AS home to one of the largest Armenian colonies in the world, Los Angeles supports about 70 Armenian bakeries. They suggest that Armenians may just have the biggest sweet tooth in the world.
And the most eclectic sweet tooth too. Beside their own ancient pastries such as a bread-y coffee cake called gata, they're into baklavas, Persian fritters and Russian doughnuts. On top of that, Armenia has cultural ties with France dating back to the Crusades, so a lot of the bakeries specialize in French pastry. Still, they usually sell some baklavas, gatas, perok (a coffee cake-like fruit tart) and the flaky cookie nazouk.
Though there are pastry shops in the older Armenian hotspots of north Pasadena and east Hollywood, Glendale is the place to go. It has 14 pastry shops -- and there's plenty of spillover in Burbank, North Hollywood and elsewhere in the Valley.
We checked out nearly 50 Armenian bakeries. This is our selection of the top 10 for the non-French side of the Armenian pastry menu.
Baklava Factory, 1415 E. Colorado Ave., Suite K, Glendale, (818) 548-7070, also 17145 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 728-1600 and 12909 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 764-1011, www.baklavafactory.com. Well-made baklava, cookies and fritters, though not baked on the premises but in a central bakery in Sylmar.
Lord & Villa Bakery, 1120 N. Pacific Ave., No. 3, Glendale, (818) 500-8040. An upscale operation, mostly French, but it also has a large Armenian section that includes several varieties of fruit-filled gata. The cherry perok is positively overflowing with cherry filling.
Maggie's Bakery, 6530 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 506-6265. A big, gleaming pastry shop in an inconspicuous mall; three counters of French pastries and one of baklavas, gatas and walnut-filled cookies. Particularly notable for kul wushkur, a buttery, exceptionally flaky folded baklava (it looks like a tiny book with its pages fluttering open) enclosing a syrup-soaked walnut filling.
Maral's Pastry, 17654 Vanowen St., Van Nuys, (818) 705-8921. Excellent baklava-type pastries (of the tender, rather than the crisp, school), cheese pastry (halawat jibn), sesame-pistachio cookies (barazek) and those fabulous tahini cookies.
Movses Pastry, 1755 W. Glenoaks Blvd., No. 4, Glendale, (818) 5450099; www.movsespastry.com. Half French, half Armenian. Good fresh baklava, several flavors of perok and gata, a number of nazouks.
Oasis Pastry (also known as Mary's Oasis or M. Shatila), 801 S. Glendale Blvd., Glendale, (818) 244-2255. It may be Lebanese-owned, but it's in the middle of Armenian Glendale and most of the employees speak Armenian. Very good pastries, including a remarkably flaky one that resembles kul wushkur but which they insist on calling almond baklava.
Panos Pastry Bakery, 5150 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 661-0335; also 418 S. Central Ave., Glendale, (818) 502-0549; www.panospastry.com. A grand pastry palace with marble floors and mirrors, a large selection of Armenian pastries and an even larger one of French pastries. Long the standard of Hollywood Armenian bakeries; the baklava is light and crisp but not terribly buttery.
Sarkis Pastry, 1111 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale, (818) 956-6636; www.sarkispastry.com. The pride of Glendale has one of the widest ranges of Middle Eastern pastries around, including osmanlia (layers of kadayif and nuts) and tahini cookies.
Van Bakery, 5409 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-2450; also 620 S. Glendale Ave., Suite H, Glendale, (818) 548-5253. In addition to the usual pastries, Van makes what looks like a baklava that's dribbled with a little chocolate. Inside, there's a layer of crisp kadayif pastry, making it lighter and crunchier than ordinary baklava.
Vrej Pastry, 1074 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena, (626) 797-2331; also 11148 Balboa Blvd., Granada Hills, (818) 366-2526; and 1791 East Route 66, Glendora, (626) 914-1940. Good for cheese pastry, barazek and dainty burma (kadayif nut rolls).
-- Charles Perry