Old School Italian In Burbank

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We can’t seem to get enough of the old classic restaurants. They remind us of a simpler time, firmly rooted in great food, exceptional value, local community and service with a smile. Pinocchio Restaurant in Burbank has been a neighborhood institution since the 60’s. The restaurant is only half the story. The expansive corner establishment also houses the Monte Carlo Deli, which has been providing in house, locally sourced and imported Italian delicacies to an appreciative customer base for over 40 years.

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The restaurant is set up cafeteria style and we hopped in line to view both the menu on the wall, as well as the steam trays overflowing with freshly prepared, enticing dishes.

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Standing in line we also found sides and salads to accompany entrees, pizza and sandwiches.

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We are huge fans of eggplant parmesan and couldn’t resist an order. The hefty slice comes submerged in their garlic heavy marinara which we chose over the meat sauce. The rich and satisfying layers are enhanced by the soul of tomato, herbs and spices blooming in a sauce cooked down to its thick, chunky essence, that can only be achieved by hours bubbling away on the stovetop.

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Prices on entrees, pizza and salad all fall into the exceptionally reasonable category and dishes share easily.

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The homemade Italian sausage is a fennel punctuated, Italian herb and spice heavy blend that is bliss in a casing. We chose ours with grilled onions and peppers, over pasta topped with their house meat sauce.

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Don’t forget to check the specials board at the beginning of the chow line to see if any additional options call.

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Three vintage dining rooms are warm and comfortable, providing plenty of seating in various configurations, accommodating everything from a dinner for two to a family affair.

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Either before or after your meal a visit to the attached Monte Carlo deli is a must.

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Well organized rows of almost everything one could need or want for an Italian feast are displayed.

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Refrigerated cases overflow with an abundance of pepperoni and salami.

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Dried pasta in shapes that grab on to rich sauces and a profusion of olive oil fill the back of the shop.

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We tried some of the imported chocolate and appreciate the flavors and texture of Kinder brand.

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Behind the deli counter, loaves of freshly baked breads are the precise tools for sopping up the sauces or making garlic bread.

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While the counter itself displays a wide variety of deli meats and sausages for those wanting to fill their homes with the smells and flavors of Italy.

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Surprises line every shelf and counter, so give yourself enough time to search for delicious indulgences.

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And of course no Italian meal is complete without a nice bottle of wine and Monte Carlo has a well laid out selection to chose from.

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For a homestyle taste of Southern Italy, inside a space that feels welcoming and hospitable, Pinocchio and Monte Carlo warm the heart and the soul in a way only Italian cuisine can.

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Monte Carlo Deli & Pinocchio’s Restaurant, 3103 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505
Phone – 818-845-3516          web site – montecarlodeli.com

Vietnamese Market Opens In The San Gabriel Valley

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Hoa Binh Vietnamese Supermarket, located in Garden Grove, opened a new branch in Rosemead late 2014, bringing a new voice to the Asian markets in the San Gabriel Valley.

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Hard to find items such as sugarcane, fresh rambutan and mangosteen are conveniently available in season.

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Soy bean products, from fresh soy milk to tofu, are on display near the back of the vegetable aisles.

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We were extremely impressed with the fresh and live seafood department which currently carries live tilapia at $4.99 a pound and live catfish at $4.70 a pound.

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Free deep fry service is available and includes cleaning, removal of head and tail, cutting into steaks, if desired, and frying, either regular or extra crispy.

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Fresh seafood on ice shines with bright eyes and shimmery scales.

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The seafood staff spends most of their time preparing fish for customers.

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A pristine meat department is well organized and offers cuts at exceptionally reasonable prices.

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Everything needed for Vietnamese cooking is on hand, from rice paper wrappers to utensils especially designed to make Asian cooking a snap.

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We found lobster and crab crackers and picks, an item that is surprisingly missing from most markets.

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A sale area at the far end of the store offers Vietnamese and other Asian imports at a significant discount, making Hoa Binh one of our new favorite markets.

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Hoa Binh Super Market, 2750 North San Gabriel Boulevard, Rosemead, CA 91770

Imports, Selection And Live Seafood Abound In Asian Markets

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Asian Markets are a joy to shop. We find so many exciting items that pique our curiosity and encourage us to dive right in. Shun Fat Market in Monterey Park is a prime example of what we love best about foreign supermarkets.

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First and foremost the seafood section has a fantastic selection of live, fresh and frozen fish.

