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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

          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.

                        Mr Taster
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                      2. re: LuigiOrtega

                        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

                      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


                      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.

                        2. As a complete Italian deli it is not. It is a shame you didn't order the #7 sandwich, hot pastrami and roast beef in a marinara sauce with cooked peppers and cheese, it is absolutely deilsh, give it one more try just for this sandwich, but agreed it is not a complete italian deli.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: malibumike

                            i agree i like the #7 And the #9 Italian Cold Cut combo, Mortedela, Cappacola, Salami, Ham & turkey. I Agree the Meat balls SUCK! I Like the meatballs at PETRILLOS in San Gabriel, so does my OLD Italian Co-Worker Mr. Grosso. Oh yeah For Condiments, Hot yellow peppers, pepperchinis you need to check the counter on the Side....... My Favorite sandwich is "THE DA SPECIAL" Ask for the Plate, It's Hot Roast Beef, pastrami, meatball, and italian sausage with Sauce & peppers poured on. foe $7.50 it's an Obscene amount of meat.Tuesdays & thursdays have a Pasta or Lasgana Special with either meatball or sausage.. for Good CHEAP Italian i like Folliero's in Highland park

                            1. re: Skunk2Racer

                              We love Folliero's! Here's another vote for Folliero's! But it's not a deli, so don't expect to find cold-cuts there.

                          2. yes on A-1 in Pedro. Lived here 23 years and moved from Bklyn.
                            they have fine itlo cold cuts and nice butcher shop.
                            serve sandwiches--including eggplant parm.
                            used to be better but still good.
                            dunno about the bakery--but there are several in town. could be the one west of the library at about 12th.
                            the locals call the store BULLSHIT, because the previous owner always tried to sell you ore bullshit when you were done ordering.
                            Also, Busy Bee market makes a nice hero. It is on Walker off of west 25th street.
                            Dont be scared off cause it is run by Asians and countered by Mexicans. The sausage is good, and the meatball is best. they do want to put mayo and lettuce on the hot chicken sandwich along with sauce. if you tell them no, they will stop.

                            1. I agree, Busy Bee is good too. I think they are best for hot sandwiches and A-1 for cold.

                              For bakeries in Pedro, off the top of my head, I know of Buscemi's, Portofino, and Europa Bakery. They all make rolls and sandwich bread, but not sure about sweets.

                              Here's a good list to explore on the Italian Los Angeles site: http://www.italianlosangeles.org/inde...

                              I also like the original Giuliano's in Gardena.

                              1. The OP had expectations that East Side definately wouldn't meet. With that said, the thing to get there is the hot roast beef sandwich. I'm more than satisfied with the quality of the roll and the amount of cheese on this sandwich.

                                1. if i'm not mistaken the meatball subs at Eastside Deli are pretty good.

                                  but i can attest to the fact that Al Gelato's meatballs are tremendously good.

                                  1. East Side is a good place for downtown workers for lunch. I always get the pastrami & roast beef. On a side note, anyone remember Dario's in Chinatown? That place made great sandwiches!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kure

                                      OH yes! Man, does that bring back memories. Dario's was the best! And actually, the tuna salad sandwich on a big roll was cheap and good, a high student's delight. Next door on the corner was the deli that sold sandwiches by name, Stottlemeyer's, but I loved Dario's. Too bad, both are long gone.

                                    2. The East Side Deli sells Il Primo marinated peppers. Perhaps, just as sop to the Italian Americans who might come in, have some of those wonderful peppers on the tables, along with the bottles of taco sauce.

                                      1. I think Claro's is pretty good. They have a great deli counter to make sandwiches, and their pre-made subs in the case are the bargain of the century. I always buy the frozen meatballs here and sauce. It is better than I ever made.

                                        I have never had one of their meatball sandwiches, but their meatballs are good and so is their bread, just gotta make sure they put enough cheese on it! Yum I mght have to go try one! I go to the one in Arcadia, it is closest to home, however the one on San Gabriel Blvd is the original and is very good too.


