Wed, Nov 30 -0001 12:00 AM Posted By: Franco Te
Sorrento Italian Market
5518 Sepulveda Boulevard
When I was little, one of the days I looked the most forward to (and that’s an understatement) was my family’s annual visit to Uncle Aaron’s in Penn’s Neck, N.J, a suburb of Trenton. As much as I loved my uncle, that’s not the reason I anticipated it with bated breath; it’s because he owned the town’s general store and market and we could just walk around the whole place and eat anything we wanted! He sliced ham and cheese for fresh sandwiches and there was always something chocolate. I felt like a Willy Wonka kid. (The good one, of course.)
Well, I recently paid a visit to the eclectic Sorrento Italian Market, a Culver City institution for the last 46 years, that evoked memories of Uncle Aaron’s place. Only Albert Vera, the warm and amiable proprietor, appears to be everyone’s uncle! (He’s the former Mayor, too.) He helped me peruse the goods for about an hour, and rarely a minute passed between greetings from the other shoppers, who stopped by to introduce Albert to a family member, thank him for one of his many charitable endeavors, or just exchange pleasantries.
This is one of those specialty markets that serves sandwiches and other prepared foods, in addition to selling every category of edible known to man. (I understand from others that this is the go-to place for Italian recipe ingredients in all of Los Angeles.) Diners can sit at the outdoor table in the back, but as I was there on one of those heat wave days, I opted for “to-go,” and reviewed at home in air-conditioning.
I chose a variety of foods, and we all loved everything! Quite a rare experience. Mr. X raved about the eggplant parmigiana, declaring it the best he’s ever had. High praise from an Italian boy. (He loved the lasagna, as w e l l . ) My first plate consisted of veal parmigiana, cauliflower that looked like broccoli, pasta salad, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. Okay – little meatballs and sausage pieces, too. I can’t tell you how enthralled with it all I was. To me, that’s the romantic way to eat – sortof healthful picnic food. I almost couldn’t stop to move on to other items, like the fabulous Italian sub sandwiches.
By now, you must know that I eat meals just to get to the desserts, and I was richly rewarded. The chocolate cake that Albert recommended was lauded by my whole group, even though I hated sharing even one bite. And the vote was split between the chocolate-covered mini-cannolis and the plain ones. All delectable. We also enjoyed the sfogliatella, an Italian custardfilled pastry I can’t pronounce, but could certainly consume!
If you want a sweet treat, but not of the caloric persuasion, just pick up a 3- pound bag of fresh fruit from Albert’s farm…for only $1! There’s no going wrong here. While you’re waiting for your order to be filled, make sure you check-out the wine shelves. Quite the assortment there. Most are from Italy (of course!), but I noticed an interesting Greek or German here and there. And there’s a locked wine “cellar” in the middle (how they pull this off in a small space is so interesting), which features the more pricey selections. Perfect for your romantic picnic. Salute!
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