger bags.
There may not be a single Los Angeles pizzeria that produces such a well-balanced crust, not too puffy, not at all dry, with just the right amount of bite. The Saghbazarians offer two varieties that I’ve never encountered before.
Koko normally pulls steaming lahmajunes from the oven at 12:30 PM, so best time your visit with that momentous event. There are three other stellar Middle Eastern bakeries in Los Angeles, and I’ve been to those places many more times, but Koko’s Bakery belongs in the upper tier.