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Back from New Jersey with some out-of-place cravings...

Epicure Aug 25, 2007 12:41 PM

As a proud Jersey girl who just got back from a long, delectable stay there (with a suitcase loaded with bagels), I'm wondering if a couple things I'm already craving again are available anywhere here, more than just decently replicated. I've lived in L.A. for nine years, and while I accept and adore L.A.'s various chow strengths, I'm still hoping to find the following:

1. A sandwich known in North/Central NJ as a sloppy joe (not to be confused with the "Manwich" variety, which I grew up totally mystified by): meat, such as roast beef, cole slaw, and russian dressing on rye bread. (Langers could do this probably, right? I've just never had roast beef there.) Or any good sandwiches with russian dressing, which are so common at NJ delis.

2. A red-sauce Italian place with really, really delicious food, not expensive at all. I suddenly find myself dying for stuffed shells! I've tried different places over the years (such as Palermo and Anna's) that just didn't cut it for me.

I'm on the Westside, so greater L.A. area would be ideal; I can't imagine driving more than an hour for these types of things, though maybe I would if I got desperate.

If there are any ex-NJ hounds who have some ideas to share, I'd be more than grateful. Most of the time I graciously acknowledge that not being in NJ means not getting NJ specialties, but I still hold out hope...

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  1. d
    Diana RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 01:30 PM

    You could try Barone's for the Italian. Very Red-Sauce Italian!


    1. l
      LuigiOrtega RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 01:33 PM

      Jerry's Deli has it (cole slaw and russian on rye) under Sky highs. Growing up in Philly that was my favorite Deli treat, we called them Specials (i.e. Roast beef special). Every deli out here will give you a side of slaw and russian or Thousand Island (russian with relish) I've done it at Brents. I know what your talking about with the red sauce, just was in Philly, went to the most famous middle of the Italian neighborhood place Villa Roma. Haven't found that style out here, good luck.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LuigiOrtega
        Epicure RE: LuigiOrtega Aug 25, 2007 01:51 PM

        Yes, Philly has a lot of the same great stuff!

        I haven't been to Jerry's Deli since I first moved here, thought it mediocre back then. How's the quality of their ingredients for the Sloppy Joe/Special? As you know, that makes a tremendous difference!

        1. re: Epicure
          LuigiOrtega RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 02:01 PM

          Owning a restaurant I don't like to put down others. Use the search engine and your judgement about Jerry's. Usually most of the Delis out here will make the sandwich that way. I just prefer to order coleslaw and russian dressing on the side and make it the way "I" like it since it's something they just don't do everyday.

          1. re: Epicure
            Emme RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 06:02 PM

            i ONLY go to jerry's for egg white omelettes, but my uncle likes their meats, and apparently, the way to get the best meats/experience is to order everything ultra lean.

            Concur with Brent's.

            You might also try Nate'n'Al's.

            Second the below rec for Alejo's. Also try:

            Vito's in Santa Monica for good classic red sauce
            Bruno's on Ocean
            Carmine's II

        2. m
          maxreax RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 05:19 PM


          ive never posted before, so i hope this is helpful (im from nj, born and raised, i just go to college out here)--i live in eagle rock, and as far as im concerned we've got the only sandwich place in LA county that rivals anything on the east coast: dave's chillin-n-grillin. sloppy joes aren't on the daily menu (tho im pretty sure ive seen them as the "special" in the past), but dave (a boston dude) is just about the nicest guy in the world and if you went in and talked to him (and mentioned that you were from back east--just dont tell him if youre a yankee fan; hes the guy in the sox cap) im sure he could whip something pretty good up for you. if nothing else he will understand your cravings!

          as for "red-sauce italian," we also have casabianca here in ER, which is beloved by everyone ive talked to but i think of as pretty overrated. but in all likelihood im just spoiled! its definitely reminiscent of any number of checkered-tablecloth-type places back home, even if the food is only slightly above the NJ average.

          i know eagle rock is far east but dave's, and maybe casabianca, is certainly worth a trip out here!