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Clean tanks display live fish and shellfish, including oysters and clams.

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Prices are very reasonable on a wide variety of seafood.

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We love the expansion of unusual offerings, including frozen durian, the king of fruit.

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A butchers counter offers meat at minuscule prices.

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While coffee and tea lovers have long aisles full of options, sometimes with coffee, milk and tea all in the same package.

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And what is a great coffee or tea break without an extensive selection of exotic cookies to serve alongside.

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We can always find our birds nest drink, a health supplement according to ancient Chinese medicine.

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And tons of noodles,

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to complete any cuisine or recipe.

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The produce section offers choices we simply cannot find in traditional markets, including cases of sweet young coconut at $9.99 for a case of 9.

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Rice bagged for serious consumption is the standard.

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Small shops offering jewelry, sweets, snacks, clothes, sunglasses and household goods make a final attempt to fulfill customers needs as they make their way to the parking lot.

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We appreciate Asian markets for carrying everything we need and want. They also extend what is accessible to us to include imported Asian goods that expand our palate, kitchen ware and view of our small planet in exciting and interactive ways.

Shun Fat Supermarket, 421 North Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone – 626-308-3998          web site – shunfatsupermarket.com

 

Overflowing Italian Market

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Claro’s Italian Market has been serving Southern California for almost 68 years. Joe Claro, started the business with his wife Mary. He soon became partners with his son Frank and wife Geraldine. In 1958 Joe retired and his son took over the business. Today, the tradition continues with their two daughters, Rosemarie and Mary Linda, along with their husbands, Bob and George running the stores.

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They have grown to six retail outlets and import many items from Italy. The vast array of products provide everything needed to prepare Italian meals, with a little Greek, French and Argentine thrown in for good measure.

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Be sure to allow ample time to wander and peruse the shelves piled high with delicious ingredients.

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The deli case is a wonder to behold and the place to order slices of cured meats, cheese and their famous sandwiches.

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A long list suggests some of their best meat and cheese combinations or guests can custom order sandwiches that bring them the greatest joy.

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We went with the two most popular sandwiches. We had to try their beloved  Grandpa Joe, which unifies lettuce, tomatoes, pepperoncini, mortadella, capacollo, dry salami and provolone. We were also attracted to the Spicy Mike, a soft roll topped with capocollo, casalingo salame, hot calabrese salame, hot pepper cheese, sliced pepperoncini & oil dressing. Both subs are very meaty and satisfying with a small being more than sufficient at $5.99, or for big eaters they have a large for $6.99, which looks to be almost twice the size.

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In house whipped up deli salads, marinated vegetables and olives take up a portion of the deli case.

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While the far end houses a hot food bar, all well within reach price-wise.

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Strategically placed counters on the way out, house pastries and desserts cases.

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We couldn’t resist the dense, almond rich wedding cookies.

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We asked about cannoli and they were happy to fill a shell for us with the freshest ricotta, studded with chocolate chips and candied fruit. The cannoli are creamy, thick, dense, mildly sweet, cheese filled crisp shells that should not be missed.

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For old school, ready made Italian delicacies along with an impressive selection of imported and locally sourced Italian goods, Claro’s is an amazing go to and to go resource.

Claro’s Italian Market, 1003 East Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA 91776     Phone – 626-288-2026 web site – claros.com

Inspired Indian Goods Emporium And Restaurant

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We were blown away by the overflowing imported goods available at Bhanu Indian Cuisine & Grocery.  Whoever does the buying at this store certainly knows their way around world renowned snacks, sweets and ingredients.

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Half the shop is dedicated to an Indian restaurant serving up mighty tasty vegetarian as well as omnivore centric Indian food.

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A periodic table on the back of the menu explains the chemistry of chili, a subject of endless fascination to us and an indication that the meal, ordered at a spice level 7, was going to be a seriously spicy dinner.

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The market is a joy to shop with narrow aisles loaded with exotic brands of Indian and South East Asian essentials.

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Snacks for making chat (Indian street or fast food) and ghee for cooking abound.

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Beauty products captured our interest as we contemplate the beauty of Indian women’s flowing dark hair.

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In the restaurant the large menu covers Indian snacks, street food, vegetarian, fish, chicken and meat based dishes.

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We love starting with a relaxing spice and milk filled chai.

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Our vegetarian thali plate came with light and fluffy basmati rice, chana masala, a refreshingly light eggplant curry, a creamy well spiced spinach with paneer, tart yogurt and we sprung for the extra .50 cents to have garlic added to our naan, for a crisp-edged, soft-centered, garlic infused delight of a bread.

