Cortinas Italian Market

Photo by Sasha ContrerasAnaheim continues to be the Ellis Island of Orange County, as Latino, Filipino, and Middle Eastern immigrants replace the founding Modjeskas and Langenbergers that melted into the clichéd pot long ago. It's fortunate that the newcomers are also reinvigorating their new town's dining scene, because with assimilation, unfortunately, go the restaurants. Anaheim's German eateries, for examples are now down to Loreley's Restaurant and Gustav's Jägerhaus. And the city's last Polish restaurant, Mr. Smoke, shut down last year.

Only the Italians remain from Anaheim's Old Europe guard, and they're the ones who keep the business bustling at Cortina's Italian Market, a cozy landmark that's been baking and slicing since 1963. The emporium consists of three rooms: a bazaar stocked with Italian produce, a side deli slapping together some of the heftiest subs outside Little Italy, and a dining room to enjoy said goods and grub.

First, the actual market. An immaculate counter houses enough types of sausages to end world hunger, everything from milk-fed veal to pepper-crusted girths that look like an elephant's stump. The counter's sausage section bleeds into cheese wheels bleeds into various olives bleeds into dessert trays keeping eight types of homemade biscotti. Even better are the wonderful prepared-that-morning cannolis: bent wafers welded with chocolate chips and a solitary cherry, oozing with a subtly sweet ricotta cheese filling worthy of that celebrated Godfather reference. There are wines, pastas, a small Argentine section, and Cortina's also hawks snappy house versions of Italian dressing and marinara sauce. You can even purchase an Italian rip-off of Alka-Seltzer, necessary for the bellyache that will inevitably arise after you gorge from…

The deli: decorated with pasta-emblazoned green wallpaper and a Roberto Baggio poster, comforting with the scent of baking dough, the home away from home you so desperately desire. To order, crane your neck upwards at a forty-five degree angle toward the menu tacked above a doorway. Ignore the so-so plates and pizzas in favor of the feral simplicity of Cortina's sandwiches, 22 pillars each as decadent as Caligula. The bulk of the sausage-and-peppers choice—three cucumber-thick sausages dressed with fried bell peppers and slathered with a meat sauce that would awake Dean Martin from his deep sleep—makes a chorizo torta seem as healthy as a bean sprout wrap. An eggplant Parmesan sandwich, meanwhile, employs the aubergine plant's fleshy essence perfectly: workers bread the eggplant lightly so that it assumes the properties of meat without masking the fruit's earthy pleasure—a vegetarian transubstantiation, if you will. And the crowning Cortina's Special—dry and cotto salami, capicolla, mortadella, provolone cheese, all drenched in tingling vinaigrette—is like trying to pen a steer within a bread loaf.

And you ask about Cortina's dining room? Mostly older folks, with a smattering of bambinos yammering around, everyone keeping the last vestiges of Anaheim's Italo-American heritage vibrant through the greatest way imaginable: food.

Cortina's Italian Market, 2175 W. Orange Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-1741.


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