If you grew up in an Italian household, then you knew what guanciale, capicola, mortadella with pistachio and bresaola were and probably ate them on a regular basis. Slices of flavorful meat between two crispy pieces of doughy bread, lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of olive oil brought your mid-day meal to a whole new level. But lunch-meat treasures like these couldn’t be found at a chain supermarket deli counter; you had to go to your local butcher or an Italian deli to get them. These days, butchers are hard to come by, but Italian delis are still going strong. Whether you’re looking for Italian lunch meat, hard-to-find wine, cheese or pasta, these five Italian delis are your one-stop shops for all your Italian needs.
Mario's Italian Deli
Voted Glendale’s best for five years, Mario’s Italian Deli & Market has been serving the community for more than 45 years. The shelves are lined with national and international brands of pasta, olive oil, coffee and vintage wine. The full-service deli offers a wide selection of Italian meats like soppressata, coppa secca, capicola and of course salami, Italian sausage and prosciutto. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a true Italian sandwich. The mortadella with cheese on crispy, crusted doughy bread with just the right amount of mustard and mayo is an Italian delight. Mario’s also has homemade lasagna manicotti, ravioli and jumbo stuffed shells for those of you who want the flavors of Italian home cooking without doing the work. The authentic Italian cookies and desserts like cannoli, spumoni and gelato round out the experience perfectly.
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Monte Carlo Deli & Pinocchio's Restaurant
The only thing likely to grow at Monte Carlo Deli & Pinocchio’s Restaurant is your waistline. The quaint Italian restaurant with the attached deli is a great spot for many reasons: the hard-to-find Italian products, the meatball parmesan sandwich, San Marzano tomatoes, focaccia, risotto and much more. However, it’s the selection of cheeses that’s really impressive. Italian staples like provolone and mozzarella and favorites like pecorino romano, reggiano parmigiano, sardo and locatelli will elevate any sandwich. Monte’s also carries cheeses from Spain, France and other places around the world. Sliced thick or paper thin, Monte Carlo Deli & Pinocchio’s Restaurant is where to go.
Rocco's Italian Market
There are some people who like the atmosphere of Italian delis but not necessarily all the types of Italian meat. Prosciutto tends to be an acquired taste and most people are firmly divided over that Italian anomaly called olive loaf. If you’re one of those people who like your sandwich on the American side with just a little Italian flair, then the il manzo at Rocco’s Italian Market and Deli is perfect for you. Tender roast beef with perfectly-sliced gorgonzola, a smear of horseradish mayo and red-onion marmelada is just the right mix of cultures for anyone. Eat it there or get it to go, either way your mouth will be happy you did.
When most people think of Italian delis, or any deli for that matter, thoughts tend to gravitate toward lunch. But at Little Dom’s, breakfast is definitely the way to go. Ricotta cheese and fresh blueberry pancakes with maple syrup; pizza with sunny-side-up eggs, speck, mozzarella and tomato sauce; housemade Italian sausage, roasted peppers and fontina cheese frittata; and smoked salmon pizza with crescenza cheese, capers and red onion on whole-wheat flatbread are only a few of the tempting breakfast items. Fortunately, Little Dom’s serves breakfast until 3 p.m. so you can have breakfast for lunch. You can order your food to go, but the cozy, old-school dining area will be hard to resist.
For whatever reason, New Jersey is the butt of many jokes. Perhaps it’s the way the way people there talk, how they dress, their obsession with being tan (or in some cases orange) or the misconception that the entire state smells like the armpit of an industrial chemical plant. And while shows like “The Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” are guilty pleasures, there’s one Jersey trend Californians happily embrace: the Jersey sub. Olive It makes authentic, Jersey-style Italian subs with piles of meat like capicola, ham, salami, prosciutto, turkey and roast beef with provolone on a sub roll with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, oregano, salt and pepper and oil and vinegar. Some places come close, but Olive It got it just right. With subs this good, you might find yourself thinking Jersey’s alright, although you’ll never admit it.
Kristine G. Bottone is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.