By Jill Weinlein, 4/05/2012
There’s a new sandwich shop in town, Marcona, serving a meal between two slices of bread. Owner, Collier Ulrich had a vision. After graduating from the University of Denver with a degree in Business Management, Ulrich came to California and couldn’t find a decent sandwich. Since he has always been fascinated with good food, he decided to open his own boutique sandwich shop. Ulrich lives near Melrose Ave., and he wanted his first business to be close to home.
I had the opportunity to talk with Ulrich and his crew at Marcona one night just before their grand opening. “I grew up on the East coast, where there are some great sandwich shops. I shared my vision with my friend, chef Matt Moss and told him to come to Los Angeles,” Ulrich said.
Matthew Moss has been a chef since he was 15 years old. “I made Italian beef while in high school at Chicago’s famous Pop’s Italian beef,” Moss said. “I create a terrific giardiniera. It’s a big thing in Chicago,” he added. Giardiniera is a colorful Italian relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar and oil. Moss developed his creative talents at Butter and at Crofton on Wells, with Suzy Crofton in Chicago.
At Marcona, Moss is making sandwiches with New York, Spanish, Mediterranean and California influences. The sandwich shop has a New York and European feel. Spanish and Moroccan paintings, filled with bright colors, decorate the walls.
Pastry Chef Janna Leone offered me a bag of her crunchy and chewy cookies. She is so happy to be back home in Los Angeles after cooking in New York for a few years. Born and raised in Hollywood, Leone graduated from Fairfax High School. “I worked at Double Rainbow scooping ice cream on Melrose,” she said. “My parents had a candy booth at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. I was always around sweets,” Leone said. She makes all the baked goods at Marcona, ike the wonderful golden oatmeal bite-size cookies. She put a few of her coconut and butterscotch cookies with currants in my take-home bag.
Leone’s signature cherry cheesecake and brownies are also worth a visit. “We are selling my housemade granola, honey walnut brittle and a sweet and savory Marcona nut mix,” Leone said.
There are 12 different gourmet sandwiches priced from $5 to $12. I was fortunate to taste at least ten of these delectable delights. Some of my favorites include the charred salmon salad with fennel, orange zest, parsley and greens on fresh rye bread. Another was the Tofu Thai with grilled tofu, sweet rice, housemade pickling, mushrooms, mung beans, Napa cabbage mixed with yellow curry and gently stuffed into pita bread.
Turkey lovers will enjoy the Romesco (a Spanish sauce with almonds, pine nuts or hazelnuts and roasted garlic, red peppers and olive oil) with sliced turkey, red onion and Chef Moss’s Chicago-style giardiniera on a French baguette. Don’t forget to order a side of the Mediterranean potato salad with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, green onions and herbs and the white bean salad with olive oil, mint and red onions. Other salads include a “huge chicken chopped salad”, and a bloomed wheat berry with mushrooms, almonds, cherries, mint, cilantro in an orange muscat vinaigrette.
Step up to the counter and order an affordable sandwich at this sophisticated shop. It’s an ideal spot to grab a few sandwiches to-go, perhaps for a picnic or meal at the Hollywood Bowl. Or stay and take a seat and enjoy the flavors of Chef Moss and Pastry Chef Leone’s creations. $ Hours Tues. to Fri. 11:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Marcona is closed on Mondays. 7368 Melrose Ave. (323)951-9991. www.marconarestaurant.com