          2 Replies
          1. re: maxreax
            Akitist RE: maxreax Aug 25, 2007 05:41 PM

            Mmmm, far east? East of what? Almost due north of Civic Center. A bit west of that, actually.

            With all the displaced East Coasters here, I'd think someone would open a place to cater to their tastes, like any other ethnic group. You know, Thai, Peruvian, Yucateco, Argentine/Brazilian parillada, Carribean, several kinds of Chinese, Carolina BBQ, Jersey, Philly. If there's customer support how hard could it be?

            1. re: maxreax
              Epicure RE: maxreax Aug 26, 2007 09:36 AM

              Thanks for the information about Dave's. Does he have russian dressing? I mean, that's a major component in making the sandwich so distinctive.
              I agree with you about Casa Bianca being overrated. I thought it was okay but not really worth driving across town for. Like many such places, it would not make it in NJ.

            2. w
              woofer RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 05:46 PM

              jersey girl here too. been here 11 years. but i too crave these things. haven't found them yet. infact, i argue with my l.a. native husband often about what a sloppy joe is. i crave them from eppes essen in livingston, nj. not gonna happen out here.

              but or the red sauce and stuffed shells maybe try san genero cafe in brentwood or alejo's on lincoln.

              5 Replies
              1. re: woofer
                westsidegal RE: woofer Aug 26, 2007 07:22 PM

                imho, the red sauce at alejos is on the poor side of mediocre.
                (i'm a transplanted new york girl)

                1. re: westsidegal
                  Epicure RE: westsidegal Aug 26, 2007 07:35 PM

                  So what do you do if the craving strikes? Even though I just returned two days ago, perhaps *because* I just returned two days ago, it's hit me hard. I've given up on bagels and pizza, but I just can't believe there can't be great stuffed shells, manicotti, eggplant parm and the like somewhere out here!

                  1. re: Epicure
                    Densible RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 07:50 PM

                    Do not give up. Try Hoboken on Westwood between Olympic and Pico. The best eggplant parm for my money. It is actually baked, not just a deep fried chunck of undercooked eggplant witha dollop of sauce and melted cheese...(yuch!). See below for posts regarding this place. I agree that Alejo's is probably not what you are looking for. And try Vito's for pizza. I live in So. Bay and drive to Westside for both Vito's and Hoboken.

                    1. re: Epicure
                      Das Ubergeek RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 08:29 PM

                      Try Bagel Nosh on 16th and Wilshire in Santa Monica for bagels -- he's from my hometown (Woodbridge, NJ) and in fact had his first store in Woodbridge Center.

                      Also, if you're ever in OC, go to Marri's on Chapman and West in Garden Grove -- stick with the red-sauce stuff (because, let's face it, Mexican "managawtt" is a brain aberration waiting to happen) and you'll be a very happy camper.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                        Das Ubergeek RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 19, 2007 09:19 PM

                        Stupid idiot, me. It's Carolina's I'm thinking of, though Marri's (at Katella and West) is also tasty.

                2. Das Ubergeek RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 06:37 PM

                  Billy's Deli in Glendale will make you the sloppy joe if you tell them exactly what you want, it's not part of their regular rotation. The "Manwich" thing was what my family called "chili sandwiches" (I grew up in Middlesex County).

                  The red-sauce Italian place you're looking for, though -- these are both Valley recommendations, sorry -- can be got at Pinocchio's / Monte Carlo Deli, on Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank. It's a steam-table type place, you walk past, give your order. More red-sauce than this it does not get. That said, if you want something a BIT nicer (but still dirt cheap and casual), go to Reno's on the corner of Ventura and Tujunga in Studio City, in the strip mall with Fat Jack's and the drag queen clothing store.

