02/07/2011 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Italian Food Importer Is an Astonishing Best-Kept Secret

Gessica Guidi
Gessica Guidi is the granddaughter of the founder of this remarkable Italian importer.

It took my brother Stan, visiting here from his home in southern France, to introduce me to one of the most exciting food stores in the city. Almost as great a foodie as me, he had culled recommendations from friends around the world before arriving in L.A., and after making several solo visits to an Italian grocery wholesaler in Santa Monica, he insisted that I join him there this week for a thorough investigation. So we drove west on Olympic Blvd to 10th street and made a right turn into an industrial street. There, hidden away behind a small sign on the ground floor of a warehouse, was Guidi Marcello Ltd. (1649 10th Street, Santa Monica (310) 452-6277) Open 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, Saturday 10:30 am to 2:30 pm), a glorious world of authentic Italian food.
Elizabeth & Gessica
Elizabeth Tohikian and Gessica Guidi selecting a cheese for me to sample.

Gessica Guidi, granddaughter of the late founder, Marcello Guidi, was there to greet us, along with Elizabeth Tohikian. At first I was put off by the small front room....but then my brother took me to the rear area where a large freezer exhibited a huge range of clearly-labeled pastas imported from Italy...and I realized that this was merely the front to a 14,000 sq. ft. warehouse holding an enormous amount of unique Italian imports. (For exmple, 300 whole wheels of Parmesan each weighing 90 lbs, and 3000 cases of Farchioni olive oil.) Elizabeth sliced off a small sample of young parmesian cheese for us to sample, and told us it was on 'special' this week. The flavor was rich, intense and I put aside a pound. Jessica looked at my recent restaurant newsletter article about Locanda del Lago and told me that owner West Hooker and their chef were regular customers, "Most of the Italian chefs in town are our customers,"she modestly said, mentioning Gino Angelini and others. Her grandfather, Marcello, left his Tuscan hometown of Lucca during the Second World War and went to Ethiopia, where he died at a relatively young age. She explained that Marcello's son, Marco, her father, and mother Ani took over the business before relocating to the U.S. and opened this Santa Monica store in 1981. I went to the office door to inspect the Berkel slicer, a massive red instrument which I have coveted forever. (My friends, the Mullins, have two.) They sell them here; they are expensive. She placed a block of Prosciutto San Daniele in it and sliced it paper thin for us to sample. Gessica told me that most of their business was wholesale to chefs, hotels and restaurants, but they welcome retail customers who hear about it by word-of-mouth and referrals from chefs. "I make regular trips to Italy to source new products," she told me. "We have some astonishing new organic olive oils, for example. And here is a Chianti we are selling for just a few dollars; it's excellent." By then I had discovered the Italian Ducale mineral water, many regional wines and Peroni beers, goat and sheep's milk cheeses, candies, cookies, Italian much more.
Frozenpasta case-Elizabeth
Elizabeth displays some of themany frozen pastas from Italy.

I was overwhelmed by the specialty foods I was discovering here...the artisanal Spinosi pastas, cans of San Marzano tomatoes, kilo jars of salted capers, and then I discovered the refrigerator case with its rare, incredibly-flavored guanciale (pork cheek/jowl used in making spaghetti carbonara and pasta all Amatriciana), a dozen varieties of salumi, more hams than I could count, and a case with the delicious burrata from Gioia and real Buffalo Mozzarella. Back to the frozen case for a half-hundred different pastas...large short rib tortelloni, pumpkin ravioli, veal agnolotti for dinner this night. But the girls took us to the front display of boxes of Spinosi pastas, those incredible pastas made since 1933 in Campolfilone, Italy, and I selected a box of tagliatelle while brother Stan took a few boxes of fettucine and pappardelle. (Made from special durum wheat semolina and whole fresh eggs, this pasta cooks in five minutes in boiling salted water, and makes DeCecco and others pale in comparison.) Elizabeth handed me a frozen pizza package from Rome ($2 apiece, "Just defrost and heat in a hot oven and cover it with your sauce.")

I asked if they had any red clam sauce and was directed to a shelf featuring an array of pasta sauces of all varieties. Saw Moreno Cedroni's mustards and legendary jams; they are the exclusive distributor for this renowned Michelin-starred chef's products. Olives from Puglia, balsamic from Modena aged from 6 to 30 to even 100 years...real Italian speck, mortadella, porchetta. I grabbed at a package of bottarga, tuna and mullet eggs from Sardinia. As I piled a load of food into my car, I thanked my visiting brother for this wonderful tip and made my plans to return shortly. Arriverdeci and Buon Appetito.

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