As I soon as I lay the cannoli from TINA AND VINCE'S on the conference-room table, Weekly calendar editor Tom Child began fidgeting. I didn't even have to look at the guy, and I knew some Pavlovian force was working through the hardest-working Weekling. Finally, Tom spoke. "What is that?" he wondered, in the tone kids use when assuming their inquiry about a foodstuff will lead to said foodstuff in their mouth within seconds.
"Cannoli," I replied. "It's good."
I planned to eat the Sicilian dessert by myself, but one bite was enough. It didn't help that I had just finished a Tina and Vince's Italian sub: ham, capicolla, salami, provolone and prosciutto bursting from a soft roll, the Latin equivalent of an edible pillow. But even if I had nothing in my stomach, finishing the cannoli was nigh-impossible. It was one of the biggest I'd ever seen east of Little Italy, more burrito than snack: rolled up, pastry shell slathered with thick chocolate, stuffed with a ricotta-cheese frosting that can cause instant diabetes in children and old folks. Eat one of these, and you'll never want any other sweet—and all this from only one bite.
Just a nibble of anything at Tina and Vince's will satisfy your hunger more easily than half of the restaurants in Orange County. The tiny deli is an anomaly in downtown San Clemente, an honest-to-goodness ethnic shop in a city devoted to whitewashing anything that reeks of minority. The menu is limited—pizzas, sandwiches and lasagna—and purposely so. Tina and Vince's specializes in selling ingredients so you lazy bums can create Italian meals. Proper Italian tomato paste? Here. Muffuletta spread? In jars, as well as inside some of the Italian subs. Imported beers and candies? Get the chewy almond-nougat confection with the statue of Renaissance-era Italian nobleman Ferrante Gonzaga standing over a vanquished guy representing Envy. Italian cookies and breads baked that day? All of them delicious. A deli counter keeps massive balls of cheese, gnarled sausages and enough antipasti to make Italian grandmothers irrelevant. They even stock homemade pastas in the fridge, everything from potato gnocchi to ravioli and about a half-dozen others. Take it from this sloth: Tina and Vince's pastas will make your Trader Joe's dinner seem as tasteless as what you'd get at Fazoli's.
But back to the cannoli. After our staff meeting, I invited everyone to finish it off. Strangely, no one grabbed for it. The conference room emptied; Tom lingered. "Want some of the cannoli?" I asked. His eyes widened, and he grabbed the dessert. He ate the whole thing over the course of the day. Hey, bastard—I said some.
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Tina and Vince's, 221 Ave. del Mar, Ste. B, San Clemente, (949) 498-5156.