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Visit Italy without leaving Glendale

December 17, 2005|By By Cherie Mercer Twohy

mario'sIf Mario's hasn't been a location for a movie shoot, it should be. It's the quintessential neighborhood Italian deli, with soccer posters, Italian flags and gigantic cheeses hanging from the rafters, bin after bin of every shape pasta one can think of, and that familiar aroma of garlic, salami and olive oil. Conversations in Italian ebb and flow, adding to the atmosphere.

The glass cases are filled with an irresistible array of antipasti, including oil-cured olives. These plump and wrinkly deep black beauties are sometimes hard to find, and they are among my favorites. Marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and giardiniera (a colorful mix of pickled cauliflower, pepperoncini and other vegetables) beg to be arranged on a platter to share with friends, over a glass of Chianti.

One can pick up the Chianti (or other vino) at Mario's too. Add some thinly sliced salami and prosciutto, and a loaf of freshly baked bread, and you've got a meal. Some of those loaves are bigger than a newborn baby, so you'll have leftovers for crostini!

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An entire aisle of olive oils features not only Italian, but Greek, Spanish and French offerings. And for dessert, there are six or seven varieties of pizzelles -- the pretty waffle-patterned Italian cookies, and nearly as many varieties of panettone. Don't miss the rainbow of Ciao Bella gelati flavors in the freezer case!

Save room for my favorite Mario's find -- freshly made burrata. This is my idea of cheese heaven -- it's basically a balloon of tender, fresh mozzarella, filled with incredible, flavorful, ultra-thick cream. Oh, my. I have paid much more for burrata, but I've never had such fresh and addictive stuff. It must have been delivered minutes before I bought it ($7.89 a pound). I refuse to reveal how much of that pound I ate all by myself.

If assembling your own feast doesn't appeal to you, the menu board lists a couple dozen varieties of cold and hot sandwiches, and there are daily specials to peruse as well. A Garlic Roast Pork sandwich ($5.99) proved enough for three people, laden with lettuce, tomato, dressing, cheese and more, on an enormous sandwich roll the size of a skateboard.

Hot dishes include lasagna, eggplant or chicken parmigiana or manicotti (each $5.50). The stuffed shells billow with fresh, milky ricotta, which perfectly balances the tomato bite and oregano tang of the red sauce ($5.50 for four).

Most customers must take out, as there are only a couple of tables, and it's take a number and order at the counter-style service.

Take your time shopping. There's lots to see. In every corner, some interesting ingredient or implement lurks. If you are searching for an Italian ingredient, my guess is that Mario's will have it. Grab a meatball sub and spend an hour in Italy, without leaving Glendale.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Mario's Italian Deli and Market

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: 740 E. Broadway, Glendale

COST: $5.50 to $15.99

PHONE: (818) 242-4114

* CHERIE MERCER TWOHY teaches cooking in La CaƱada Flintridge. She can be reached at www.chezcherie.com.

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