                                        1. I keep expecting to hear about Roma Market on Lake north of the 210 in Pasadena. You all have to go there and buy some cheese from the counterman. He will make you a sangwich if you ask him. No hot food, though. They have great bread, cheese, well priced fruit and vegs, great pasta selction. Really a good little market. And the guys behind the counter are from another era, another world! I love that place. My mom's famliy ran a little italian store in Buffalo, NY before I was born and seeing the guy's at Roma Market makes me think of all my uncles, now old and failing but still loving their food and traditions.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: PlanDan

                                            Roma Market is terrific. Go while you still can. Eventually that cheese fellow's gonna retire and then god knows what'll happen to that place.

                                            1. re: ladelfa

                                              I'm going to third Roma. Such a nice experience. So simple and so much like the Italian neighborhood stores where I grew up in Pennsylvania. His sandwiches are so straightforward and delicious.

                                            2. re: PlanDan

                                              Has anyone tried Pietro's Pizza next-door to Roma Market? Looks like they have basic pizzas and hot/cold sandwiches - I've no idea if they're related to Roma Market, but it would stand to reason that they are.

                                              1. re: ElsieDee

                                                Pietro's sandwiches are very good overall, except that the bread they use has a tough crust, and they slice most of the rolls into three layers. The result of this is that when I bite down the stuff tends to goosh out the sides and front and into my lap. I could ask them not to cut the bread like that, but I keep forgetting when I'm phoning in my order.

                                                Claro's sandwiches are better and cheaper, but they're several miles off in Arcadia and Pietro's is maybe five blocks away from me. If Claro's were closer it'd be no contest. Pietro's pizza, however, though not likely to make anyone weep whilst remembering Naples (or New York), is not bad at all

                                            3. I had a great time at MARIO'S ITALIAN DELI in Glendale. I went to look for Italian wine, but my wife had to drag me away from the sandwiches because it was almost dinnertime. She was talking to an Italian lady who was after a special cut of meat. “My husband…..he’s so picky” this lady explained to the counterman. I thought she might invite us over for this special dinner since the two of them were becoming such fast friends. She gave us the full rundown on all the delis listed in the other posts above, but she was at Mario’s. I found a $9 sangiovese from the Marche region that was absolutely great, a $14 dolcetto from Doglini, IT that we really enjoyed last night and a $24 barbaresco that I think was for cooking (OK but not great). My wife got some cooking wine for which she had been searching . This is a fun store.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: BN1

                                                Mario's is fabulous. Try not to go during peak lunch hour though -- the line at the deli counter is horrendous. Better in the mornings or mid-afternoon. Don't forget the gelato in the freezer case!

                                              2. i had the lasagna with sausage yesterday. i have to agree their meatballs aren't that great. lasagna is alright. i usually get an eggplant parm. it's okay, not good when cold though. i guess i'll have to try their cold sandwiches.

                                                1. This is a crowded post, but I think I only see one mention of Bay Cities in Santa Monica. The Godmother is a fantastic sandwhich. They do something right- a 40 minute wait for a grinder!

                                                  1. Two of my favorite sandwich places close to me in South Pas are Mama's Brick Oven on Fair Oaks (excellent Eggplant Parm - sloppy as all hell, the way it should be) and our own Luigi Ortega's on Colorado across from PCC (The Italian, which has Coppacola, Mortadella, Genoa Salami, Prosciutto and Provolone Cheese. Order the 18" - it's truly a monster). Neither are exactly east coast authentic, but delicious nonetheless in their own way.

                                                    Any other sandwich places I should try on this side of town?

                                                    1. Check out Frumento's on Beverly Blvd. in Montebello, right across the street from the Montebello Hospital. Family owned for 2 generations they have a new location in Torrance. They make amazing sandwiches, offer a good selection of pasta. As far as sub sandwiches go they offer the Sub (6"), the Torpedo (12") and the Destroyer (which I think is 3 ft.), there list of other sandwiches is huge. They also offer a great selection of sides and anti pasta.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: nrique

                                                        Frumento's used to be the best, but Claro's has better prices and a more extensive market. Still I like Frumento's baseball themed eat-in dining room. All those Dodgers relics on the walls. And they do make a decent sandwich.

