15 Jun Sorrento Italian Market Is An Italophile’s Heaven
Driving down Sepulveda Blvd towards LAX, it is easy to not really pay attention to the area around Jefferson Blvd. We are accustomed to seeing large chain business after chain business: from El Pollo Loco, Fed Ex, Big Lots, Pacific Stereo and Just Tires to Buffalo Wings and Pizza, Fast Signs, AAA Pawn and Jewelry and H&R Block. But tucked among all of these rather uninteresting stores is a hidden gem! While other local family businesses have given way to these chain businesses, for 50 years Sorrento Italian Market has been serving the local community with specialty food products and wine from Italy.
The store was opened in 1963 by Alberto Vera and his wife Ursula. Icons in the community, Alberto was the former mayor of Culver City and generations of families grew up going to the store. In 2010 and 2011 respectively, Alberto and Ursula passed away and son Albert Vera Jr. took over the family business.
Over the years, the store became a dusty spot but when Albert took over, he started to clean up the store. From the moment you walk in the store, you are faced with shelves of Italian products!
Rows of olive oils, tomato sauces, pastas, candies, and other Italian products. In fact, there are many products that you can only find in Italy but now Sorrento imports them directly.
If you can pull yourself away from the shelves and shelves of delicious products, head to the wine section. Steve Lanzarotta, the wine buyer, started cleaning up the wine section about a year ago. Clearing out the existing stock, Steve has completely revised the wine selection to represent wines from every region in Italy. With 50 varieties of red wines and 30 varieties of white wines, the wines all range between $15-$25 per bottle. Sure, there is a BevMo down the street, but if you are looking for Italian wines from Marche, Umbria, Veneto, Piemonte, Tuscany, Sicily and more, Sorrento Italian Market is the place to go.
After spending time wandering the rows, I finally was distracted by the smell in the air. It is the comfortable, homey smell of homemade food that fills the room. The center of the store is a large square deli counter where you can select cheeses, meats, pastries and fresh breads.
The hot dishes (pastas, meatballs, pastrami) are made fresh each morning.
And, at the register, you will see a selection of fresh vegetables that come from the family ranch in Lindsay, California.
Order a sandwich to eat at the picnic tables out back or take home.
Sorrento Italian Market is a community spot. The customers are a cross section of cultures but many have been coming for generations. Adults who remember getting free cookies when they were kids now bring in their children and grandchildren to enjoy the same treat.
There are few small family-owned deli/markets left today. With so many closed, it is all the more important to seek out this family-owned gem. Even on your first visit, coming to Sorrento Italian Market is like coming home.
Sorrento Italian Market
5518 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230