                  Oh, and while I'm at it, eventually the need for pork roll will strike you and you can get it at one of the butchers (I forget which) in the permanent farmers' market at 3rd and Fairfax; Italian ice (or, if you're from South Jersey, "wooder ice") and gelati can be got from DiDio's on Montana & Euclid in Santa Monica or Joe's on Harbor south of Chapman in Garden Grove; disco fries are available as a special order at Mel's Drive In (yes, I said it) but you have to tell them what you want; pizza is good from a NJ standpoint at Reno's and Albano's but the king of NJ pizza is Vito, of Vito's Restaurant on La Cienega in WeHo -- he's from Elizabeth and the pizza is just @$#$ing perfect.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                    handlertaper RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 25, 2007 06:57 PM

                    How about "A Taste of Hoboken" on Westwood Blvd.? It is open for lunch and dinner and is fairly reasonably priced. They have a sandwich called a "Sloppy Giuseppe" by the way. And next door is Matteo's, which is owned by the same people. Has been around since 1963 and is an expensive dinner place with lots of red sauces!!! The man who owned it was from, you guessed it, Hoboken! Check out Matteo's web site for more information re menu and history.

                    Alejo's is a Southern Italian place that is very reasonable. Definitely decent!!!

                    1. re: handlertaper
                      Hunter RE: handlertaper Aug 26, 2007 12:59 PM

                      They've redecorated Taste of Hoboken recently and the food seems improved. Very NJ.

                      1. re: Hunter
                        Densible RE: Hunter Aug 26, 2007 06:28 PM

                        I have been going there for ever. In the old days, during lunch the back table would be taken by a revolving cast of characters ala Sopranos and I would see people like Connie Francis and Frankie Valli, etc. Frank used to go to Matteos. The owner Matty was a very sweet guy. I think the family sold it a few years ago and some things have changed in addition to the decor. I love the eggplant parm and the calzone. The also make a mean baked rigatoni with lots of cheese and meatballs. These disshes are still great. The pasta fagiole was really good but I have not had it in a while. I think they close at 8PM weekdays. Is that still the case?

                  2. Jennalynn RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 06:41 PM

                    For red sauce Italian try Frankies on Melrose. He's Tri State Area.

                    1. b
                      Biffles RE: Epicure Aug 25, 2007 09:48 PM

                      Huntington Meats on the east side of the Farmers' Market has pork roll...the unsliced kind...in two sizes. There's also a butcher shop further west in the Market that has it. Occasionally I find I have to get it (I also sometimes bring it back in my suitcase -- I figure it is so full of chemicals that it can go for several hours w/o refrigeration!)

                      Barone's did kind of remind me of NJ in terms of dark red vinyl booth decor. Food is OK.

                      1. Epicure RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 09:43 AM

                        It's great to see so many people from NJ here! I will have to check out some of the places I'm not familiar with. As a matter of fact, I go to Alejo's quite often, but as much as I enjoy going there, I'm not sure I'd drive across town for it.
                        Of all these places mentioned, then, I'm still wondering if any of them are really, really good. As you all know, NJ has amazing local places that really only the locals go to (like Espo's and Enrico's near Bridgewater, where I'm from) and then the legendary local places locals go to AND lots of people from all over (like Spiritos in Elizabeth). So the question I still have is this: are any of these places worth 30, 45, 60 minutes in the car?

                        1. tatertotsrock RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 09:55 AM

                          Hello Epicure,
                          Though I am not from the East Coast, I've taken a couple of my East Coast friends to Greenblatts (on Sunset/Laurel) Deli for a sandwich with Russian Dressing...I had no idea that it's a pretty much EC thing-anyway, they loved it and I think the fact that you can get a great glas/bottle of wine makes it even better. I LOVE Russian Dressing and Horseraddish on my sandwiches-YUM. The #3 w/xtra Russian dressing and a side of horsradish-I'm hungry now.
                          Hey MAXREAX, thanks for the heads up on Dave's chillin and grilling I've heard about it a few times too, now I can't wait to go try their sloppy joe...sine you're over there, check out YORK for a great burger and beer...it's become my new guilty pleasure.

