PICTURED: Crostini four ways: smashed cannellini bean, marinated artichoke, traditional tomato and mushroom. Photo by Leslie A. Westbrook

Peirano’s Market and Delicatessan
204 E. Main St., Ventura
805-628-9028
www.deliventura.com
$4.50-20

My strongest memory of grocery shopping with my Italian-American mother at Santa Monica’s Italian Bay Cities deli is holding my nose from the strong stench of cheese and salumi hanging from the ceiling.  It took time, but I’ve come to love and appreciate these aromas over the years.

There’s no stinky cheese smell at Peirano’s Market and Delicatessen.

Downtown Ventura is all abuzz with the re-opening of Peirano’s — the Italian deli with a heck of a view of the San Buenaventura Mission. The space has a long, storied history that

The Peirano’s deli counter. Photo by Leslie A. Westbrook

includes the original owner, the murals and the mission’s lavenderia. (Read Peirano’s Wikipedia entry for further details.)

Ventura’s Main Street fountain bubbled along with the same infectious and palpable delight seen on the happy faces of the other patrons standing in line to order at the counter on the weekday I popped in for a quick lunch with a friend.

The sandwiches looked appealing and filling, but my friend was on a mission: She wanted to try an array of crostini (4 for $16) and a glass of very good Gran Passione bianco wine (we sampled two white wines on the “evolving” wine list). I surveyed the list of salads — orange and fennel, quinoa (recommended by the gal at the register), a traditional chopped Italian with salami and garbanzo beans. I settled on Peirano’s Farm Salad, a healthy bowl of fresh greens with bits of roasted squash and garbanzo beans with a roasted lemon vinaigrette and cashew butter dressing. The dressing was a bit too sweet for my palate (perhaps due to the cashew butter?).

Our four crostini included a tasty traditional bruschetta piled high with tiny chopped tomatoes; the mushroom trio with shallot confit, garlic, parsley and riobolo; marinated artichoke with crema de pecora and pistachio dust with a bit of a kick; and smashed cannellini beans that resembled pâté with friarelli greens (aka rapini or broccoli rabe), pickled Fresno Chili pepper and olio nuovo.

Cold sandwiches (with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, Dijon mustard and vinaigrette) ring in at $9.95-13.50. Both the Peirano’s Italian (capocollo, salami, mortadella, provolone and Calabrian butter) and the turkey and pancetta sounded good, but early reviews raving about the hearty hot sandwiches appealed for a future visit.

I did end up returning, and ordered one of the cold sandwiches to go. Billed as “Italian

Italian Classics sandwich with prosciutto, arugula and stracchino cheese. Photo by Leslie A. Westbrook

Classics,” it featured prosciutto piled high with lots of arugula and tasty tomato oil to wet the somewhat hard “thin baguette” (more chewy Italian roll than French baguette). There was a spread of stracchino cheese — and fresh mozzarella accidentally included that I think they should keep on this sandwich. I took the bread/roll home and the texture improved in the toaster the next morning.

Closed Mondays, Peirano’s Market carries a nice selection of pastas, canned goods (including delish Italian wedding soup, just $2.35), olive oils, cookies, etc. that can be made into gift baskets — as well as cases with Ex Voto artisanal chocolates, produce and even fresh local flowers. Breakfast is served Saturday and Sundays; the private dining room in the back is already taking reservations. Peirano’s also caters and sells “family meals” (like lasagna) to go.

All in all, if you like old-fashioned Italian fare with a slight California twist, then you will like this place. The staff is extremely friendly, happy and helpful, and it’s hard to beat the comfortable patio with a lovely outdoor view.