all photos by Jay
I am addicted to a tiny food shop. Or rather I'm addicted to the contents of a tiny shop. How is it possible to be addicted to a store? Make a visit to NONNA'S EMPANADAS, at 8570 W. Third Street, two blocks east of Cedars-Sinai at Sherbourne Drive next to Lee's liquor store (street parking and metered in front) and you will see. We wrote the first review of this wonderful little empanada shop when it opened in 2009. Since then, they have expanded their selection of empanadas-of-the-world to feature over 40 varieties of these delicious little filled-pies, plus now they are offering sandwiches, salads and frozen packages of pies to go. And they deliver (310-385-0445).
I remember meeting the gracious blonde Argentinian woman, Graciella Blotiansky, and her partner "Mario" back when the shop opened, and Mario told me that he was an Argentinian-Armenian-Italian with a Californian sensibility. They had restaurants in Buenos Aires but didn't know if Americans would go for their unique offerings. The location had been a store called Breadsticks which they renovated into an indoor-outdoor beige café. "We wanted to redefine fast food," she said, "serving casual tasty fare in a friendly atmosphere." Empanadas are one of those hot foods which can be eaten anytime, anywhere. A crescent-shapd pastry filled with stewed meats, cheese, vegetables or fruits, it is baked (not fried) until the dough wrapping is a crusted brown. They have perfected a way to stamp their name and the type of filling on each 5-inch long well-filled pie, although it is sometimes hard to read. It's an Argentinian classic adapted to our healthy tastes, though I later learned that it originated in Spain some 700 years ago.
Empanadas are suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, all at a price which is within reach of any customer...$3.25 to $5.00, depending upon the filling. They can be purchased in any quantity, and I have seen people buying packages of dozens upon dozens of them for parties....I can't think of any occasion when a tasty empanada would not be welcome. Over the years I have eaten dozens of beef ones, with their savory stewed meat, onions, egg and red peppers (a touch of olive), and ham and cheese ones, then switching to chicken with its stuffing of dark-meat bird, onions and jalapenos. I've noticed that they have added a half-dozen choices with Filipino-spiced fillings, and the girl at the desk told me that almost all of the nurses at Cedars are from the Philippines and come in for their favorites. Delivery service has become a huge part of their business, and the internet is the way to go...the complete menu is on-line at www.nonnaempanadas.com.... you can order anything from a half-dozen to a few hundred that way. One of their catering options is $200 for 25 people (24 hour notice) , and you get 10 empanadas of each: beef, chicken, veggie, tomato, ham and cheese...a total of 50, along with a mixed green Italian salad amd ranch dressing. There will be a dessert dulche de leche selection and lots of their hot, spicy chimichurri sauce. By the way, they offer little containers of this sauce free when you order a pie, and you also can purchase a jar of it ($3.95)...which I recommend. If you decide to eat there, the Combo #1 for $9.99 is 3 empanadas and a soda. Or you can substitute a salad for one of the empanadas. For $38.95, you can take home a dozen of the pies. There are also a selection of frozen packages, six pies for $20. Recently I saw an ABC-TV show nn the making of Nonna empanadas and an Argentinian fellow named Eduardo and chef named Diego seem to have taken over the back-of-the-house operation.
The first time you enter the store you will stand mouth agape at the display...so many choices. So let me try and simplify it a bit for you. They are divided into four categories: Gourmet, Classic, World and Dessert. The Gourmet includes a spectacular mushroom pie ($3.95) which I highly recommend, the Classic has a chicken jalapeno ($3.25) which is delicious, the World category has the marvelous pork carnitas ($3.95) and the Filipino beef ($3.59), and a Cuban wonder for $3.95. Dessert empanadas are a bit more expensive..and worth every penny. Get the flan with dulce de leche ($4,95), and/or the chocolate kiss ($5.95). But then there's the nutella one ($3.95). It's hard for me not to tell you about so many other choices...but that's something you will have to discover for yourself. Carne asada of beef ($3.95) or the philly cheese steak one ($3,95), the shrimp and cheese pie ($3.95), so many veggie suggestions: mac and cheese, onion and cheese (both $3.95), although I still prefer the mushroom.There is good, strong coffee, a large selection of sodas and soft drinks.
Oh, my, I go crazy when I come here after visiting my doctors across the way. I always end taking a half-dozen of the beef pies home....they are filled with ground beef, onions, red pepper, olives and egg, and only cost $3.25 apiece. The girl will ask you if you want to eat them there or to take-out...I always say 'take out'..they come slightly warm, and I put the bag on the passenger seat as I drive off....reaching into the bag for my first taste. By the time I get home I wlll have consumed three of the damn little packets of delicious goodness.
But I have discovered so many other choices that I will be returning soon for another dozen....including dessert empanadas and their Mexican churros. You will find yourself looking for any excuse to drive down Third Street hoping to find a parking space open near the store. On Monday to Friday they are open from 8 am to 8 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm.
Remember, these savory delights are baked (not fried) fresh every morning...they use only prime fillings, and make a wonderful appetizer for parties and such. On Thursday night I had six writers coming by my place for a meeting, and two dozen assorted Nonna pies satisfied their inner needs really well. So be warned: once you stop in and sample a pie, you will become a devoted fan. As the Washington Post said today, addiction is not a disease....it is a choice. I know, I choose Nonna's empanadas.
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