                          1. DiveFan RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 07:35 PM

                            There's a little hole-in-the-wall across from the Farmer's Market called Andre's. It's been around for a long time and used to have a location in Westchester. IIRC both steam table and a la carte red sauce Italian. Here's an old post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/73969

                            Andre's Restaurant
                            6332 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                            1. c
                              chowchi1 RE: Epicure Aug 26, 2007 10:32 PM

                              Nardone's in Valnencia maybe al ittle further out but this deli/restaurant is run by an Italian famly from New Jersey and had a great review on ABC Ch7 as well.

                              Nardone's Gourmet Italian Deli Restaurant 661-286-1011
                              23367 Lyons Ave., Valencia
                              (located on Lyons Ave. at Old Orchard)

                              1. m
                                miffy RE: Epicure Sep 19, 2007 08:42 PM

                                #90. Sloppy joe Sandwich a combination of hamburger (beef) chopped onions, red & greens bell peppers and seasoned sauce, served open face on abun with grated cheese 8.65
                                nick's coffee shop on pico

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: miffy
                                  Das Ubergeek RE: miffy Sep 19, 2007 09:21 PM

                                  A kind suggestion, miffy, but you're thinking of a chili sandwich (sometimes called a wimpie). The New Jersey incarnation of a Sloppy Joe is deli meat (roast beef, turkey, ham, etc.) with coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye.

                                  Russian dressing, by the way, is Thousand Island minus the chunkies in New Jersey -- not like in Minnesota where I was given this sickly, sticky red sauce as salad dressing - ugh!

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                    miffy RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 19, 2007 09:44 PM

                                    Wow, never had that kind before and I lived in Boston for 6 years!

                                    1. re: miffy
                                      Das Ubergeek RE: miffy Sep 20, 2007 02:26 PM

                                      It's a really local thing -- only parts of North and Central Jersey.

                                2. l
                                  LisaStitch RE: Epicure Sep 20, 2007 03:47 PM

                                  Another Jersey girl here - would like to add to the list of red sauce places Peppone in Brentwood - expensive but worth it. Not sure if they have stuffed shells, but they say they will make anything you want.

                                  1. J.L. RE: Epicure Sep 21, 2007 12:39 AM

                                    Guido's. The name says it all. Red sauce central.

                                    11980 Santa Monica Blvd.
                                    LA, CA 90025

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: J.L.
                                      Epicure RE: J.L. Sep 21, 2007 07:26 AM

                                      Maybe I ordered the wrong thing--Caesar salad and some totally unmemorable pasta dish--but I was not impressed by anything at Guido's except the decor, which had a certain dated charm. I also found it overpriced for what it was. I'm really looking for better food than that. Not all red sauce restaurants are created equal.

                                    2. southernitalian RE: Epicure Sep 21, 2007 07:40 AM

                                      Ep - I grew up in Bergen County and feel your pain. But my inability to find good Jersey chow down South was what made me start cooking. What could be easier than Russian dressing. If you can find a place to get all of the ingredients, you can make those things (except bagels and bread, which are obviously no insginificant loss).

                                      1. b
                                        bern1 RE: Epicure Sep 21, 2007 12:45 PM

                                        Hi Epicure,

                                        Union County here. Two places you could try... red sauce Italian: "Vito" on Ocean Park around 30th street in Santa Monica. If you get on their mailing list then you'll become a VIP and receive 30% of your entire bill including wine.

                                        For sandwiches and stuff, Bay Cities Deli on Broadway in Lincoln in Santa Monica has the best bread (and sandwiches) around. They are a special italian deli full of many high end products (cheeses and olive oils, etc.) There's usually a wait to have your sandwich order filled though.

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