Old School Italian In Burbank

DSC_0167

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.

DSC_0082

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.

DSC_0087

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

DSC_0089

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.

DSC_0094

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

DSC_0088

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.

DSC_0106

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

DSC_0115

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.

DSC_0112

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

DSC_0122

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

DSC_0123

Refrigerated cases overflow with an abundance of pepperoni and salami.

DSC_0130

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

DSC_0134

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

DSC_0137

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

DSC_0141

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.

DSC_0146

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

DSC_0148

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.

DSC_0161

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.

DSC_0169

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

Koreatown French Bakery

DSC_0190

Deep in the heart of Koreatown is the seductive Paris Baguette, an elegant bakery displaying luscious traditional French pastries, as well as Asian fusion surprises. Originating in Korea, the franchise came to Los Angeles in 2005 and has been expanding ever since.

DSC_0151

The attractive space is well organized with crisp, clean, exceptionally packaging, making the goodies even more enticing.

DSC_0154

Creme filled buns and chocolate covered doughnuts glisten in glass cases.

DSC_0161

A wide selection of French macarons pack some serious punch. We fell hard for the passionfruit version which is a spot on, sweet and tart reflection of the tropical fruit.

DSC_0174

Attention to detail, design and decoration is the focus here, with sweets that are as visually ravishing as they are orally pleasurable.

DSC_0171

An assortment of ready to heat and eat appetizers can also be found on the shelves.

DSC_0181

Adorable mini croissants temp with flakey, puffed, buttery layers.

DSC_0183

Charming packaging makes every corner a joy to explore.

DSC_0172

Sandwiches, unique sausage stuffed pies and cheese tarts are savory options. Individual pastries start at under a dollar and rise to just a few greenbacks which makes us feel a whole lot better about giving in to such attractive and indulgent baked goods.

DSC_0188

For divine splurges that will impress at any party, Paris Baguette is one of our favorite spots to shop.

Paris Baguette, 3470 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone – 213-384-0404          web site – parisbaguetteusa.com

or

Paris Baguette, 125 North Western Avenue, Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone – 323-467-0404

or

Paris Baguette, 621 South Western Avenue, Suite 105, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Phone – 213-368-0404

Philippe’s Is As Classic LA As It Gets

DSC_0098

One of our favorite Los Angeles classics is Philippe The Original, which has been in business since 1908.

DSC_0093

The charming deli/counter ambiance is enhanced with sawdust on the floor and shared high tables surrounded by stools. They also have booths in the back if that type of seating is preferred.

DSC_0006

For over a hundred years Philippe’s has been a cash only establishment and recently altered their policies to accept credit cards.

DSC_0002

The menu above the counter is small yet full of the favorites that have kept them going strong for 108 years.

DSC_0010

Philippe’s “French Dipped Sandwich” is the specialty of the house and consist of either roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham served on a light, freshly baked French roll which has been dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. Swiss, American, Monterey Jack or Blue cheese may be added.

DSC_0029

To accompany your sandwich Philippe’s offers options such as tart, tangy cole slaw, homemade potato and macaroni salads, hard boiled eggs pickled in beet juice and spices, large Kosher style, sour dill or sweet pickles, black olives and hot yellow chili peppers.

DSC_0013

Daily soups are warm and comforting, like the navy bean on special the night of our visit.

DSC_0049

A crumbling of saltine crackers brings the down home feel.

DSC_0059

We are addicted to the lamb and have it with either blue or swiss cheese.

DSC_0052

We prefer it double dipped with both the lower and upper halves of the roll dunked in roasting juices.

DSC_0064

The pièce de résistance is the addition of their hot mustard which clears the sinuses and adds a mustard, vinegar spice tang that is the perfect accompaniment to the roasted meats.

eDSC_0061

We simply can’t get enough of the mustard and purchase jars of the stuff to take home.

DSC_0071

The sour dill pickles feel right at home alongside the sandwiches.

