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East Side Italian Deli - NO!

Italian-American East Coast transplant iso a great Italian deli or grocery store.

My husband and I made our way to East Side Italian Deli today on Alpine Street, near Dodger Stadium. So, disappointed. We ordered the meatball and sausage sub. Lackluster meatballs, decent sausage, lousy sauce, mediocre roll. There was a tiny piece of cheese at one end of the sub. Every table had one or two bottles of taco sauce on it. No Italian condiments. When you walk in, there is absolutely no wonderful aroma that should come from an Italian Deli. You know what I mean -- that mixture of homemade sauce, pancetta, capicola, marinated peppers, freshly baked bread, smoky provolone and anisette, that makes your senses sing? Mario's in Glendale barely has that aroma. Also lousy sauce.

Just can't seem to find a deli to fit the bill here. When I really need a fix and can't get back East, we'll make a trip to San Francisco. Two visits to Molinari's in North Beach can set me right. When I can't get back to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, it does the trick.

We left East Side Italian Deli and made our way to Sorrento Italian Market in Culver City. We buy cold cuts to go, since they often make a skimpy counter sandwich. But their capicola is first rate, lean and spicy. They also have nice baked goods - though the baked goods section is tiny. Tasty cannoli, delicious poppy seed roll, good bread and cookies flown in from Ferrara Bakery in NYC Little Italy. The cannoli is fresh and made at Sorrento.

I heard there is a bakery in San Pedro that makes a cannoli cake. Would love to know the name of that place, if anyone has it. I'm thinking we're going to head to San Pedro next on our quest to find a great Italian deli in the Los Angeles area.

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  1. Wow, I just finished the latest L.A. Weekly feature on L.A.'s Top 20 Italian Eateries and the East Side Market is on their list. They showed a photo of their pastrami sandwich (I posted a small photo of it here) and it looked good. Can we get some more comments about their sandwiches?

    1. You might try Bay Cities in Santa Monica and Monte Carlo in Burbank.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mc michael

        I've praised Monte Carlo several times over the years. It is unjustifiably overlooked by the majority of the Chowhound community. It's a great little family run Italian deli with balls of their own house-made provelone hanging from hooks behind the deli counter.

        Hot food from the adjoining Pinocchio restaurant is not very good, but for the price it is passable (it's been a while, but last time I was there you could get a full dinner of lasagna, salad and bread for about $5-- no tipping required.

        3103 W Magnolia Blvd
        Burbank, CA 91505
        (818) 845-3516

        Mr Taster
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        1. re: Mr Taster

          Second the rec for Monte Carlo.

          Haven't gotten the hot food at Pinocchi, but very much like the cold sub sandwiches. If you eat it there you get 2 choices from their salads and I think a small is around $5 and a large $7. Like their pizza, nice thin crust

          1. re: LisaN

            Oh yeah-- the cold subs are really good. I used to ask them to put the salad (seasoned with oil & vinegar) directly onto the sandwich, in an attempt to recreate the Italian subs of my New Jersey youth. The Latino guys behind the counter always looked at me like I was crazy, but they were delish... if you get them as take out it used to be some crazy cheap price like $3.00 or something (but I think the price has gone up since I was last there, after having moved out of Burbank about 5 years ago)

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      2. I understand what you're saying, being from the East Coast where my family had a sub shop for awhile, and where you get used to 20 decent joints within a five mile radius.

        The thing is, you just ain't goint to find that in LA, and I've come to the conclusion that's a good thing. After all, if you can replicate any region's food anywhere else in the country, it's no longer special. That's just my approach -- doesn't lessen your hankering for a good sub, though :(

        On the plus side, LA has a fantastic number of terrific Latin and Asian cuisines to sample -- that's the strength of this region, just like Italian is a strength of the East Coast.

        For some reason, Italians didn't migrate to LA in big enough numbers to make a real cultural impact like they did in NYC, New Jersey, the Philly area and even upstate New York (Rochester has some fantastic little Italian hole-in-the-wall places!) Even SFO got a bigger influx of Italians than did LA...

        So: Good luck in your quest. I feel your pain. For me, when the need arises, I'm just down the street from Sorrento's, so I'm lucky (but I agree -- it's not really the same as back East). You might also check out Bay Cities in Santa Monica....

        20 Replies
        1. re: Neely_Ohara

          Don't you love when it East Coasters think they have figured "Los Angeles" out when that is constrained only to the westside and they have only been here a few years?

          San Pedro has the highest concentration of Italian-Americans in Los Angeles. We have an old school Italian-American club near a street that was renamed "Via Italia." Check out A-1 Import Market for a great Italian deli. I love their subs and thank heavens they don't put any mayo on it like the overrated Bay Cities unless you specifically ask for it. There is also a wine-making supply store next door.

          A-1 Imported Groceries & Deli
          348 West 8th Street
          San Pedro, CA 90731
          http://www.a1importgroc.com

          1. re: Ernie

            Ernie, great info about A-1. I sense a little snippiness in your post, but it IS true that per capita, the East Coast does have more good Italian places than LA. That was my point....

            And of course, Bay Cities is definitely overrated....Never seen 'em use mayo on a sub, though. That would totally prevent me from going back....

            1. re: Neely_Ohara

              "I understand what you're saying, being from the East Coast where my family had a sub shop for awhile, and where you get used to 20 decent joints within a five mile radius.

              The thing is, you just ain't goint to find that in LA"

              No one can argue about great East Coast Italian places per capita, but your statement above sounds more like fact than assumption if you haven't explored the Italian places in the South Bay yet. We've got some nice little gems in the area.

