War is delicious

Pasadena merchants vie for customers looking to celebrate some old favorites

By Justin Chapman and Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly, 1/12/2012

The fighting is apparently not over for the winners of The Food Channel’s “Cupcake Wars,” who are opening a shop in Old Pasadena at the same time the city Chamber of Commerce is celebrating the birth of the cheeseburger, which records show occurred here in the mid-1920s.
But never let it be said there isn’t enough room in Pasadena for two great tastes that don’t necessarily go together, or, more importantly, with the diets of anyone serious about watching what they eat. 
Chamber President and CEO Paul Little, who came up with the idea to promote cheeseburgers as part of California Restaurant Month, said there should be no conflicts over customer loyalty to owners of businesses selling either of these delicious foodstuffs.  
What has some restaurants worried — and foodies across the country salivating — is National Pizza Week, which runs through Sunday. 
How much that will bite into local cheeseburger and cupcake sales is unknown. With several restaurants across the city participating in these different overlapping events and offering discount meals, more people are expected to go out and celebrate some old favorites. But is there room for both pizza and cheeseburgers in the stomachs of greater Pasadena, perhaps with cupcakes for dessert?
“Honestly, I think the more attention that is given to dining experiences in Pasadena of all kinds the better for everybody,” said Little. “What people will remember is that there are a whole lot of options in Pasadena, no matter what your taste.”
Anthony Valerio and his aunt Vandy Altounian, winners of “Cupcake Wars,” are gearing up for the grand opening of their store, Wonderland Custom Cakes, Saturday. Free cupcakes and other surprises will be given to attendees. After the grand opening, Wonderland will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The store is at 107 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, across the street from Castle Green.
Pasadena Cheeseburger Week runs from Sunday through Jan. 20. CREPEstudio, Beckham Grill and Crown Pub, Lovebirds Café, Soleil at the Sheraton, Jersey Mike’s, Noir Food and Wine and Kings Row Gastropub will join Pie ‘n Burger, a/k/a: an American bistro, The Counter, Burger Continental, Clearman’s Gallery, Toro Sushi, Magnolia Lounge, Vertical Wine Bistro, El Portal and M Local Mediterranean Grill in offering a cheeseburger or cheeseburger alternative. Visit www.pasadenarestaurantweek.com/cheeseburger-week for special menus, deals and to vote for your favorite.
In 1924 a teenage Lionel Sternberger apparently began the popular marriage of meat and cheese in his father’s hamburger joint on West Colorado Boulevard.
“Since the cheeseburger was invented here, we figured the city as a whole should be aware of that and figure out a way to celebrate it,” said Little.
With pizza doing battle with cheeseburgers and cupcakes, only one thing is certain — this week will be delicious.

A few slightly original works by Carl Kozlowski


Ode to the Cheeseburger


Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

How I love you so


Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

More than you will ever know


Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

Favorite of my youth

Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

That’s the sad, unfortunate truth


Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

Must you taunt me so?

Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger …

Everywhere I go


Battle Hymn of the Cupcake

(Set to “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)


My stomach’s filled with growling

‘Cause there is a cupcake war

You can hear me yowling

Because my boss won’t let me out the door


The paper’s put me on a diet

That they won’t let me ignore

And the sweets are marching on


Glory, glory Hallelujah

So moist they’ll pass right through ya

Whether chocolate or coconut

They’ll give you a great big butt

So I must pass them on …

Paean to the Pizza

(Set to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel)


Sauces of white, sauces of red

Perhaps some puttanesca instead.

I used to have a table near the street

But now I can’t go to that place
Where I used to stuff my face – mmm mmm

Sauces of red, sauces of white

I always had an appetite

You could find me any time you want

In that Italian restaurant


Things aren’t going go great these days
My boss ordered a diet, put me in a haze
Said I’ll never find a wife, or have a decent life
Without a new waistline


I lost touch with the menu long ago

Gotta lose weight so I could not go

Man it’d be nice to sneak off for a slice

But an expanding waistline would be the ultimate price


Do you remember those days hanging at Tarantino’s on Green?

Stuffing the booth, tight pants busting out at the seams

Slip 5 bucks to the chef he’ll give you the slice of your dreams

Cold beer, hot slice, my aromatic pizza nights, ooh ooh

Oh, oh, oh
Sauces of red, sauces of white,
I’ll eat whatever’s on my plate tonight
I’ll meet you away from the front
In our Italian Restaurant.