Monday, January 31, 2011

Claro's Italian Market

It was a hot January Saturday, one of those Southern California days when everyone seems to be outside, driving on the streets, playing ball in the parks, eating at every restaurant with an outdoor patio in the San Gabriel Valley. We had gone by the mall to buy a gift and it was as empty as I remember it ever being on a weekend day. We were hungry and I suggested driving down Rosemead Blvd, eating somewhere we'd never been. I was thinking of something Asian but if we ended up driving all the way to Long Beach I would have been okay with that.

Traffic was pretty heavy so I aborted that idea in San Gabriel and turned down Valley - still thinking of something Asian or perhaps some fried seafood - when we passed Claro's Italian Market. "I could go for a sandwich," I said. There is a Claro's in Arcadia and I know I've been there, but I have no memory of it. It may have been when I was a kid twenty years ago.

It wasn't too crowded inside, there were only three people in line ahead of us, but they were ordering a lot. It took almost twenty minutes to place an order. I overheard two people say they were from out of town and loading up on meats and cheeses for the drive home. The other lady was one of those high-maintenance types, seemingly having a problem and multiple questions with every cut of meat the counterman provided her. (Did you see The Wrestler? Remember the lady who kept saying to Mickey Rourke "A little more... no, a little less.... a little more now." That was this lady. Of course she had to get about twenty different packages of food.)

Finally it was my turn. I ordered a turkey and garlic salami sandwich with Provolone and everything but tomatoes: lettuce, mustard, mayo, pickles, pepperoncini and Italian dressing. Elizabeth ordered a prosciutto sandwich with mozzarella, lettuce, and balsamic vinegar. The sandwiches took a little under ten minutes to make, we paid for them (and a jar of spicy marinara sauce from Angelo's of Mulberry Street, which made my Little Italy-loving Elizabeth extremely happy) and sat outside at one of the small tables across from the parking lot.

My sandwich was fantastic. I don't know how I could possibly choose my favorite sandwich of all time - how I could I ignore pulled pork, or lobster club, or pastrami, or perfectly crispy bacon? - but if I was forced to, I believe turkey and salami would take the top spot. If I had this sandwich to order again, I probably would opt not to get the Italian dressing (the combo of that with the mayo/mustard was unnecessary) but I loved it. I could have eaten the whole thing but I knew I would appreciate having half of it to eat later. Which I did.

Elizabeth's sandwich, of which she was nice enough to give me a bite, was also delicious. The prosciutto was very high quality and the tang of the balsamic vinegar was a wonderful complement. She misses the ability to get a great sandwich on almost every block in New York, so she is very appreciate when she finds a sandwich she loves around here, and she loved this one, which she washed down with a Stewart's soda.

It was a lot of fun visiting Claro's. I've been in many old Italian markets in my life, but not many in the San Gabriel Valley. Later in the week I'm sure we will use the spicy marinara sauce for something. I will take pictures.


SuperLarge said...

I think I was behind that woman in line at Jones Coffee on Sunday morning.

Liz said...

The sandwiches were delicious! The place was cute and had lots of good things, but there was distinct lack of rainbow cookies-which any Italian market/deli should have. Where in LA can I find them?

Anonymous said...

i love italian markets that make sandwiches. there's a place in glendale, CA (i forget the name) that makes corned beef sandwiches that are off the hizzle.

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

there is nothing better than a truly well made italian sub. next time you both come back east, i have a few places for you to hit up!