DSC_0054

Cakes are moist and flavorful and the coconut cake is high on our list of great ways to complete a Philippe’s meal.

DSC_0077

For a taste of classic Los Angeles from one of the first purveyors of the French dip, Philippe’s is the spot to go retro.

DSC_0081

Philippe the Original, 1001 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone – 213-628-3781          web site – philippes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0100

 

Terrific Tinga

IMG_2111

East LA closes down early, but for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner they bring mouthwatering Mexican food big time. We were lucky enough to get to La Placita de D.F. Restaurante before they closed and began what has now become a search for the best Tinga in Los Angeles.

IMG_2115_2

Tinga is a stewed pork or chicken stew, slow cooked in a spicy chipotle sauce and served in a variety of ways. The super tender, seductively seasoned, smokey dish is traditionally served as a tostada, wrapped in a soft tortilla or stuffed into a fried quesadilla. It is often piled high atop sopes, a thick, flat, griddle fried, corn dough called masa.

IMG_1902

We managed to wrangle both a plate of the smokey, stewed, pork tinga with a side of rice and beans and a tinga tostada, loaded with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado and grated cheese. Both ways we found this particular pork tinga recipe to be outstanding and a true pleasure to consume.

IMG_1909

Everyone in the restaurant had a cemita in front of them so we had to order one to find out why. Cemitas differ from Mexican tortas (sandwich) in a number of ways but one of the most important differences is the bread. The cemita’s “bun” at La Placita is etherial, light, slightly sweet, toasted heaven. Inside the bread sits a thinly pounded and fried slab of meat, shredded queso Oaxaca (a type of fresh string cheese), greens, chipotle peppers, avocado and beans.

IMG_1916

We found that dousing this big boy with the green salsa sitting on the table was an excellent addition and next time will ask for more chipotle chilies on top.

We are excited to continue exploring East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and neighboring areas, in our search for the most flavorful tinga. But we have to say that La Placita is up there with some of the best we’ve tried and that we are off to a fantastic start.

IMG_1897

Be aware that they are closed all day Thursday and at 6:30 PM the rest of the week. Don’t let the early hours stop you from experiencing these fantastic family recipes that are bringing the flavors of the Mexican state of Puebla to Los Angeles.

La Placita Del D F, 1859 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033                           Phone – 323-780-8232

Overflowing Italian Market

DSC_0301

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.

DSC_0252

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.

DSC_0260

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

DSC_0282

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

DSC_0266

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

DSC_0265

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.

DSC_0038

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

DSC_0273

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

DSC_0272

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

DSC_0286

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

DSC_0336

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.

DSC_0338

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

Impressive Asian Cuisine In West LA

DSC_0002

We returned to Asian Fusion to delve deeper into their Asian cuisine mix.  The Vietnamese owners have a way with not only Vietnamese food but also Chinese, Korean and Thai, no small feat.

DSC_0032

The dining room is pleasant with steaming soup bowls carved into the seat backs.

DSC_0004

The menu expresses the diversity available and we were beyond pleasantly surprised by the proficiency they have with all of it.

DSC_0030

We began with the Japanese favorite edamame, these lightly salted soy beans were tender and warm, getting us off to a great start.

DSC_0038

We couldn’t resist the hybrid cheese wonton appetizer of fried wonton wrappers stuffed with a dollop of herb infused cream cheese. Crispy skins erupt with creamy flavor that can be dipped in the sweet and sour sauce served alongside.

DSC_0043

The flakey egg rolls come 2 or 4 to an order depending on what is requested.

DSC_0028

Tender poultry mixed with greens fill the chicken dumplings that come with a ginger packed sweet chili sauce enhancing the mild crescents.

DSC_0041

We love their banh mi and again had to heed the call of soft French baguettes cradling grilled meats with pickled and fresh herbs and vegetables.