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The spicy lamb korma was loaded with chunks of exceptionally tender lamb in a creamy, fruity, nut scented sauce that simply melted on the tongue.

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For an enthralling  experience delving into the markets, restaurants and cuisine of India, a stop by Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine is a must try.

Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine, 7246 Rosemead Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA 91775     Phone – 626-291-2101         web site – mybhanu.com

Vegan and Vegetarian “Meats” Galore

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In our search for healthful living and eating we are exploring the options and found quite the unique market in Vege USA.  The cafe that used to provide meals closed down a year ago, but sales of frozen and dry vegan and vegetarian products are still going strong at this animal free alternative shop.

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Signage on the wall specifies what is vegan or vegetarian, and which products contain eggs or milk. We greatly appreciate clear labeling so customers can be assured that their purchases conform to whatever lifestyle choices they have made.

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Products are from Taiwan and there is a definitely Asian feel to what is offered.

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Seafood soy product are heavily represented and of course vegetables are also a part of the mix.

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The frozen food section carries “meats” that only need to be heated and added to your favorite dishes.

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Large frozen packages make pulling dinner together a snap.

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There is also a dry goods section hosting such exotic offerings as vegetarian shark fin,

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and the famous XO sauce found on many Asian menus.

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For the holidays, vegan turkeys and ham are on offer for those wanting to keep tradition in appearance, if not in actual meats.

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For those looking to explore vegan and vegetarian diets or already dedicated to the path, Vege USA is a shop committed to an animal free recreating of meat, chicken and fish and a great place to dive deep into the philosophy.

Vege USA, 1425 South Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016
Phone – 626-386-0800          web site – vegetarian-plus.com

Middle Eastern Market Extraordinaire

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Duarte is home to one of the most comprehensive Middle Eastern markets we have encountered.  The clean, bright, expansive space satisfies all our needs.

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Colorful produce and an abundance of herbs grace the stands.

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Armenian, Persian and other cultures of the region rely heavily on fresh radish, onion, scallion, mint and other greens which are an integral part of meals.

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Traditional and exotic fruits are also on display.

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Reasonable prices and a wide variety of hard to find beans and grains make this a must stop shop for ingredients essential to the Mediterranean diet.

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The dairy section is loaded with wonderful creamy offerings such a shallot yogurt dip, mascarpone and a multitude of yogurt and cheese products.

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Hibiscus flower, a challenging item to locate, is found along an entire wall devoted to dried herbs and spices.

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Appetizers from stuffed olives to sausage fill a refrigerated deli display.

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Nuts and seeds are piled high, a must at every Middle Eastern party and an integral part of the dining experience.

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We were intrigued by the colorful packaging and beautiful script.

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One entire wall is dedicated to their service deli.

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Smoked fish, deli meats and cheese are just the tip of the iceberg here.

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A butcher section makes life easy with seasoned meats and chicken for forming onto skewers when making kabob.

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We took home one of their famous basturma sandwiches and it re-toasted beautifully. The mild cheese poured out and had to be scooped back onto the thin slices of cured meat heavy laden with spice and garlic. Green pepper and tomato brought everything together in  heavenly unison on a crisp crusted, chewy, middle eastern flat bread.

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On top of the deli counter we found labneh in oil.  We chose the za’ atar spiked one which incorporates thyme and other dried spices into the thick yogurt balls. Spreading easily on crackers for a tart and exciting snack or incorporated into a sandwich, melted into an omelet, we love brainstorming all the options for this exciting yogurt product.

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At the check out counter we found cheese or spinach stuffed pastries called panos that remind us of Turkish borek.

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We have to say that Tropicana Market was one of our most pleasant, diverse and delicious Middle Eastern shopping experiences and that we recommend it to everyone we know and love for a journey deep into the savory and sweet secrets of Middle Eastern cooking and culture.

Tropicana Market, 1406 East Huntington Drive, Duarte, CA 91010
Phone – 626-357-4580        websitetropicanamarket.com

Our Dream Fish Market

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We love fish and are always looking for the freshest fish markets.  We think we have found a winner in Seafood Paradise.

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We were thrilled with the colorful Sea Worldesk tanks which are pristinely clean and loaded with lively fish and shellfish.

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Beautiful shelled creatures lounge under fountains of crystal clear cascading waters.

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The infinity pool concept abounds along the western wall, constantly circulating and purifying the watery enclosures.

