Restaurant of the Week: Old World Deli

Old World Deli, 281 S. Mountain Ave. (at 8th), Upland; open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A storefront in the Mountain Green shopping center next to a former Mervyns and Kohl’s is on the surface an incongruous spot for a restaurant named Old World Deli. It calls itself “an international delicatessen featuring Italian, German, Jewish and American food” and began as a meat market in Downey in 1969.

The Upland location began in 1973 on Foothill Boulevard, according to one of the many newspaper writeups framed on the walls. There were multiple locations at its height; today there’s Covina (126 Shoppers Lane) and Upland.

I ate here once or twice in the ’00s and had positive experiences while never feeling motivated to return. A few months ago, a soup-lovin’ friend told me the soups are top-notch, putting the restaurant back on my radar. During the holidays, an attempted visit to my go-to pizzeria, San Biagio’s, in Mountain Green was thwarted due to vacation.

So I hit up Old World Deli. After the shaded patio tables out front, you enter to a deli case, tile floor, a wall-filling mural and some Italian market items. Rather than order at the deli counter, you order at the regular counter, where the staff is friendly.

The menu has hot and cold sandwiches, a salad bar, soup, pizza, pasta dinners, hot dogs and broasted chicken. They are broad-minded sorts.

I got the tuna melt ($8), a special that day. As careful readers know, the tuna melt is my baseline sandwich, the one I will almost invariably order if it’s on a menu to get a sense of the restaurant. This was a good version with pickles, cheddar and tomatoes on sourdough.

A week later, with San Biagio’s still closed, this time for painting, I had the excuse for a repeat visit to Old World Deli. I wanted a soup and, with five choices, went with cream of mushroom, which was sold out. I opted for broccoli cheese, plus a half sandwich, roast beef (around $8.50).

The sandwich, about 4 inches, was packed with roast beef. The soup was the standout, an 8-ounce serving, creamy and, remarkably, hot all the way to the bottom of the foam cup. Both made for a decent-sized lunch.

I ought to try one of the dinners, which they serve after 4 p.m. and which include a daily special, like fish and chips on Friday. Fish and chips? Broasted chicken? Lasagna? They seem to know what they’re doing, so it wouldn’t surprise me if all these items were pretty good. Although I would advise them against branching out into sushi.

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Restaurant of the Week: Claro’s, Upland

Claro’s Italian Market, 1655 N. Mountain Ave. (at 16th), Upland; open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; closed Wednesday

You know how it is: Sometimes there’s a long-lived, beloved restaurant that you always mean to try, but you never get around to it. Claro’s was like that for me. I knew where it was, but it’s rare that I pass by on North Mountain, and since it’s a market, seating might be an issue. It was always a “one day I’ll check it out” kind of place for me.

But then a friend in the San Gabriel Valley brought up Claro’s to me, as there are a few out that way. This was two weeks ago, on what was looking to be the the last hot stretch we were likely to have in 2018. Since the heat was such that eating outdoors would be comfortable for your easily chilled blogger, I resolved to make a special trip for lunch that Friday before inspiration faded.

Claro’s is larger than I’d have expected, the deli area busy with employees preparing catering orders and fulfilling a long grocery list of the other mid-afternoon customer, who ordered a pound or half-pound of multiple deli meats. The store, incidentally, has pasta, sauces, canned tomatoes and many other Italian items — as probably everyone reading this has known for years.

The young man taking my order suggested the Grandpa Joe as the deli’s most popular sandwich. It’s got salami, capocolla, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, pepperocini and dressing on a (what else?) Italian roll. Price is $7 for a small or $8.49 for a large. So obviously I got the large.

I paid at the register and also bought a $1.20 cookie, which, charmingly, rang up on the receipt as “Delicious Claro’s cookies,” and a Pepsi, then took it all out to one of the half-dozen outdoor tables, situated under the broad awning. Customers came and went from the store, some grabbing a small shopping cart before entering.

The capocolla and pepperocini provided a nice kick that cut through the other fillings like Willie Nelson’s voice through your speakers. The roll was soft and crusty. The result was delicious, possibly the best such cold deli sandwich in the Inland Valley.

Half a sandwich would have been fine, by the way, but I went ahead and finished it. And the cookie did not make a liar out of the receipt.

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Restaurant of the Week: Nano’s Deli

Nano’s Deli, 2250 S. Archibald Ave. (at Philadelphia), Ontario; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday

I rarely get down to South Archibald because from where I work, the airport is in the way. But two friends on two straight days (hi, David; hi, Nancy) told me about Nano’s Deli, which opened in May. So a few days later I invited a friend to meet me there.

