Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Aladdin Nuthouse Nuts
I am a regular patron of Aladdin Nuthouse, one of the better Armenian nut vendors in town, a place with a half-dozen kinds of melon seeds, delicious sesame peanuts, and a way of roasting hazelnuts and almonds that not only brings out the full, round flavor of the nuts but leaves them rimed with salt. You can find fresh Middle Eastern spices and baklava imported from Lebanon.
But the store is located in a pretty solidly Armenian neighborhood, on a street lined with churches, bakeries, and a more-than-occasional Boycott Turkish Goods lawn sign stuck into the dirt. The owner, an emigre from Beirut, couldn't be more Armenian himself. He has anti-genocide signs in the windows, closes on the appropriate protest days, and euphemistically refers to the many chewy sweets on display as Mediterranean Delight. But when it comes to pistachios, he can't help it. His case is stocked with jumbo California pistachios, lemon-flavored pistachios, chile pistachios and pricey, beautiful Iranian pistachios. He would prefer not to tell you where the tiny, misshapen pistachios tucked in the out-of-the-way bin come from, and he would prefer that you didn't ask, but there they are: sweet, perfect, unlabeled oil-bombs in dark, stained shells, pistachios that actually taste like pistachios instead of like dry, green-fleshed peanuts. Just pretend that they're from Syria, and everything will be okay.
Aladdin Nuthouse: 1647 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena (626) 794-7533.