An emporium for the encased is ensconced

Gelt is a Times staff writer.

“We’re young; let’s have fun with encased meat,” says Joseph Pitruzzelli, the 27-year-old co-owner of Wurstkuche, downtown L.A.'s new sausage-and-beer kitchen. Such is the love between a boy and his brats.

Stuffed neatly into a small slice of real estate on Traction Avenue and 3rd Street, Wurstkuche is no ordinary sausage hang. It features more than 20 tubular varieties of meat, including the obscure (buffalo, beef and pork with chipotle), the classic (bratwurst) and the bizarre but surprisingly tasty (alligator and hickory-smoked pork, rattlesnake and rabbit).

“It’s a little bit of prey and predator,” says Pitruzzelli of the latter, explaining that his cousin and fellow owner, 22-year-old Tyler Wilson, “hunted forever” to find the snake meat. “It’s on the buttery side, but it’s actually very lean. The jalapeno adds an appropriate heat, and the rabbit rounds it out.”


Pitruzzelli thinks a lot about sausage. He and Wilson tasted hundreds before settling on the final list. “They’re an epicurean delight, man!” he says. Most twentysomethings might agree, but Pitruzzelli and Wilson devised a menu and beer list (24 mainly German and Belgian beers on draft) to draw notice from foodies of all ages.

Pitruzzelli is a designer, and he has created a starkly modern-industrial restaurant with concrete floors, exposed brick walls and blond-wood counters. A lone refrigerator case displays uncooked sausages on plates, and a grill can be seen just behind it. The resulting image is an exercise in minimalist restraint. At Wurstkuche -- which means “sausage kitchen” in German -- you know exactly what you’re going to get.

Sausages are served on crispy rolls, on red plastic rectangular plates, topped with a choice of two extras, including sauerkraut, caramelized onions and hot or sweet peppers. Crisp, fat, airy Belgian frites are served in small brown paper bags with a variety of dipping sauces such as dense, rich blue cheese, walnut and bacon.

Add a specialty beer and you’ll be as pleased as a pig in . . . exotic mustard.



Where: 800 E. 3rd St., L.A. (an expanded dining area and bar will open soon)

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (plans are to extend to 3 a.m.)

Price: Sausages, $6 to $7.75; beer, $2.50 to $8

Contact: (213) 687-4444,