Even though the Bulletin’s office is on Archibald, I had to head east to Haven, then head west on Philadelphia. At least that was the plan; by the time I got to Philadelphia, I forgot about heading west and hunted in vain for the restaurant. Realizing my error, I hopped on the 60 and got off at Archibald; the deli is in the first block above the freeway.

Nano’s turns out to be next to Alina’s, a Lebanese restaurant featured here in 2010. I liked it but haven’t been back just because of the logistics. Nice to see it’s still around.

It’s clean inside, if a little bare. Nano’s was doing good business with customers who probably work at nearby industrial and business parks.

You can build your own sandwich from a wide variety of meats, including eight types of turkey, six types of bread and nine kinds of cheese. They use Boar’s Head meats and cheese. There’s also some specialty sandwiches, hot and cold, and three salads. Basically, it’s virtually all sandwiches — plus an impressive variety of potato chips.

We got two of the cold specialty sandwiches: the submarine and the Nano’s 2 Meats, as combos with chips and drink ($12 each).

The sub had mortadella, hot cappicola,, pepperoni, salami and provolone; the two-meat had Cajun turkey (a little spicy), roast beef and American cheese, which, perhaps unpatriotically, we swapped out for Swiss.

They were generous with the fillings. (That’s the Italian in front, the two meat in the back.) While we thought our sandwiches were fine, we were not wowed. Even with Cajun turkey, they were a little bland or generic. I felt like I should like the food better than I did.

By the way, on our way out I noticed a separate rack of potato chips on the opposite wall. This is like a Mecca of chips.

The New Diner 2 blog praised Nano’s vegetarian sandwich ($7), noting the fresh veggies and two slices of cheese.

So, if you’re in the area or live or work around the 60, give them a try and see what you think. I’ll stick with my north of ONT sandwich shops — although I do want to go back to Alina’s.

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Restaurant of the Week: D’Elia’s Grinders

D’Elia’s Grinders, 2093 University Ave. (at Kansas), Riverside; also 19009 Van Buren Blvd; open daily

In Riverside a few weeks ago, I made a point of checking out an old recommendation from a reader or two, which was to eat at D’Elia’s, an old-time shop that specializes in grinders, otherwise known as submarine sandwiches.

D’Elia’s was founded in 1955, a little before Ontario’s Grinder Haven, still in business but long out of the original owners’ hands. The D’Elia’s family owned it at one point, if I understand the history of each correctly. Today D’Elia’s is still in family hands, which seems to have made all the difference. Some scoff at Grinder Haven, saying no one knows what a grinder is anymore, but inside D’Elia’s on a Saturday afternoon it was wall to wall customers.

The dining room is blandly 1980s, so there’s no charm in it. But there was an electric charge to be in a line at a nearly full restaurant. The menu is pretty much all sandwiches, except for a few salads.

I ordered a half Sicilian grinder — capocolla, pepperoni, salami (both cotto and genoa) and provolone, with shredded lettuce — along with a bag of chips and a drink. The half sandwich was $9.63, compared to $11.07 for a full. In a way, that was a smart move, because the sandwich was all I could handle, and I don’t think leaving another half in my hot car all afternoon would have been the best idea.

It was delicious, the meats peppery, the bread fresh and crusty. As the shop’s slogan goes: “It’s the bread.” It made such a difference that you can’t help but lament all over again that latter-day Grinder Haven owners have stopped baking their own rolls, deciding it wasn’t worth the effort. It is. The crowds at D’Elia’s are proof.

Trivia note: According to a framed newspaper story on the wall about the restaurant’s history, the name is pronounced “Duh-EE-lee-uh’s.” I wish they still had the original sign, seen below in a vintage photo on a banner on the patio.

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Restaurant of the Week: Jack’s Urban Eats

Jack’s Urban Eats, 7811 Monet Ave. (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily

Victoria Gardens earlier this year gained a Jack’s Urban Eats, a self-described “urban cafeteria” with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables. It currently has 14 locations, all in California and most around Sacramento. The closest to us is Fresno.

At the mall, it’s just south of King’s Fish House along the street that got a hip makeover a year or so ago, with design-conscious pavers, benches and lights, and which has gradually focused its stores and restaurants to match the feel. I checked out the restaurant recently at lunchtime with friends.

There’s a faux brick exterior, a high ceiling with exposed duct work, tables and booths and a few outdoor tables. You take a menu and line up to order, then move down the line to pay and collect your food at the end.

They have salads, which you can build to order, sandwiches such as tri-tip, chicken, reuben, cheese steak and club, plates such as tri-tip (a specialty), chicken or turkey, and beer and wine.

I got the steak salad ($11.75), with tri-tip, mixed greens, cranberries and bleu cheese. I liked it.

