Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roma Italian Deli & Market

Pasadenish in the know have shopped at Roma Italian Deli & Grocery for imported cheeses, meats, olive oils and other Italian delicacies for over 50 years. You can buy special pastas, interesting wines, and even produce at a more reasonable price than at the supermarket. But the real find at Roma is Rosario, the market's owner.

When he was 14 years old, Rosario came to the United States from Sicily with his father. They bought a house at the corner of Lake and Mountain Avenues in Pasadena in 1955 (Rosario will show you the photocopied picture behind the deli), where they established the Roma Market. In 1964, Rosario tore down the house and built the current structure. Rosario says he's worked behind the deli at Roma Market every day since 1955.

When you go, tell Rosario what you want in general terms and he'll make specific suggestions. He knows his inventory and what goes with what. On my last visit I told Rosario I don't like strong cheeses and he gave me samples to taste of the most delightful, delicious, buttery delicacies--I wanted them all. Give him a little guidance then let him show you his expertise. You'll be amazed at the quality, the flavors and the low prices.

I know I sound like an ad but I love this unassuming, charming little market. Don't let the mini-mall look fool you. It's right out of the old world.

32 comments:

TheChieftess said...

In Pasadena, it's Rosario's, in Glendale, it's Mario's!!! I've been eating Mario's classic combo sandwiches since way before they started calling it the "classic" combo...now, if you just say combo it comes out with all that stupid shredded lettuce and italian dressin...blechhhh!!!! Give me a classic any day!!!

But I must say, Petrea, I'm definitely intrigued as I love me a traditional Italian deli!!! I may have to trundle on over there and check it out!!!

J+P said...

It's funny how yu go for the Italian stuff, but not for the French stuff so much. That peccorino he gave us was just a treat.

Kim said...

A feast for the eyes. I really enjoyed your visit to Rosario's!
-Kim

Shell Sherree said...

Oh, yummo!! This reminds me that I'm very late for dinner.

Katie said...

Looks like a wonderful place to wander around looking for new and interesting foods to try. I'd definitely trust Rosario to pick out some cheese for me! You're lucky to have such a treasure in town.

Dirk said...

Wow, that place looks exactly the same as I remember it as a kid (talkin' 1969 or so!). Amazing. I'm glad it's still there. I can still remember the rich smell of dry Italian cheese the place had.

Petrea said...

Chieftess, Rosario made us simple sandwiches with meats, cheeses and olive oil. Is that a classic?

J, I still have to tell Rosario not to give me the rich stuff. I could do that in a French restaurant.

Thanks, Kim.

Shell, I have no idea what our time difference is but your comment posted here at 3:44 a.m.

Katie, I think we're definitely lucky. Do you still have lots of little spots like this in the Bay Area?

Dirk, that's wonderful to hear. It has the feel of time. It's not dusty or dirty. It just looks like it must have always looked this way.

Weston said...

I've been a customer of Roma Deli for years. I recall one of the first times I was there. I selected a cheese, explaining it was for a certain dish I was preparing. Rosario said "You don't want that," and picked out another (the appropriate) cheese. Now I ask first. Rosario is a delight;, the store a reminder for me of my years in Manhattan and the crusty codgers behind the counters of the delis in Little Italy.

Bellis said...

Rosario's very generous with his samples, including large slices of the best prosciutto in California. He used to have a partner whom I assumed was his brother, but I haven't seen him for a while. I hope he's all right.

Havisham Patrizzi said...

I sure hope he's paying you.

mark said...

This place looks like a real classic. I could easily spend an hour there. Great olive oils and great cheeses is a must for me. Ohhh and really good wine too. Really nice photos Petrea.

Petrea said...

Weston, I could see how the relationship could become contentious if Rosario disagreed with his customer and the customer stuck to his guns.

I never met the partner, Bellis. I came to this place very late. But I haven't seen him.

He pays me in samples, Miss H.