              1. re: Ernie

                Here's my take on the indigenous thing. You are both right. San Pedro has some really good Italian places (and Greek). The deal is this. The Pizzas and Sandwiches are not what you'd find in Italy any more then the Chinese we eat here is anything like the food in China. So, the East coast Italians came up with their own take and you really don't find that here. But, the west coast Italians did their thing and it's just as good in a different bent. I've had what was called a Philly Cheese Steak out here and it was a roast beef sandwich (one of the best I ever had and I ordered it again and again, but not a Philly steak). We all long for a taste of home, be it Pizza, Sandwiches, egg rolls etc. It ain't gonna happen, and it tends to rile the locals. Please guys, don't take offense, there is so much out here that is so much better, somethings just don't transfer and try to understand and excuse the longings of the transplanted.

                1. re: LuigiOrtega

                  A very reasonable argument.

                  Remember though that it is highly likely that the Italian immigrants who found their way to LA started out in New York's lower east side, the birthplace of Italian-American cuisine. I think that's why many of us who come from back east have a chip on our shoulder (pizza, anyone?) Somehow things like the overstuffed and overblown Chicago pizza feel like the bastard corn-fed children of our beloved thin crust pie.

                  Of course I realize that in crossing the Atlantic, the gloppy pizzeria style Italian food that has become a staple in NY is no longer authentically Italian either. But that's beside the point :)

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                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    "Remember though that it is highly likely that the Italian immigrants who found their way to LA started out in New York's lower east side, the birthplace of Italian-American cuisine."

                    Actually, many of the Italian families in San Pedro came directly from Ischia island and became prominent in the local fishing industry.

                    1. re: Ernie

                      Very interesting indeed. You never hear about LA's equivalent of Ellis Island... it does seem a bit roundabout to come directly to LA from Italy when NY's port is vastly closer and they would have a well established support system in the lower east side.

                      I don't doubt it happened, it just seems peculiar.

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                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Yes, obviously Italy is closer to the port in New York, no one has argued against that. However, that does not mean the entire Italian-American immigrant population of the U.S. has lived in the LES of Manhattan.

                        I can only speak of the Italian-American families I know in San Pedro, and most of them trace their roots to Ischia. The similar sunny climates and fishing have a lot to do with that.

                        1. re: Ernie

                          Most of the Ischians did immigrate to New York and then came to San Pedro to fish. God bless them! Their food is so good.

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      "Somehow things like the overstuffed and overblown Chicago pizza feel like the bastard corn-fed children of our beloved thin crust pie."

                      Funny, that's how I feel about the bastard overblown crappy east coast egg roll. Why wouldn't you go for the version closer to the real thing? I happen to really like Chicago style pizza too.

                    3. re: LuigiOrtega

                      "The Pizzas and Sandwiches are not what you'd find in Italy any more then the Chinese we eat here is anything like the food in China."

                      The wide variety of Chinese cuisines you find in Monterey Park and the San Gabriel Valley are actually quite authentic.

                      1. re: Ernie

                        I think you missed the point.

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                      2. re: LuigiOrtega

                        btw
                        i have found some chinese food here that is pretty much like the chinese food i can find some places in china.

                  2. re: Ernie

                    Thanks for the San Pedro info, Ernie. I know there are many fishermen from Italy who settled in San Pedro. Do you happen to know the name of the SP bakery that does the cannoli cake? I think it is a woman's name.

                    1. re: brieflunchcounter

                      You're welcome. Yes, San Pedro does have families from the Ischia island region of Italy. The only bakery I can think of is Ramona Bakery. I haven't been to it in years so not sure if they make cannoli cake

                      Ramona Bakery
                      1101 S Pacific Ave
                      San Pedro, CA 90731
                      (310) 832-0369
                      http://www.ramonabakery.com

                      1. re: Ernie

                        That's it - Ramona Bakery. Thanks, again, Ernie. While we are on the subject of San Pedro, I also heard that one of the churches has a festival every year with wonderful Italian food. Mary Star of the Sea, maybe? Have you been? Is the food worth the trip?

                        1. re: brieflunchcounter

                          I've never been to festivals at Mary Star of the Sea, but know they do have a very active congregation. Combined with the proud Italian-American community in town, would not be surprised if some great food could be found at one of their celebrations.

                    2. re: Ernie

                      I am going to give it a try. When I was a kid my Italian Grandmother used to take me to some place in LA, called Puemas (sp?). If I could ever walk into an Italian deli with all those wonderful smells, I think I would cry.

                    3. re: Neely_Ohara

                      Neely,

                      This could be a great business opportunity for someone. At least, for my neighborhood, which is Fairfax-Park La Brea. Gonna have to bring it up at the next Sons of Italy meeting.

                    4. I, too, feel your pain - and have also made the trek to the ESD. Their sub is about as good as an "Italian" 6-inch from a Ralph's deli counter.

                      I've looked high and low for a decent Italian sub or hoagie - and feel that MARIO'S ITALIAN DELI in Glendale is the best bet on this side of town.

                      1. Sorry to hear of your unfortunate experience. Please venture out east to Claro's, with many locations in the San Gabriel valley, the Arcadia store is located on Huntington near Santa Anita racetrack. Full Italian grocer, wines, bakery items, meats, plus many delicious foods to go. Their homemade sausage is the best. I am sure Claro's is the Italian deli you are looking for. Here is their link: http://www.claros.com
                        Ciao, Christine

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: la vida dulce

                          Someone else recommended Claro's, too. We'll check it out this week. Thank you for the recommendation.