There are many things to love about Pasadena, but what I love most is how history meets modernity. This town values the vintage and welcomes the new. Such is the case at the Luggage Room, a nifty pizzeria and cocktail bar where old bricks meet new flavors.
Next to and affiliated with Pasadena’s much-loved La Grande Orange, The Luggage Room is housed in the baggage room of the 1934 Pasadena train depot at Raymond and Del Mar. These days, crimson paint covers the walls and haunting chandeliers grace the ceiling, but it retains the warmth of an old leather suitcase. Sliding wooden barn doors in bygone days opened at track level to load and unload parcels. But the designers of the Luggage Room moved the doors to the north side of the building, creating large, airy windows, and installed a gorgeous wood-burning oven along the track-side wall. It’s that oven that makes the Luggage Room so extraordinary.
Olive wood is burned in the oven, giving the pizzas the spirited fragrance of a Greek olive grove. The chewy crust is not sweet but has hints of sourdough and is flecked with flavorful black spots. I would call the toppings “California creative,” but gratefully they’re not just food-of-the-moment name-dropping.
My favorite is the Rocket Man ($13) with its blast of heat from Fresno chiles and slightly bitter crunchiness from broccolini, dried tomatoes and roasted garlic. Next, I love the Fallen Angel ($13) with balls of Italian sausage reminiscent of green olives, shaved fennel and roasted peppers. We got this one with the suggested cracked egg on top (no charge). It’s a kick to have a spot of breakfast in your first bite of each piece, and it tastes kind of like extra cheese.
Not as inspiring is the Shattuck Avenue pizza ($15). The burrata is not creamy, and the sweetness of the balsamic reduction, roasted garlic and piquillo peppers on the earthy olive-scented crust somehow misses the mark.
These pizzas are on the pricey side ($12-$15) but they easily feed two, especially with a cocktail and a big chopped salad ($12), which, by the way, is an awesome after-work combo. They have happy hour every weeknight from 5 to 7 and again after 9. Select wine and tap beers, such as the outstanding locally brewed Craftsman lager, are $3 to $5 per glass. Certain well drinks are half price, but the handcrafted cocktails are a full $10. The ones I tried, the margarita with fresh lime juice and the Manhattan featuring Eagle Rare bourbon and homemade cherries, were worth the price.
Worth noting, many items are vegetarian or can be customized as such, and there are quite a few vegan and gluten-free choices. For those who adore gluten, though, be sure to get your free sea-salt-and-chocolate-chip cookie on your way out. It takes the standard Tollhouse variety to a new level.
Apart from a novice bartender on one visit, the service is excellent at The Luggage Room. The hostess caught my eye immediately and helped us navigate the bustling room.
And our waiter, Chris, went above and beyond the call of duty. Not only did he know his menu inside and out, deliver food piping hot, and remember to find out the name of the dates used in the incredible bacon-wrapped date appetizer (they’re Medjool), he reminded us of the last call for happy hour, made sure we didn’t leave without validation and restocked the cookie plate to be sure we got one. All with a calm demeanor and a genuine smile.
LISA DUPUY has contributed to Times Community News, Westways and other publications. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.
What: The Luggage Room
Where: 260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Starters, salads and pizzas, $8 to $15; beer, wine and cocktails $6 to $14
Contact: (626) 356-4440; www.theluggageroom.com.