Someone else was set on one item but impulsively ordered a summer special item, the Hawaiian chicken sandwich ($9.50). I would describe it, but I forgot to ask what was on it. Odds are good that pineapple and teriyaki were involved. He said: “Delicious. I want to come back and try one of their regular menu items.” His wife has had their banh mi and loved that.

Our second friend, a vegan on a repeat visit, ordered the grilled portabella sandwich ($9.75), with a mushroom, sprouts, tomato and grilled onion on a ciabatta roll, holding the provolone. “Second time I’ve had it. Still good,” she said. So noted.

Our only complaint was that at the height of the lunch rush, the restaurant was noisy with not just conversation but music. As people cleared out, talking became more comfortable. You’re too urban, Jack!

I kept thinking of Tender Greens, a similar but better cafeteria chain that hasn’t ventured east of Pasadena. Probably we’re not yet worthy. Nothing wrong with Jack’s, though.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Melt

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The Melt, 7870 Monet Ave. (in Victoria Gardens), Rancho Cucamonga

The Melt is a San Francisco-based burger chain with a small number of locations in California and Colorado. I’d eaten once at the Sunset and Vine restaurant and was only barely conversant with it before one opened earlier this year at Victoria Gardens.

The menu has burgers, grilled cheese, two salads, tomato soup and mac ‘n’ cheese, plus milkshakes and all-natural sodas. The corporate ethos is to use better ingredients and no preservatives. They also serve craft beer and wine.

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On my first visit I ordered the grilled cheese and tomato soup combo ($10) and got a black cherry soda. It was a warming, basic meal. Frankly, it was forgettable, but pleasantly so.

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I wanted to return sometime for a milkshake after trying the overdone version at The Mug Shakes. On my second visit, then, I got the swiss and shrooms burger ($7) with fries ($2.45) and a mint chocolate chip shake ($5). Other choices were vanilla bean, double chocolate, cookies and cream, snickerdoodle (!) and salted caramel.

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Very good burger, which came with grilled onions and greens, on a poppyseed bun, and the fries, sprinkled with oregano, were addictive. The shake had a crumbled cookie, like a Thin Mint, on top and I liked it too.

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A couple of small tables stand outside the restaurant, beyond which is more of a communal patio with chairs in cheerful primary colors. The restaurant is along the made-over street for youngish people with outdoor seating, stylized crosswalks and sidewalks, and overhead strings of lights. I like it.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Stackz Co.

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The Stackz Co., 9223 Archibald Ave. (at Sixth), Rancho Cucamonga

I’ve passed by Stackz, which wasn’t far from our old office, but never pulled over. The aging business center is uninspiring, and then there’s the Z in the name and on the second sign, “Subz, Saladz and Brewz,” which subtly offended me.

Then we moved our office over to Archibald, where we’re now 3/10ths of a mile from Stackz. A couple of newsroom colleagues reported how good it was, as did a random reader. So I dropped my prejudices and went in.

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Stackz has beer and wine cocktails, and also sandwiches and salads. The interior is industrial chic, with plank walls, exposed ductwork, corrugated metal trim, a barrel and some interesting art, all vintage B&W photos of early airplanes and bicycles, I think to match the old-timey design of the logo.

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You order at the bar and take a seat at a table, a picnic table or the bar. On my first visit, I got the meatball sandwich ($8) as a combo with fries and drink ($3 more). This sandwich was very good, especially the springy roll, which tasted fresh. It was a pleasant surprise. No wonder people say nice things about Stackz.

I went back another day and got the cold Italian sub as a combo with chips and drink (same price as above). While I’m not generally a fan of cold sandwiches, this was pretty good too.

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The atmosphere is somewhat male. The majority of customers are men, and on my first visit, a picnic table of them silently eyeballed the female server as she walked away. That said, the service is friendly, there are women customers and the menu even has kids items. Also, the sandwiches are quite good. I’d go back even if I had to drive a few miles.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Sand Witch

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The Sand Witch, 1208 W. 9th St. (at Mountain), Upland

I’d heard of the Sand Witch, a little shop tucked between a Chevron and an auto repair shop, but hadn’t gone in until recently, even though a friend recommended the panini sandwiches ages ago.

Despite its neighbors, it manages to be a cute place that takes the “Witch” part of its punning name seriously: The interior colors are black and shades of orange (orange is the new black, if you hadn’t heard), there’s cartoony witch-themed framed art and the menu boasts items with supernaturally punning names, such as Chicken Presto (it has pesto), Harvest Moon, Cobb Web Salad and such.

All this isn’t overbearing, which is a relief, and thankfully the ban-Harry-Potter crowd isn’t picketing. The Sand Witch sells cold sandwiches, paninis, oven-toasted sandwiches, salads and a couple of daily soups “from the cauldron.” There are four vegetarian sandwiches, a fact many will appreciate.