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What looked to us like very happy shrimp and oysters do what they do best in their spotless homes.

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We also love the prices and saw such as Maine lobster for $9.99 a pound and Dungeness crab at $12.99 a pound.

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If exotic is your thing, sea snails are abundant.

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As are live frogs at $4.99 a piece.

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Besides the numerous tanks with live sea creatures they also feature fresh seafood on ice.

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All looking bright eyed and ready to go these beauties were also well priced.

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Eel and squid glisten, packed on ice and ready to become part of our favorite Asian recipes.

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A tiny produce section carries some essentials to enhance the fish dishes. All in all we found Seafood Paradise to be immaculately clean, with beautiful live and fresh on ice seafood. They are happy to take care of the challenging task of dispatching our super fresh dinner which we greatly appreciate, and they do it all with prices that make the drive out to Rosemead a no brainer.

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Seafood Paradise Fish Market, 8955 East Garvey Avenue, Rosemead, CA 91770
Phone – 626-288-2088

Argentinean Treasure Trove

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Diversity reigns supreme in Los Angeles and one particularly exciting hub is the San Gabriel Valley.

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The Argentinean treasure, Tito’s Market, is a combination deli, butcher shop and convenience store, where lines flow out the door at lunchtime. Things move fast, so grab a spot and know that some mighty tasty South American sandwiches and empanadas are in your near future.

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To the right, a counter loaded with hunks of meat and cheese satisfy the urge for the flavor of Argentina.

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But the line you’ve been waiting in is for the made-to-order counter straight ahead. Hot and cold sandwiches of beef, pork, chicken and fish are the main attraction here.

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The handheld jewels come in small and large, although the small is certainly more than enough for a substantial meal.

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They are also well respected for their empanadas and fried appetizers that beckon from heated trays.

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Representing a country whose appreciation of meat is legendary, this market showcases the succulent flesh at every opportunity.

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The dining room is usually full, but patrons are happy to share a little space with other meat lovers.

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We partook of the most famous sandwich they have, the milanesa. A pounded thin and tender beef slab is breaded and fried before being topped with tomatoes and a mild green chili relish. The soft toasted roll surrenders peacefully to the rich, enchanting meatiness, while the tomato and green chili are the perfect partners in crime.

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The large empanadas come in either beef or chicken.

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A sturdy dough is stuffed top to bottom with slightly sweet and savory spiced ground beef that is earthy satisfaction.

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The chicken empanada is also mildly sweet, but it’s poultry flavor is enhanced not only with Argentinean spices but also with whole green olives adding a pickled flavor to the mix.

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Atop the deli counter you will find the South American sweet, alfajores. If you have not had a chance to try these shortbread cookies stuffed with dulce de leche, now would be a great time to cross that specialty off your bucket list.

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For a supremely affordable and mouthwatering Argentinean casual meal or simply to shop for difficult to find South American dishes and ingredients Tito’s Market is the place to be.

Tito’s Market, 9814 Garvey Avenue, El Monte, CA 91735
Phone – 626-579-1893

A Local Indian Adventure

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One of the larger shops in the independently owned India Sweets & Spices chain is located in Northridge. Serving the local community, they offer a wide selection of goods for those interested in cooking, eating and living India culture and cuisine.

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A small produce section offers the basics at the front door, while aisles carry prepackaged mixes to facilitate the easy cooking of traditional snacks, dishes and sweets.

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At the back of the store, a hot food counter and small seating area supply Indian street food, mixed plates, chai and yogurt drinks for just a few dollars.

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The hot trays showcase what’s available on each particular day. A completely vegetarian menu highlights the talents of Indian chefs who have mastered the art of produce and legume specialties.

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A side case displays chaat and snacks that are commonly seen as Indian street and fast food.

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At the front near the register we encountered freshly made sweets. We had a hard time choosing from the colorful milk based desserts.  All are exceptional rich and a few bites satisfies our sweet tooth completely.

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A fried snacks case displays spicy, salty crunchy delights that are eaten throughout the day.

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We are fascinated by the beauty product aisles that hold the secrets to beautiful hair and skin.

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After browsing the store for a bit, we chose a selection of sweets that we will be savoring through the holidays.

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For an exciting look into India’s delicious locally made and imported treasures, India’s Sweets & Spices is a exotic adventure not to be missed.

India Sweets & Spices, 18110 Parthenia Street, Northridge, CA 91325
Phone number – 818-407-1498