Glendale may be better known for Middle Eastern food, but Northeast Pasadena features plenty of interesting Armenian, Lebanese and Syrian options, including sit-down restaurants, delis and this stellar Syrian bakery.
Haroutioun Geragosian began working at a bakery in Aleppo, Syria, at age 13 in order to supply his family with bread. Geragosian absorbed baking knowledge and opened his own Aleppo bakery in 1948, calling it Old Sasoon Bakery, named for a village in Armenia that his grandparents left after World War II. He relocated his family and bakery to Pasadena in 1986, selling just lahmajunes (ground beef flatbreads), cheese and spinach beorags (savory pies). Son Joseph Geragosian is now in charge of daily operations. Old Sasoon’s sign now reads “Abou Yousef,” which means “Joseph’s father” in Arabic.
Joseph is not the only Geragosian at Old Sasoon. He works alongside sister Caroline and mother Archalous. Joseph began baking at 15 and expanded Old Sasoon’s offerings to include 17 savory varieties of bread, a selection that’s unparalleled in L.A. County.
Two Daily Specials are available from 7 AM to Noon. Manaiesh Sandwich ($2) is truly special, and shockingly affordable, a zahtar-dusted flatbread lined with rows of mint leaves, tomatoes, green olives and crispy raw onions. The manaiesh is then rolled up, which makes for easy eating.
Old Sasoon’s other special is Khachapuri ($3.99), a mammoth Georgian flatbread topped with white cheese, seasonings and raw egg that’s baked to order. Allow ten minutes.
No matter what bread you order at Old Sasoon, it’s bound to have a winning mouth feel, soft inside and browned outside.
For Soujouk and Cheese ($2.50) bread, Joseph makes the garlicky, spice-flecked ground beef sausage in house. He likes use white Cacique cheese, a Mexican cow’s milk cheese that doesn’t turn to plastic in the fridge.
Joseph also fills bread with basturma, sheets of Armenian cured beef, which he buys as needed down the street at Garo’s Basturma.
Another recent favorite was a crisp-edged pastry pocket filled with finely chopped Swiss chard (Panjar), tahini paste, onions and “seasonings.”
Two years ago, Joseph added sweets like baklava, walnut-filled cookies called mamoul, and cookies with no filling. This tray holds every kind of Old Sasoon baklava, including nut-crammed “fingers” and pistachio nests. Joseph limits the sweetness of his baklava. If you’re looking for lakes of sugar syrup, Old Sasoon isn’t the place.
With advance notice, it’s worth exploring Old Sasoon’s Special Orders. Joseph makes four different kinds of lahmajune: traditional ground beef with tomato, garlic, onion and spices. There’s also ground turkey, ground mushroom, and the rarely seen Debes Rmman Lahmajune, with ground beef, pomegranate molasses pine nuts and onions. If you’re especially ambitious, it’s possible to order a 45-pound lamb, stuffed with rice pilaf, ground beef, nuts and spices.
In the future, Joseph is scouting for a second location in either Glendale or the San Fernando Valley, a sit-down spot that would allow him to make more sandwiches on manaiesh or lahmajune. In the meantime, it’s well worth grabbing some baked goods to go at the Pasadena original.