DSC_0006

The caramelized marinade is singed onto the edges of super tender chicken for a flavor pop that along with tangy radish and carrots, fresh cilantro and hit of jalapeño, meld in perfect unison inside freshly baked bread.

DSC_0052

The pork version is also warm, moist, juicy savory goodness against the cool vegetable toppings.

DSC_0050

The extensive menu covers 125 Asian dishes in all, plus sides and drinks.

DSC_0020

Pan fried noodles are crisped brown under a riot of sautéed vegetables and protein of customers choosing.

DSC_0055

While beef udon are extra thick, well cooked al dente soft noodles that can be served with succulent slices of beef and a flavor-filled array of onion and peppers.

DSC_0060

Large portions and lunch specials make Asian Fusion an affordable and honestly one of the best Asian/Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants we have on the westside of Los Angeles.  We will be visiting his hidden treasure often for a delightful taste of some of the most well loved Asian cuisines available in Los Angeles.

DSC_0025

Asian Fusion, 1710 South Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone – 424-298-8247          web site – asianfusionla.com

Gratifying Cuban Bakery

DSC_0089

Adorable Myrtle Avenue in Old Town Monrovia feels like Main Street USA. The well tended, tree lined avenue is loaded with charming shops and a green park. The precisely placed benches in front of the library allow visitors to sit and savor a cup of coffee or a good book.

DSC_0106

Merengue Bakery and Cafe sits mid Myrtle and is a Cuban pastry shop offering handmade cakes, pastries and traditional Cuban delicacies. The in-house café has both indoor and outdoor seating where one can relax and enjoy a cup of Café Cubano or savor one of their world-famous cheese or meat filled potato balls.

DSC_0093

Were were impressed with the beauty of the luscious offerings inside the overflowing cases.

DSC_0113

Their Cuban specialties include Cuban cake, queso crema roll and refugees which are guava and cheese filled, flakey danish.

DSC_0111

The small dining room is a warm and inviting space to sit and enjoy a morning or afternoon replenishing reprieve.

DSC_0095

Cuban snacks include, Croqueta de Jamon.  Seasoned ground ham blends with potato coated in bread crumbs, creating a creamy, smokey, super smooth appetizer that soothes rough days.

DSC_0118

Potato balls are one of Cuba’s most famous comfort foods and Merengue stuffs theirs with either the traditional picadillo (spiced beef) or warm gooey cheese.

DSC_0016

Both are coated in a bread crumb crust creating a crisp shell to bite through before hitting the wall of silky mashed potato that gives way to the choice of filling.

DSC_0010

Picadillo also fills the pastel de carne.

DSC_0024

Where flakey layers of pastry dough conceal the spiced meat.

DSC_0027

Desserts are a tough choice with a wide variety that all called to us, but we ultimately decided on the refugee.

DSC_0098

Another light, thinly layered delight loaded with guava jam and cheese giving a sweet, salty, savory blend of flavors to the confection.

DSC_0102

We found all of the Cuban specialty snacks and baked goods to be exceptionally tasty and gratifying, making Merengue one of our top bakery picks for Monrovia.

Merengue Bakery & Cafe, 417 South Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016
Phone – 626-358-5650           web site – merenguebakery.com

 

Argentinean Treasure Trove

DSC_0096

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

DSC_0099

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.

DSC_0127

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

DSC_0129

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.

DSC_0108

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

DSC_0125

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

DSC_0117

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

DSC_0118

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

DSC_0116

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.

DSC_0040

The large empanadas come in either beef or chicken.

DSC_0020

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

DSC_0023

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.

DSC_0028

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.

DSC_0123

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

Killer Banh Mi

DSC_0061

Always on the lookout for the consummate banh mi, Vietnam’s perfect melding of cuisines with the French baguette in sandwich form, we have definitely found a top contender coming out of the tiny kitchen at Banh Mi My Tho.

