La Azteca Tortilleria is an East LA institution that dates to 1945, but the business remains vital thanks to the Villa family, who took over operations four years ago. Candy Villa and husband Juan, who originally hail from Michoacán, run the kitchen, and daughter Cynthia deftly handles the front of house. A mural painted on the wall depicts a woman in an elaborate Aztec head dress cradling a basket of maize, the backbone of masa, with a dazzling pyramid behind her. La Azteca originally set up shop around the corner on Ford Boulevard and was forced to relocate when the 710 freeway cut through East LA. Still, the existing La Azteca location feels like it’s been part of the neighborhood since the dawn of time.
A steady flow of locals grab stacks of house-made tortillas to use at home, but plenty of people stay to enjoy lunch, featuring tacos, burritos and quesadillas that add value to La Azteca’s readily available specialty. My friend clued me into the Quesadilla de Chicharrones ($5.75) which packs a pair of supple griddled flour tortillas with big chunks of crunchy chicharrones. Sauteed pico de gallo and molten Monterey Jack cheese join the fun, and if you’re looking for an extra kick, spoon on smoky, mildly spicy salsa starring chile de arbol.
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