A Hamburger Today
Daily Slice: La Bella Pizza Garden in Chula Vista, California
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Whenever we're heading to my Nana's house in San Diego, I can assume dinner will be either a hearty meat-and-potatoes-centric meal from Nana's kitchen, or pizza (and, let's be honest, lasagna) from La Bella's. Its official name is "La Bella Pizza Garden," which includes a patio garden and a 9,000-square-foot game center with billiards, darts, and the classic coin-operated arcade games.
It's a heartwarming pizzeria tale: an Italian couple from New York moved to San Diego to open the joint in 1955. The husband-and-wife team ran the show with help from their sons (little Joey and Tony Jr.—the single two best pizzeria heir names). This isn't pizza topped with locavore mushrooms or certified with a D.O.C. seal, but it's fine for a big Irish-Catholic family crowded around a table with plenty of cold Stone Brewing Co. IPAs.
The crust is doughy, chewy, and slightly sweet. Not too tomato-saucy, but a mess of cheese on top. You can feel it sitting in your stomach the rest of the night, and the only solution is more IPA. La Bella layers toppings underneath the cheese so they're poking out, which can make it challenging to distinguish between the cheese and pepperoni pies at first (the pictured one is cheese).
Some have said that La Bella's has gone downhill over the years, which could very well be true. I wasn't there in the 1950s, but it continues to be a destination for families (mine included) for big, cheap pizzas and whatever Padres or Chargers game is on.