Richard Foss

Papa Guido’s guilty pleasures: Redondo Beach pizzeria also excels at fried chicken

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Papa Guido’s Pizza is a bit hard to find, but worth the search. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Papa Guido’s Pizza is a bit hard to find, but worth the search. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Everybody should have a go-to place for a quick, cheap meal – a default destination for the times when you’re too tired to cook; it’s too hot; or you just crave what they do. Such places are often guilty pleasures, where you politely ask your diet not to notice what you’re about to do to it, and I suspect that a majority involve pizza.

        I have alternated between a couple of these, and now have a new favorite – a well-established little place on Aviation in Redondo called Papa Guido’s Pizza. Despite the name, pizza isn’t my usual meal there – but I’m getting ahead of myself and should tell you about the place first. You may not have seen it, because it’s a bit back from the street on a curve and the signs for neighboring businesses are more prominent. The place seems to be popular with local workers, and trucks often obscure the door. (The parking lot was striped by someone who had no sense of geometry or understanding of the turning radius of vehicles, so if you can find a place on the street, that’s a better idea.)

        Once inside, it’s an order-at-the-counter place, and there’s a wider selection than you might expect. They offer a variety of toasted sandwiches, and these are quite good and bigger than you may expect. I recently ordered a small Italian sub so that I’d have enough room for an order of fried zucchini, and though I have a healthy appetite I still left half of the zucchini behind. This was unfortunate as they were very good zucchini, battered with panko crumbs and fried so the vegetable was hot and moist. The sandwich hit the spot too, and it was a very decent lunch for just north of ten bucks.

        My default meal here, and one of the best deals in the South Bay, is the medium pizza, fried chicken, and fried potato special for fifteen dollars. This feeds two very hungry people quite nicely, and if you order a salad along with it you can pretend that it’s a balanced meal. The pizzas here are above average, and I like that they put the toppings in the cheese rather than layer them on top – we got a spinach pizza with the finely chopped leaves well distributed so they were in every bite.

        That said, for me the draw here is the fried chicken. There are not that many places in the South Bay that serve this American favorite on a regular basis, and I don’t think most of the places that do are very good at it. For a long time my wife and I have gone to Pann’s in Westchester when we wanted fried chicken, and we were delighted to find a closer place that was consistently reliable. The chicken here is the no-frills classic with a mildly seasoned batter, but it has never been greasy or chewy – they have the process down pat. As for the potatoes, they’re russets sliced and fried using the same batter as the chicken. I think they may have been invented by a Southern vegetarian who wanted to enjoy something delicious and sinful but drew the line at actually eating meat.

        As for the salad, if you actually get one – they’re OK but nothing special. They’re made in advance, and if you are dining in, they’re served in the same plastic to-go container that is used for take-out. The operation here is obviously largely geared for the to-go crowd, though they do have dine-in tables. They also serve beer, something it took me about five visits to realize – the list is not posted anywhere except on a small card by the counter. I only figured out it was offered because we were sitting under Budweiser sign across from a Sam Adams mirror, and I started wondering why they had beer memorabilia but no beer menu. They don’t serve wine, and alcohol is obviously not a big focus here.

        The only thing I’ve had here that I was not a big fan of were their pastas. I’ve tried fettuccine carbonara and linguine primavera, and in both the noodles were past al dente and on the mushy side. The carbonara was acceptable but needed additional pepper and parmesan to perk up the slightly bland garlic cream sauce. The pasta primavera, which is usually served in a butter and parmesan sauce, is in an herbed tomato sauce here. That sauce was only okay with the vegetables, in this case carrots, broccoli, and zucchini.

        I may not get pasta here again, but will be back for more of what this place does well – they serve good fast food, whether you dine in or out, and if it comes out of the fryer or the oven that produces those pizzas and sandwiches, it’s going to be good.

Papa Guido’s is at 1521 Aviation Boulevard in Redondo – open 11  a.m. – midnight daily. Parking lot or street, wheelchair access OK with interior ramp, delivery available. Children welcome, beer or soft drinks served, no corkage. Phone 310-937-8000.

 

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