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Stefano’s Gold’n Baked Hams

February 1, 2012

A few years ago I had made plans to meet a friend for lunch at a great sandwich spot that she knew of not too far from where we both lived.  Since I’d never been to the place before, I was excited to give it a try.  Unfortunately, when we both arrived at the designated location, it turned out that the sandwich shop was closed for the day!  My plan to eat at this great deli was foiled, so we were forced to find somewhere else to eat.  However, I made a mental note to myself that I’d have to come back and give this deli a try at some point in the future.

Months later, my husband and I were at home trying to find a place to grab some lunch.  Since we’re both creatures of habit, we often find ourselves going back to the same few places over and over again.  I was starting to get bored with the same old, same old, so I decided that I was going to find a new place for us to eat.  After spending some time searching on Yelp! for eateries in our neighborhood, I once again came across this deli that was so highly rated in our area.  I looked up the deli’s menu on their website and found a couple of items that I figured I would like.  When I showed the menu to my husband, he too decided that there were a couple of items that he could go for as well.  Great, we were finally going to get to try this deli.

As it turns out, we both enjoyed our first experience at Stefano’s Gold’n Baked Hams, so much so that we’ve been back there numerous times.  I probably enjoy it more than my husband does, but we both can find items there that we like.  And I really like the idea that we’re supporting a little mom and pop-type eatery being run by a neighborhood family.

I never knew that this deli would soon establish a reputation as one of the best Italian delis in Southern California, as voted so by viewers of local KTLA news.  Additionally, it was called one of the few reasons to drive out to Yorba Linda by the local food critics at the Orange County Register.  It seems that Stefano’s little neighborhood secret is a secret no more!

Located in a strip mall at the intersection of 2 of the busiest streets in Yorba Linda, this family run and operated deli originally started in 1985 producing only spiral cut hams by the Stefano family; hence the reference to golden baked hams in the store’s name.  The Stefano’s had an idea to produce a healthier, spiral cut of ham that had less sodium and fat, and could compete with the famous national brand that produces spiral cut ham.  In 2003, the Stefano’s purchased the store where they are currently located and created a deli/restaurant where they wanted to offer “outstanding food with great service at reasonable prices.”  What they came up with, based on their Italian heritage is a deli/cafe/ restaurant that combines their wonderful spiral cut ham alongside hot paninis, Italian soups, fresh salads, and a terrific offering of locally brewed beers and wines.  What they’ve created is a real winner.

I believe every time we’ve gone to Stefano’s my husband has always ordered the Stefano’s meatball sandwich.  The sandwich consists of Stefano’s home-made meatballs which simmer for hours in their marinara sauce served in a nice french roll and topped with mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan cheese.  The meatball sandwich is a bit messy to eat, but it’s great on taste.  My husband certainly approves!  Recently, Stefano’s came out with a new Palermo panini, which is essentially a meatball panini.  You get 3 giant meatballs sliced in half, topped with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce along with garlic spread which is sandwiched between artisan baked ciabatta bread and grilled in a panini press.  That’s delicious too.  The meatballs are flavorful and juicy and you can tell that they are home-made, the marinara sauce is hearty and tasty, and the cheese is melty and gooey.

I tend to order their Stefano’s salad as a side to my paninis.  The salad is a wonderful blend of fresh greens, feta cheese, bacon, tomatoes and pepitas topped with grated parmesan cheese and garlic flavored croutons.  You can also opt to add grilled chicken to the salad.  Actually, the salad also comes with black olives and artichoke hearts, but as I don’t like either of those ingredients, I politely ask for my salad without them.  The salad, served with your choice of dressing, is terrific.  The greens are nice and fresh, the feta is salty, the bacon adds nice salt and crunch, the pepitas, which you would never think to add to an Italian-style salad, is perfect as they add this great rich crunch and flavor to the salad.  Served with my choice of balsamic vinaigrette this is the perfect starter salad to any meal.  Or you can get the salad as an entree.  It’s good enough to be a starter, but filling enough to be an entire healthy meal!

On this particular day that we went to Stefano’s for lunch, I ordered the Sorrento panini.  The Sorrento is grilled, Italian seasoned chicken breast, bacon, provolone cheese, tomatoes, onions and pesto sandwiched in their artisan baked ciabatta bread.  In reality, the Sorrento comes with ranch rather than pesto, but I’m not at all a fan of ranch, so substituting for pesto is great for me.  The seasoned chicken flavor really comes through in the panini, with a hint of saltiness and crunch from the bacon and the tomato juices combining with the tangy garlicky pesto is a terrific combination!  Their paninis are big enough that ordering a side salad or any of their other sides is completely unnecessary.

We finished off our meal at Stefano’s by treating ourselves to an order of homemade mini cannolis, which are traditional Sicilian pastry desserts.  Served with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, it was the perfect Italian ending to a nice Italian deli lunch!

Stefano’s is a great family-run, local establishment that serves terrific food.  Their food is made with a lot of passion, and the employees and Stefano family members who can be seen at the deli each and every day with a smile of their face, make me want to continue to come back time and time again!

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