Don’t you think every neighborhood deserves at least one good Italian deli/restaurant/store? Somewhere that feels like you stepped through a magic doorway to another country? Somewhere where you want to plaster your face against the shiny glass cases like a kid in a candy shop of old. Where you inhale deeply the spicy saucey smells, the meats, the breads and the pastry smells.
Cortinas is such a place.
Maybe in New York you have these places around every corner, but here in SoCal, they are few and far between. We have been visiting this little place located off of Brookhurst and Orange for years now. With a little store on one side and a casual restaurant on the other and a little window in between to pass orders back and forth, you get great food with old world quality goods.
For a while we had an office about a mile or two down the road from them and were frequent visitors. But we knew, if we were craving Cortinas lasagna, it must be Tuesday. They used to be closed on Tuesdays. I guess it just wasn’t busy enough on Tuesdays and they had to take some day off. This is a family owned and operated place and they thought, I can’t imagine why, that they had a right to take a day off, once every week!
Then, tragically, there was a fire, I think early last year. They were closed for months while reconstruction was going on. Apparently they had just opened up a second smaller restaurant somewhere in Orange for weekday lunches for the working crowd.
The months slid by.
Eventually the sons, who now owned and operated the place, had their grand re-opening.
And suddenly, a few weeks ago, we decided it was time to show the place to our dear friend Joe and see what he thought of their lasagna and pizza. We got the ‘Cortina’s cravings”.
Egads! My mind is blown. (No, it doesn’t take much these days). Now they are only closed on Sundays! So now if we are craving their meatball sandwich or pizza on a Tuesday, we can feel free to go. Just not Sundays. I can live with that.
It was beautiful, all new! The new floors, the new wine racks, the new counters, everything was shiny new and efficient.
You can get semolina flour there for homemade pastas and breads. Sometimes they have sheets of pasta you can buy and take home to make your own ravioli’s or lasagna. The glass cases are full of everything from a variety of olives (including the little black wrinkled ones my dad loved) to assorted cheeses, pastries and deli meats.
They sell their special spaghetti sauce in the fresh and frozen sections as well as their salad dressing, their other pasta sauces and even a decadent single serve Tiramisu. (Ask me how I know just how decadent it was.) Cookies, cheesecakes, cannoli’s, tarts. I want to live there! Please, adopt me!
They have a large variety of deli meats. For example there are several kinds of prosciutto from Italy and Spain, from as little as a few dollars a pound to over $100 per pound. We bought some of the extravagant one once, just a few thin slices just to see what the big deal was. Those little slices, sliced so thin you could read a book through them, cost us about $25. (You only live once, right? Despite what video games will tell you.) .So, unless you live in Italy, the land of gourmet pigs, where great prosciutto is everywhere and whole towns take pride in their prosciutto, made from pigs who only ate acorns their whole lives or listened to Brahms or something, stores like this are our only chance.
We still picked up some fresh bread, that they will slice for you if you like, some cookies, olive oil, olives, mortadella (yum!) and so on, then next door for lasagna and pizza.
As usual, hubby over ordered so we had plenty to take home for snacks later for the boys. We waddled to the car, toting out bulging bags over our bulging stomachs and feeling very satisfied with ourselves that we had finally gotten back to Cortinas.
You know it’s a good spot when there are always police cars parked there at lunch time. If you are in the area, swing by, just stick your head in the door and take a deep whiff. I dare you to just walk away.
In fact, I think its time to head back.