I got a tuna melt ($7), which some of you will recall is my baseline sandwich at places that serve them. It was a panini, and it was only average, with the tuna salad a little watery. But then it had tomato and bits of celery, a nice touch. I had a coupon for a free soda and side with sandwich purchase and got potato salad, which was fine.

Admittedly underwhelmed, I felt like I should give them a second chance. A few weeks later, I got a half-and-half combo, where you can get any two of the following: a half sandwich, half salad or half soup. I got the deviled egg salad and loaded baked potato soup ($8.38), this time using a $2 off coupon.

Decent sandwich and soup, the latter with bacon, cheddar and scallions, and better than the panini. I wouldn’t recommend driving across the valley to eat here, but it’s a local option if you’re in the area. Also, the radio was turned up way too loud. You’d think they’d have a playlist devoted to “Witchy Woman,” “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and Stevie Nicks, but no.

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Restaurant of the Week: Capri Deli

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Capri Deli, 713 E. San Bernardino Road (at Grand), Covina

I saw a newspaper ad for Capri Deli on a recent Saturday morning, which reminded me that I’d once clipped a newspaper ad for Capri Deli and never went there. Having nothing to do, I decided to try it for lunch. “Serving great sandwiches since 1954” is an enticing motto, after all, promising not only a good meal but history.

Capri was easy enough to find, not far west of Kellogg Hill off the 10 Freeway (and equidistant from the 210). Inside there was a line at the counter, which had multiple staffers taking orders and making sandwiches. This gave me time to look around and think over my options. I also grabbed a bottled soda from the alcove of grocery items, where sodas are sold individually.

I got a meatball sandwich, the 12-inch version ($9), which was soon delivered to my table on a garlic roll, marinara on the side. A very good sandwich. The dining room has kitschy, humorous decor.

This is a busy place, clearly still popular in the Subway era, and that made me think of Grinder Haven in Ontario, which hasn’t been able to cut it in recent years. Capri Deli proves that people are still willing to line up for a better sandwich. The menu even uses the term “grinders” for its subs.

I came back the next Saturday, this time getting the cold cut combo grinder, the 6-inch version ($7). The counterwoman listed all the toppings for me but I couldn’t remember them all: salami, ham, mortadella and a few more, with oil, lettuce and tomatoes. Another good sandwich, and this time I knew to grab my soda from the refrigerated case, where they seem to have everything. The dining room was almost full this visit.

There’s a case of desserts too (see below), which looked tempting. The menu also has pizza and lasagna, salads and specialty sandwiches.

Capri opened in 1954 nearby and moved to this location in 1979. It’s rare that I write about a restaurant that’s not within the Inland Valley, but this is close enough, and it might be of interest to sandwich fans, including those who miss Grinder Haven’s glory days.

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Restaurant of the Week: Olive Grill

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Olive Grill, 320 S. Milliken Ave. (at Airport), Ontario; open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; closed Saturdays and Sundays

I hadn’t remembered hearing of Olive Grill until it made a listicle of 10 notable Ontario eateries on The Culture Trip’s website. It made me feel out of it. Isn’t it my job to know these things? The reader who sent me the list made a reconnaissance mission and said the place was fantastic. I’ve since made a couple of visits myself.

Getting there for most people will involve taking the 10, getting off at Milliken and heading south through the truck-choked intersection near the Travel Centers of America truck stops and under the relatively new train overpass. Once past that, Olive Grill is on the west side in an industrial park between Airport and Brickell.

Don’t let all that deter you. Olive Grill is colorful and cheery, if fast-paced on a lunch hour. They have breakfast burritos, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, burgers, teriyaki, yakisoba and smoothies.

On my first visit I got the Korean BBQ sandwich ($8, pictured below), curious how it would compare to the version at the nearby Corner Deli. It’s marinated beef with grilled onions and mushrooms, mozzarella, soy, garlic, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli.

It’s quite a rendition: less drippy than the one at Corner Deli, less meat, more flavors. Call it a draw. And you get a small salad, two orange wedges and a thin apple slice. I added a bag of chips and regretted it as the meal turned out to be filling as it was.

Next visit I tried the Edo charbroiled chicken sandwich ($8, pictured at bottom), with teriyaki chicken, Asian slaw (cabbage, green onions, carrots), mozzarella, pickled red ginger and garlic aioli, and again coming with the sides. (Having wised up, I didn’t get chips.) Another very good sandwich, unusual, tasty and satisfying.

I arrived moments before 1 p.m. and the dining room was mostly full, with a half-dozen people standing up waiting for to-go orders. By 1:05, half the people had left.

Why it’s called Olive Grill, which suggests Greek food, I don’t know — there may not be an olive in any of the dishes — but under any name, this Asian-owned mom and pop shop is well worth repeat visits.

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