Since New York’s Mulberry
Street was first turned into an Italian haven—a Little Italy, even—the
concept of an Italian deli shop has ingrained itself into urban America’s
consciousness. Los Angeles does not have a Little Italy truly on par with New
York’s, but this city is no less devoted to its Italian mom-and-pop shops, which
have provided the essential service of crafting real sandwiches in LA since
Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery first opened in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1925.
Claro’s Italian Market,
another Italian grocery mainstay, first opened in Southern California in 1948
and has steadily expanded to several locations in the area, conveniently including Upland. It would be a stretch to claim that Claro’s
is an Italian revelation, but its inventory of more than 5,000 items—many only
available to order off its website—can certainly be considered satisfactory.
The same can be said specifically of its sandwiches (around $4 for small, $7 for large). While the meatball subs
satisfy any reasonable meat-lover’s craving, the grocery’s ham, capocollo, mortadella, salami, and cheeses provide the
foundation for its well-crafted sandwiches.
While Claro’s store offers
a lot of things—again, 5,000 of them—I’ve found that the true measure of an
Italian grocery rests on its cheeses and breads, the former of which are
ideally imported directly and regularly from Italy, and the latter of which must
be baked fresh (Bay Cities bakes its bread every 20 minutes). Claro’s does OK in this regard, offering fresh bread daily and providing fresh mozzarella,
ricotta, and burrata among its cheese options. Burrata in particular is
important, mostly because it is an
absolutely delicious cheese, but also because it is a rare find outside the
Italian deli niche.
Claro’s also offers some mediocre cheeses, some of which I
can find at a local Trader Joe’s (admittedly a compliment to Trader Joe’s, but
also a criticism of this Italian market). And a warning: If you arrive late in the
day, past Claro’s busy lunch hours, they will likely be out of their best
I am, of course, focusing
on Claro’s because it’s an easy 10-minute drive from the Claremont Colleges, but it would
be a crime to study in the LA area for four years and not visit LA’s true
ambassadors of the Italian grocery: the aforementioned Bay Cities (a personal
favorite for sandwiches, burrata, and bread), Giuliano’s (which offers a selection of over 400—no typo—different kinds of breads), Roma Deli (offering what the Los Angeles Times has crowned “the
perfect sandwich”), Sorrento Italian Market (which has something to say about
the Roma Deli claim), and San Carlo Italian Deli & Bakery (for, among other
things, a pizza that is one of the city’s best). That list leaves out perhaps a
dozen equally impressive groceries. Perhaps it’s time to start looking into
LA’s grad schools.
Claro’s Italian Markets, 1655 N. Mountain Ave., (909)
946-2689; closed Wednesdays; lunch hours recommended.
items: sandwiches, pastries, burrata (cheese)
James Gordon PO ’15 studies environmental analysis. He also writes about food at tentacleseverywhere.com