There’s no shortage of excellent sandwiches in Los Angeles. For the pastrami on double-baked rye fans, there’s Langer’s Deli. If anyone tells you another pastrami sandwich is better, they’re wrong.
A few years back, I put together a list of the best Italian subs in the city. It includes more than a dozen.
The tuna salad sandwich at Bub & Grandma’s in Glassell Park is a lunchtime hero. The beetroot Reuben at Loam in Downtown L.A. is a revelation that will capture the hearts of both carnivores and vegetarians.
Here are two more sandwiches to add to the list of the city’s best. Ideal for your next power lunch, beach picnic, or whatever situation calls for stuff between bread.
All the sandwiches at Lorenzo California
In the fall of 2019, Renato Araujo and his wife, Cynthia Raslan, spent a month in Florence eating sandwiches. Araujo, a longtime restaurant manager in Los Angeles, was on a research trip to find the best. Earlier that year, he and his wife decided to take the money they had saved to buy a house, and open a sandwich shop instead.
On one of the couple’s treks to try a new sandwich, Araujo couldn’t find the shop. While they walked up and down the streets of Florence, they spotted a family with a little boy. They were so taken with him, they stopped to say hello.
“He was dressed up like a gentleman,” he said. “I told him, ‘Man, you dressed up so nice.’ I asked what his name was, and he said ‘Lorenzo.’”
The family happened to be standing in front of the sandwich shop.
“We stopped to talk to the family because of the little boy,” he said. “We never would have found the place. When we were wondering what to call our place, me and my wife looked at each other and both said ‘Lorenzo.’”
The pandemic hit shortly after their return to Los Angeles, and their plans to open a shop were put on hold. After three years, Lorenzo California opened on Little Santa Monica in Beverly Hills in March.
The sandwiches are modeled after the ones he ate in Florence: minimal ingredients on good bread.
Federico Fernandez, co-owner and executive pastry chef at Bianca restaurant in Culver City, bakes the bread for the shop at 4 a.m. every morning. It’s a variation on focaccia, though baked into individual rectangles versus large pans that need to be cut. It’s thinner, and lighter too, with a crust that cracks but doesn’t quite fracture. With good extra-virgin olive oil and flaky sea salt, the rustic flavor of focaccia is there, without the dense, heavy middle.
The bread is baked once a day, with enough to make about 75 sandwiches. Once they’re out, that’s it for the day.
Raslan takes the orders next to the deli case and Araujo slices the meats and builds the sandwiches to order.
The fennel-tinged finocchiona salame on the Salamino sandwich is shaved so thinly, it seems to melt right into the cushion of silky parmigiano sauce and sliced, oil-soaked artichokes.
The namesake sandwich, the Lorenzo, features the same parmigiano sauce, made with boiled and blended cream and parmigiano reggiano, along with roasted red peppers, toasted pistachios and pale pink sheets of mortadella. The flavors are simple and direct, though Araujo said some purists still come in asking for sliced mortadella on bread.
The most extravagant offering is the Zola, constructed with meaty, almost smoky bresaola, a drizzle of truffle honey, white onion agrodolce and gorgonzola cheese. It’s a whopping $35. The sticker shock is less of a shock when you account for the shower of fresh, shaved black truffle over the finished sandwich.
In the near future, Araujo plans to switch off the lights in the deli case in the evenings and open for dinner with a full menu of pasta and wine.
Venice Cowgirl at Lady & Larder
More than any other sandwich in Los Angeles, the Venice Cowgirl at Lady & Larder, the petite cheese shop and superette in Santa Monica, evokes a moment in time and a sense of place in the city. Its annual reappearance on the menu signals the start of summer. More than frozen desserts, salads or barbecue.
Sisters and co-owners Sarah and Boo Simms dreamed up the sandwich, as they do with all the sandwiches at the shop, as a way to frame a particular cheese. The star of the Venice Cowgirl is Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam triple cream. They slice the cheese into thick tiles and layer them on a crusty Clark Street Bread baguette with habanero and apricot jam, sliced nectarines, basil, wild arugula, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
“People don’t always think of sandwiches as seasonal, but for us, they are super seasonal,” Sarah said during a recent call. “The Venice Cowgirl just came back, and it’s only available during stone fruit season.”
The nectarines may change to peaches, depending on what’s available. Last week’s nectarines were heavy with sunshine and sugar, ripe but not overly soft. They were the perfect counterpart to the bloomy rind cheese, with a slight firmness around the edges that turns to butter toward the middle. If you happen to get a bite with more cheese than fruit, expect a wallop of raw white mushrooms.
The basil might be Thai basil, purple basil and/or green Genovese, both floral and bright. The Simms buy their pepper jelly from Suze McClellan of Ojai Jelly, who drives to L.A. to hand-deliver jars. The sweet heat of the jelly reminds the sisters of the appetizers their mother would put out for company, typically a soft, young bright cheese accompanied by pepper jelly.
The specific combination made me greedy and giddy, the way I feel after an especially fruitful summer trip to the farmers market with my arms sore from heavy bags of cherries and stone fruit. There’s just enough good stuff crammed between the baguette to make me want more. More nectarines. More cheese. More pepper jam.
“It has all the things you want, salty, sweet, acid, texture,” Sarah said. “All the things that bring us joy in a sandwich.”
The Simms started making the sandwiches during COVID, when their orders for cheese and charcuterie trays dwindled with the shutdown and subsequent cancellation of events and parties across the city. There are typically two to three varieties wrapped and ready to grab off the counter.
The Venice Cowgirl will only be around while stone fruit is in season. Get it while you can.
Where to get a good sandwich
Lorenzo California, 9529 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (424) 332-2949, lorenzocalifornia.com
Lady and Larder, 828 Pico Blvd. Suite 2, Santa Monica, (310) 392-1700, www.ladyandlarder.com