                                                        1. re: nrique

                                                          Frumento's used to be good until they turned they place over to teenagers and tried to make it into a sportsbar. I used to love the smell of the place, the sandwiches rocked, the bread was perfect, the selection of meats, cheeses and sides was respectable, the grocery area weel stocked. Now it is McDeli with kids that could care less about what they serve and you can seldom find what you need in the store and I can live without the televised sporting events.

                                                        2. A lot of my friends and co-workers love ES, but I just don't get it. I've tried the DA Special, roast beef and pastrami together and separate, the lasagna w/ meatball, the regular pasta and even a cold turkey sandwich. My conclusion was that if I'm going to pay 8 bucks and stand in a big line for lunch, I want a sandwich I don't need to coat in hot sauce to enjoy. All that said, though, the roast beef/pastrami is decent, but I've gone there less and less now that I don't have time to drive to lunch.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: MeAndroo

                                                            You will never have a restaurant that will satisfy everybody, that said John, the owner, must be doing something right, go just after 12 noon on a weekday and as you pointed out you will see a long line of City workers, cops, suits, etc, You are right the #7 roast beef and pastrami with cooked peppers, marinara sauce and cheese is the best.

                                                          2. have heard great things from Chicago Italians about Mario's, I've had Bay Cities many times... worth the wait .. they're great (if you don't want mayo its not mandatory). If you're in the West Valley, try Cavaretta's on Sherman Way W. of Topanga CYN. Its got the vibe - homemade canolis, lasagna (giant trays or single servings) 2 small tables in the corner and 2 outside.. mostly a to-go place...bread is soft, but overall great sandwich and bang for buck, catered a birthday party from there for my kid... the adults stayed and ate.

                                                            1. I got to this link because a friend told me about a Italian deli in Granada Hills. Italia Bakery & deli on Balboa Blvd. The problem is I live in Ventura. I too relocated here from the east coast, Buffalo. Anyone know any GOOD italian places closer to Ventura? At Easter I order stuff from buffalofoods.com, however you have to pay through the nose for shipping. Ugh! thanks

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: NoseGoodFood

                                                                check out jersey mikes see website for address. good stuuff fresh cut meat its a chain but real east coast started in pt pleasent nj years ago

                                                              2. I tried ESM for the first time last week after reading about it on CH. I had the Italian coldcut sub and it was good. It doesn't hold a candle to the Godmother at Bay Cities, but it was a quality assembly of ingredients. If Bay cities was as close to me as ESM is, I would be the size of a blimp. God I miss that sandwich. So while I cannot speak for the meatballs, the Italian cold sandwich was quite good.

                                                                LOL re: the Al Gelato, circus-sized meatballs. When I say they are somewhere between a softball and a shotput, I am not even kidding... ©

                                                                1. If you like good Italian food, Angalinos Italian Restraunt in Alhambra, On Valley Blvd 10 Fwy Exit. Fremont.. Great Pizza,!!! Darios in Chinatown I think is Long Gone,, It was One of the Best... and Little Joes Down the Street on N Broadway was Great. To bad these Places had to Close.. Back in the Day N. Broadway was all Italian, Le Blancs, was another good place.. Patrillos in San Gabriel is also good, also Clairos in San Gabriel is a Great Deli, Located also on Valley Blvd enjoy... Im one of the Few Original Los Angeles ,Angalinos left

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: monku

                                                                    where is a good veal parm sandwich or better yet sub

                                                                    1. re: Ucla Guys

                                                                      I see that there is an Angelo's at 1540 W Valley Rd in Alhambra and that Sporq has a menu for it - which you can see here: http://www.sporq.com/alhambra/angelos...

                                                                      Is that the same one you are talking about? Thanks for posting about this place. Didn't know about it.

                                                                      Angelo's Italian Restaurant
                                                                      1540 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

                                                                    2. Yes, Yes, Yes - I rarely get close to Downtown LA any more but I was there 2 days ago and ordered 4 #7's at 1:30 pm the line was long with city employees and cops, they generally know the best places. My wife hates sandwiches but loved these, they are hands down the best sandwiches in Los Angeles period!!!