You'd love this place, Mark.

Desiree said...

I'm waitin' for AH to weigh in--
those two go waaay back--

Petrea said...

I know, Desiree. I hope she stops in. I want to hear the history of that relationship--I wonder if it has anything to do with the scenario I posed to Weston, above.

ben wideman said...

What a cool shop. I love that when you order a sandwich, he just makes it for you - no questions about what you want on it, or WHICH sandwich you want. There is only one apparently!

Havisham Patrizzi said...

Great! I really don't like the ham.

Ham sandwich.


Gag.

Michael Coppess said...

Some time ago we lived a few doors east of Romas. Went there all the time. Try the Gisella's Special Turkey sandwich. But, I have a little story.

This was more than 20 years ago, but I remember when we moved in to our house on Mentor St. an older couple came to our door with with an azalea potted in peat moss. They lived across the street, owned the store and deli and had a way with azaleas. But, they didn't speak any English. It was kind of comical with them at our door and all of us trying to communicate with gesture and a mix of language and this azalea sitting between us. We finally figured out the azalea was a very gracious housewarming gift which we accepted and enjoyed. From then on we always smiled and waved at each other. They even invited us over to see their backyard garden. We very fondly referred to them as the Italian grandma and grandpa. I think they were Rosario's parents.

tom said...

I shouldnt have looked i am on my way to the gym

altadenahiker said...

His produce is wilted, cold cuts ho-hum, and half the stuff on his shelves expired back when Clinton was president. Good cheese.

TheChieftess said...

Mario's classic combo is all kinds of meats and cheese, with a simple mustard and mayo combination slathered on ...no greens or italian dressing to make it resemble a healthy sandwich!!! I think Rosario's sandwich sounds even more classic...classic Italian with olive oil instead of either the mustard mayo combo or the italian dressing!!!

Kat said...

I LOVE Rosario and Roma market. I've got mixed feelings about you publicizing it on your blog; lol! Our secret place could get too busy.

I love going there, telling Rosario how many people we're having over to the house, and then letting him tell me EXACTLY what we should have, how much, and how we should serve it. You get the feeling if you don't follow his instructions he'll materialize in your back yard and say in disapproving Italian -- "didn't you listen!!"

My favorite place in Pasadena to shop, by bar.

Petrea said...

I'm not sure everyone likes being told what to buy, Ben, but it's part of the charm of Roma Deli.

By the way, in the rest of the market you can buy whatever you want.

I love your story, Michael.

Funny, Tom!

Hiker has checked in. Hmm. She must have had the ham Miss H. mentioned. I've only had delectable meats at Roma, but you can't win 'em all.

pasadenapio said...

The first time I walked in the door, shortly after I moved here in 1991, the charm, aroma and atmosphere took my breath away.

Susan C said...

I love your picture of Rosario. You're getting really good at portraits.

Kris said...

I reckon that you'd get some pretty good salami here.

Ms M said...

Fun to read about Rosario's. Your sandwich sounds delish. But I'll remember to get something other than ham.... :)

Petrea said...

Oh, god, Rosario's going to kill me about this ham thing. He probably doesn't even have ham. He has all these divine Italian meats that you can only pronounce with an accent. Ham you get at a different kind of deli.

Thanks, Susan.

Ann, I know--it's really different from anything else.

lewi14 said...

It must be a pleasure to walk thru this market. I can smell all the delicious things and I can hear all the voices of the visitors or customers. Wonderful and lively shots.

Dina said...

Ham or not, it still sounds like my kind of place too.

Shell Sherree said...

I can't remember, Petrea ~ it was either 7:44 or 8:44pm. Judging by how hungry I was, I think it was 8:44pm. :)

Gina said...

We live within walking distance of Roma and go often. If you're in a pinch for time and having a party, the frozen stuffed shells are quite good.

Petrea said...

Thanks for the tip, Gina. That sounds like something I'd love.