Owner John Magnanimo pulls freshly baked pizza bread from the oven at Italia Panetteria & Deli in Valencia. Dan Watson/The Signal

Traditional Italian food — made with love

Have you ever wished that you had an Italian grandmother that cooked for you? Well, that may not be possible, but Italia Panetteria and Deli comes very close.

Walk inside and you’ll be warmly greeted by the friendly staff, who greet regulars by name. The scent of simmering marinara sauce and baking bread wafts in the air as you peruse the extensive menu of Italian classics, including pastas, sandwiches, soups, salads and much more.

Whatever you choose, it’s been made with a lot of care and experience by owners John and Victoria Magnanimo. The duo met decades ago at the original Italia Deli in Granada Hills, where they both worked as teenagers.

The Magnanimos opened Italia in Valencia 10 years ago and the restaurant and deli has been bustling ever since. “Our bread is a big draw. We bake it fresh daily and make everything from scratch for the most authentic flavors,” Victoria Magnanimo said.

That crusty, yet pillowy bread creates the foundation for a stellar Italia cold cut sandwich ($8.49 small/$13.49 large). Piled high with two kinds of imported salami, mortadella, provolone, juicy tomato, crisp lettuce and sharp onion, the sandwich is drizzled with a luscious homemade Italian dressing that ties the whole production together into a beautiful harmony of flavor and texture.

There are more than a dozen hot or cold sandwiches to choose from, including pastrami, eggplant or chicken parmigiana, and meatball or sausage, all of which can be made into two- to six-foot, party-perfect subs that are tasty down to the last bite.

“I’m a real stickler for having all the fillings go end to end. No one wants a bite of nothing,” Victoria Magnanimo said.

Owner Victoria Magnanimo adds pasta salad to a cold cut sandwich on freshly baked bread at Italia Panetteria & Deli in Valencia. Dan Watson/The Signal

Italia’s meats are ground in-house for the sausage and meatballs, which can be ordered with pasta and a delicious, perfectly balanced marinara sauce ($8.99). The excellent lasagna ($9.99), a dense slab of many layers of tender pasta, is stuffed with a savory mixture of meatballs and sausage, creamy ricotta cheese, and topped with that awesome sauce plus a sprinkling of parmesan. A generous piece of crunchy, golden brown of garlic bread also comes with each pasta order.

Looking for something a bit lighter? Italia has six salad options ($4.99 to $13.99) from a fabulous antipasto (which is like the Italia cold cut sub sans bread) to a Greek with lots of chunky feta and a Caesar boasting homemade croutons. The Caprese ($7.99 to $13.99) is an ode to summer: succulent slices of vibrant tomatoes layered with a moist, milky fresh mozzarella, then topped with a sweet balsamic glaze and little ribbons of bright basil. Underneath, there’s a thin layer of pesto, which adds a surprising yet welcome bit of extra umami to the mix.

A roster of homemade soups ($4.59 pint/$7.99 quart) are also available daily, with lighter options such as minestrone or chicken and wild rice served throughout the year, and hearty clam chowder in the winter months.

Save some room for dessert, because there are lots of goodies, such as the naturally gluten-free crumbly pignoli cookies (made with pine nuts and almond paste) and soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies (both of which sell out quickly, so come early). Tiramisu is another bestseller, as are cannoli – a shatteringly crisp cylinder stuffed with a lightly sweet, fluffy ricotta and cream mixture and rolled in chocolate chips. Yum.

There is plenty of room to eat in at Italia, which has tables inside or outside on the patio (the latter boasts festive red umbrellas to help cool things down). While you wait for your meal, take a little time to explore all the items imported from the home country, ranging from huge tins of olive oil to colorful jars of peppers and big bunches of dried herbs to tiny bottles of fruit infused-sodas (blood orange was my favorite).

Server Evelyn Magana points to the wide variety of chesses on display at Italia Panetteria & Deli in Valencia. Dan Watson/The Signal

Or, if you prefer, there’s a huge refrigerator offering just about every menu item (entrees, pizzas made with homemade dough plus sauces and pastas) for heating up at home. Catering for parties of every size is also available, with delivery included for orders of $100 or more.

Though she’s been in the restaurant business for most of her life, watching customers old and new enjoying Italia’s food never gets old for Magnanimo.

“They’ll say, ‘My grandma used to cook like this.’ They get excited, so we get excited,” she said. “Our food is made with love and you can really taste the difference.”

Italia Panetteria & Deli, 27674 Newhall Ranch Road, #55, Valencia. Open 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (661) 294-9069 or visit www.italiavalencia.com.

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