Eastside Market: Stacked with Nostalgia
In 1929, just outside Chinatown and across from what would be the 110 Freeway, Italian markets flourished in what for all intents and purposes L.A.’s own Little Italy. Through the Great Depression, the Second World War, and civil unrests, the Eastside Market Italian Deli came out the other side of nearly a century still standing and as one of the reigning champions of Italian sandwiches.
Built by a family of immigrants, passed down from one to another, Eastside prides itself on always keeping its doors open to all of Los Angeles. It has transformed from a neighborhood market and meat deli into an unparalleled Italian sandwich shop that has East Coast transplants salivating for the authenticity of its character and nostalgic taste.
After 15 years of working their way up from cleaning and delivery routes to learning the butchery trade, Johnny and Frank Angiuli earned the keys to the shop from the original owners Joe Campagna and Domenic Pontrelli in 1974 and introduced the menu items still found today. Johnny would eventually pass the torch to his sons, Vito and Anthony, bestowing a bit of sage wisdom: don’t change a thing.
The business continues to welcome all walks of life from construction workers, government officials, paramedics and firefighters. Mix in some Baby Boomers, a few Millennials and what you’ve got is the Eastside’s simmering sauce pot of patrons brimming for a taste of the Italian holy trinity - meat, sauce and cheese.
When you arrive at the deli nestled in the hillside, you will find a bit of an L.A. miracle: ample free parking. Look closer you’ll notice hungry Angelenos strolling in by the droves on foot, and for good reason - Italian food is not known for being light.
Au contraire! While they might offer some of lighter fare - soups, salads, fruit bowls and the Atkins friendly cold cut plate which is a deli sandwich sans bread - Eastside’s main attractions are larger than life. The sandwiches are heavy in flavor but surprisingly easy on the wallet with all but one priced under $10.
Their most popular sandwich, the Number 7, is stacked sky high with pastrami, roast beef, provolone and red sauce and served hot, with enough sustenance for two meals.
If you want something a little cooler in temperature but hotter in spice the classic Italian hits the spot. Don’t forget to cruise the bottomless peppers station to crank it up as much as you want.
Now, if you’re looking to feed a small village of carnivores feast your eyes on the behemoth: the D.A. Special - a quadruple threat of Italian sausage, meatball, roast beef and Pastrami. Yes, you read that conjunction right: ‘and’, not ‘or’. Concocted by a security personnel for former District Attorney - and father of our own mayor - Gil Garcetti, the sandwich weighs as much as a small child. If you succeed in finishing it in one sitting you just might require your own security detail to escort your stuffed body out of the deli.
Written by Brian Chernick | Photography by Rebekah Lemire