roma market

Discovering Italian Markets in California

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ITALIAN FOOD, I really love Italian food because who doesn’t but also because I am half Italian.

My fiance’ brought me back from Italy after having lived in Italy for over 16 years. I wanted to share with him what real Italian home cooking was all about so I begun cooking a variety of dishes for us. He had tasted it when he came over to Italy, so he definitely could tell the difference between what he had in Italy and the dishes here in the United States. I believe though it was through actually tasting homemade dishes compared to those in restaurants that you really note the differences. Don’t get me wrong, the Italian restaurants in America cook a nice rendition of what we want from Italian food but it just isn’t authentic Italian.

My biggest dilemma returning back home from Italy was adjusting my palate. I feel that Italian Americans have adapted their dishes to suit and pair with the typical flavors that Americans expect. The adaptation to the dishes doesn’t mean it isn’t Italian but I would venture to say that the dishes are Italian Fusion. I know that sounds funny but in Italy, there is a normal ideology that certain dishes MUST be cooked and prepared in a certain way.

Side bar: An Italian will tell you that the cooking and tastes are very different from region to region not only due to the culture, outside influences, geography and availability of food but also because the cow in Florence eats florentine grass and drinks florentine water so how can you have a Florentine steak from a cow raised in Colorado? The terroir changes the taste of the food and therefore cannot be 100% replicated.

In trying to find the closest thing to Italian so I could cook as authentically as possible we searched for some Italian markets over in LA and Orange County–the latter being the closest to us. Most of the markets or delis were quite far and very small so we opted for Claro’s Italian Markets which has 6 locations predominately in LA county and 1 in Orange County. I remember my father taking me here when I was very young to pick up olive oil and cheese. He loved that place. It made him feel more Italian. Fun fact: I later found out from my mom that one of my cousins married the owner therefore I am technically linked to Claro’s (although I have no clue to who and if there are any ties still). Does that mean I get discounted food? I WISH!!!

Claro’s is actually a very nice small Italian market and Deli. It offers an array of meats, cheeses,  tomato sauces, oils, breads and various other products that are typical to Italian cuisine. It could possibly be our number one pick in terms of proximity and variety.

Roma market with Rosario from Sicily is another one of our favorite Italian markets located in the heart of Pasadena. The market has probably the best selection so far of Italian food and Rosario makes some of the best sandwiches ever. He also has the best deals and always hooks us up with some yummy pecorino cheese and pancetta for a great deal. You can’t go wrong with this one. We’d rate this our top if it was located closer to our home.

Cortina’s Italian Market in Anaheim is another great find and has a pretty good variety of food. The big difference is the style which seems more modern than that classic mom and pops store where there is less organization of product placement.  The meat and cheese selection is good. They have two locations in Orange County: one is a restaurant and the other an Italian market.

Foggia’s in Lakewood. On our list to visit so I hope to be able to provide a review soon.

The only beef with the Italian markets are that they are few and far between and they don’t always offer meats and cheeses imported from Italy but made in the U.S. or Canada. They still make me feel  like I am back in Italy and my dishes come out much better when I use authentic products. In fact, my fiancé says I’ve ruined him for Italian restaurants in the U.S.. I’ll take that compliment any day.

Look for my recipe book and recipes coming up.

Claro’s Italian Market
Roma Market
Cortina’s Italian Market

Foggia Deli