DSC_0050

The space is minuscule but mighty.  The counter is lined with a selection of dishes to go, if something calls don’t hesitate to grab it.

DSC_0054

A heated case displays egg rolls, pork loaf, fried chicken and pork meat balls threaded onto skewers all reasonably priced under $2.00.

DSC_0058

Stacks of sweets offer a delightful way to complete your meal.

DSC_0052

This family run business established in 1993, offers charming and dedicated service with the intention of making  customers happy and that they do in spades.

DSC_0060

This is a takeout only set up and if you are not going to be eating your banh mi immediately it’s best to have them wrap the vegetables separately to keep the ingredients in their most pristine state.

DSC_0062

We arrived home and cranked up the toaster oven where we heated up the sweet and savory, juicy marinated pork with caramelized edges.  We also toasted the soft yet sturdy French baguette before stuffing it full of the cilantro, cucumber spears, pickled radish and carrot, with the final addition of jalapeño slices for a pop of fresh heat. The resulting sandwich is perfection in our book. Warm toasted bread and tender fragrant pork flecked with roasted peanuts are a sublime contrast to the tang of picked and fresh herbs and vegetables.

DSC_0035

The meat balls are light, gratifying, sweet, porky goodness that also reheat extremely well.

DSC_0018

For one of the best banh mi in the San Gabriel Valley and some seriously memorable Vietnamese dishes for your next picnic, party, event or meal, Banh Mi My Tho is a do not miss Vietnamese hidden treasure.

Banh Mi My Tho, 304 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91803
Phone – 626-289-4160         web site – banhmimytho.com

Persian Kitchen Extraordinaire

DSC_0089

We are always amazed at the high quality, scrumptious food that comes out of tight little kitchens around town.  Bibi Sara is a wonder of Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine that makes exceptional use of their little space.

DSC_0067

The short menu covers the basics, plus they have some secret menu items that you can inquire about, including tahdig, the famous crispy rice dish topped with Persian stew.

DSC_0064

The petit kitchen, where all the magic happens, is in full view allowing us to watch the masters in action.

DSC_0062

A lot of the business is takeout, but we find the small dining room to be more than adequate and downright cozy on cold winter nights.

DSC_0063

The cooler is self serve and contains small tubs of appetizers, salads and drinks, including the Middle Eastern yogurt beverage called doogh, in both plain and mint.

DSC_0076

The buttery baba ghanoosh is tahini heavy, through which the tangy spices and eggplant shine through.

DSC_0075

While the mast o’-khiar adds cucumber and dried mint to tart yogurt for a blast of refreshment. A yogurt laden with shallots called mast o’-moosir is also available.

DSC_0080

We found the falafel to be some of the best we’ve had in Los Angeles. The garbanzo patties are spice and herb heavy, with makes for a serious party in the mouth that plays well against the green salad, tomato, pickle and tahini, all folded into a super fresh lavash wrap creating our dream falafel sandwich.

DSC_0088

Hot sauce is available to add a jolt of heat if desired and we found it to be a great addition to the falafel.

DSC_0086

We saw some tahdig in the kitchen and couldn’t resist the call.  the crisp browned thin servings of rice can be topped with a variety of stews.  As it was close to closing time, all that was left was a freshly made batch of the green herb stew called khoresht ghormeh sabzii. Greens and herbs in this amazing version are cooked down to their essence and strike the perfect balance with the supremely tender beef chunks and meaty red beans. This is a Persian delicacy not to be missed that reheats and crisps up well at home in the oven if you are taking out.

For a little sweetness they serve bite size baklava. Here the Middle Eastern pasty is scented with rose water and contains the precise blend of savory nuts and  sweet honey, with neither overpowering the other.

DSC_0116

For some of the most memorable Persian food in the San Fernando Valley, from family recipes, we strongly recommend a visit to Bibi Sara where just a few dollars bags Persian delights a plenty.

Bibi Sara, 4878 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Phone – 818-914-5298