Paella Saturday at La Española
Just off the 110 in Harbor City, down an industrial side street, in a maze of concrete with a USDA sign on the rear parking spot, La Espanola Meats Inc. does not immediately look like the Spanish food oasis that it is. But walk through the door and you'll see racks of wines and Spanish olive oils, refrigerator cases of cheeses and charcuterie, shelves loaded with Marcona almonds and Jerez vinegar, whole jamons hanging from a stand in the back. And on Saturday, if you walk into a side courtyard, you'll also find some amazing paella, made that morning on a pan so big its contents serve 80.
The specialty store has been around since 1982, founded by Juana and Frank Faraone. Juana, who is from Valencia, Spain, began making paella in 1995. In the beginning, she explained this past Saturday, she just put a homemade sign in the middle of the street. It didn't take long: Now most Saturdays the patio is filled with repeat customers, most speaking Spanish, many of whom have been coming to eat paella for most of the last 13 years. The portions are enormous, loaded with chicken and seafood, roasted peppers and beans and saffron-shot Valencia rice. It's easy to see why locals tend to make an afternoon of it. Juana says sometimes she makes three batches on a Saturday, depending on how many people call in during the week. Her son-in-law Alex Motamedi, who manages the store, kept bringing out plates of tapas from the store's interior: thinly sliced jamon serrano, wedges of Idiazabal cheese, Marcona almonds and anchovy-stuffed olives, even some of the prized jamon iberico. A local woman shared her homemade slices of lemon cake; Alex opened more wine.
Inside the store, you can find not only the Spanish products that the store imports, but also a wealth of the charcuterie that La Española makes in the small adjoining plant. Beside a gleaming German sausage-making machine, Alex showed off the chorizo (they make four kinds) and morcilla, or blood sausage (two kinds). In the rooms in the back, a pair of employees cut jamon Serrano, slice by individual slice, on a machine. All of which makes for pretty great patio tapas during the week, if (sadly) you can't make it for the paella.
La Española Meats Inc., 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City, (310) 539-0455. Store hours are Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Paella is $8.50 and served only on Saturdays; we suggest you call ahead and let them know you're coming.
-- Amy Scattergood
Photos by Amy Scattergood