Saturday, March 1, 2014

When in Roma...

We've been excited to write this one for awhile. Pasadena isn't exactly a hotbed of Italian deliciousness, but there is one fantastic exception. In an unassuming little strip mall north of the 210 (or NoTwo, as we call it) is Roma Italian Market, home to the best sandwiches in town (and anywhere, ever).  Roma has a produce section with seasonal fresh fruits and veggies, a selection of Italian wines that I cannot tell you more about because I know nothing about wine, and a thousand different kinds of delightful little cookies that you could blow a whole paycheck on. They also carry a bunch of dried and fresh pastas, fancy canned and jarred things you need for Italian cooking (A pint of capers! Anchovies!), and the deli. 

 Cookies and Cured Meats Galore

 Most people go to Roma for the deli, with its impressive array of meat and cheese, and the adorable owner, Rosario. He's a tiny ancient man who will give you samples of everything while he makes your sandwich. Roma only has one sandwich. Supposing you were only interested in one day's lunch, he'll make you a modest portion. Modest portions, however, are for suckers. What Rosario does better than anyone is The Sandwich, made on an entire loaf of ciabatta, roughly 1 foot wide by 2.5 feet long, and cut into 8-10 servings.

Rosario and Company

While the best part is clearly eating the sandwich, the second-best part is watching the magic happen. The massive loaf is cut in half and promptly covered in liberal splashes of olive oil. Then it's piled high with mortadella (which apparently was not allowed to be imported to the US until 2000). If you haven't had mortadella, the closest thing to compare it to might be bologna, although that really doesn't do it justice. Next comes a layer of salami, of which there are many options. We always ask for spicy, which holds its own against the salt/fat awesomeness of the mortadella. Finally there's a layer of provolone to round out the beast. The bread is always fresh-baked and crusty and perfect for soaking up the olive oil. We really can't heap enough praise on this thing. If we had to find a complaint, it's that on weekends they make gigantic loaves of something called olive oil bread, a crusty delicious object that they sadly can't make the sandwiches on because it's too crunchy. I guess I believe them, but I'd love to give it a go anyway.

The Sandwich, on bed of sandwich

We enjoyed our sandwich on our first beach trip of the year. It's a perfect shareable picnic food, and you can get whatever other snacks and drinks you want while you're there as well. There's nowhere to eat inside, it's all takeout. That's fine by us, we'll take that sandwich wherever it wants to go.

Flavor: 5/5
The Sandwich is awesome. Can we give it a thousand stars and maybe some fireworks? Everything in the store is fresh and wonderful. You should definitely go!

Service: 5/5
Rosario is cute and chatty. The rest of the staff is great, and everyone who works there is knows a lot about Italian food. Roma's is the place to go if you want to make an Italian dish, but can't find that one ingredient, or aren't sure quite how to cook it. They will have it/know what to do with it.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Roma is cramped and packed to the ceiling with tasty things. It's charming, but difficult to navigate and not entirely sensical. 

Approachability: 4/5
It is easy to order and pay for your sandwich, but some signs or a menu would be helpful. It would also be great if they labelled the meats and cheeses more clearly. You can totally ask and they will tell you and frankly, their recommendations are probably better than what you would just wing anyway.

Vegetarian/etc. friendly: n/a
The sandwich has meat on it, and they only have one sandwich. That pretty much rules this category out as a thing. The produce is awesome though, and the pasta is fresh. They will happily enable your vegetarian adventures.

Not Vegetables

Roma Italian Deli and Grocer
918 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
Mon-Sat 8:30am-8:30pm
Sun 8:30am-5:30pm 

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