Over the last ten years, Adam Fleischman, an avid foodie and successful restaurateur opened his first gourmet hamburger restaurant Umami Burger. Next he partnered with Chef Anthony Carron and opened 800 Degrees Pizza, as part of the Umami Restaurant Group. I’ve enjoyed writing about his innovative restaurant concepts including Umamicatessan, a gourmet food court in the renovated Orpheum (closed), authentic Spanish restaurant Smoke.Oil.Salt. (closed), and PBJLA in the Grand Central Market offering a creative array of nut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Cold Cocked Coffee Co. in Koreatown. His cookbook with Tien Nguyen called “Flavor Bombs – Umami Ingredients that make Taste Explode” is a perfect description of his newest endeavor with his famous eating partner, Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of XtremeFoodies.com. Merrihue is also a gastronome, having dined at all of the award winning “The World’s Best 50 Restaurants” since 2005. He too wrote a cookbook “The History and Science Behind the World’s Best Pizzas.” Together these food and wine adventurers, partnered and opened Heroic Deli and Heroic Wine Bar, an intimate new Italian eatery with a wine room located in downtown Santa Monica.
The name Heroic offers a double meaning. First it signifies their signature Italian “Hero” sandwiches served on the deli side, as well as the “Heroic” ambitions of the kitchen on the wine bar side.
They reinvented the classic Italian Hero, as the next-level sandwich experience for adventurous eaters. Not only are their eight different sandwiches made with the finest imported Italian premium meat and cheese cuts, they are served on warm, freshly toasted, crunchy ciabatta bread.
In the kitchen Executive Chef and Cordon Blue trained Barbara Pollastrini prepares “Cal-Italian” fare. Pollastrini, whose deep traditional skills are rooted in Roman gastronomy, enjoys combining a Modern California approach into new Italian cuisine.
Not only has she won numerous awards as a food stylist for the motion picture “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, she was also a contestant on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
Meeting a group of friends inside the Heroic Wine Bar, I admired the Roman garden design by Los Angeles hospitality designer Alexis Readinger of Preen Inc. Sitting at the 16-foot bowtie shaped communal table, we noticed couples sitting in intimate leather booths tucked into the front windows. Upstairs overlooking the wine tasting dining room is the private dining area with for 12 guests. This “Segrata” Room offers exclusive dining experiences. Looking up at the indigo colored ceiling is a hand painted mural of stars and celestial representations of the zodiac.
The night we dined one of the “Hero” deli sandwich makers serenaded us with a beautiful aria while standing on the stairs. Besides singing opera, he makes an incredible O.M.G. sandwich, layered with imported Italian prosciutto, capocollo, porchetta, salame, mortadella, smoked mozzarella, artichokes, roasted tomatoes and a spread of truffle mayo and mustard. Giving this an extra zing is the housemade Italian pickle relish called giardiniera. It’s a mix of chopped bell peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, garlic in oil and vinegar. Other sandwiches that will have you smiling include Chicken Tetrazzini, “Pizzandwich” and The Vegan.
I learned from Merrihue’s daughter (It’s a family affair) that the bread is made in the San Fernando Valley and baked 80%, before delivery to Heroic. Here they bake the ciabatta just a little longer to give it that snap of crunch on the outside and light and porous inside. The deli side also makes a handful of salads, homemade potato chips and an Italian corn soufflé.
While sipping a flute of bubbly Canella Valdobbiadene Prosecco, we noticed on the Wine Bar menu that guests can order a prix fixe for $50. There is a choice of ordering one item from the Primi, Pasta, Secondi and Dessert sections. Chef Barbara’s signature dish “Santa BARBARA” a house-made pasta topped with a trio of seafood of live uni, crab, and caviar all sourced from Santa Barbara in an ethereal butter sauce is $10 extra.
My favorite dish of the evening was in the Primi section, a heavenly tomato soup “Soupfle” – It’s a thick seasoned tomato soup, almost like a stew that is topped with burrata, sliced tomatoes and fresh pesto. Merrihue coined the name “soupfle” for its flavorful soufflé consistency.
Next, I enjoyed a lamb ragu rigatoni with crispy artichokes, before my secondi of a hearty roasted pork topped with fresh rosemary, sautéed king oyster mushrooms and a garlic cream sauce.
Wines are easy to order here. There is an array of high quality of California and Italian wines rated 90+ points. Order a glass of white wine for $12 or a bottle for $40. Red wines are $14 by the glass or $50 a bottle. They also offer some premium wines ranked 95 points and above. I enjoyed a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Heritance Taub Family vineyards with my four-course prix-fixe. The wine offered nuances of melon and Asian pear with good acidity and crispness, followed by a smooth lingering finish.
Other menu choices include a seared steak tartare; giant eggplant parmigiana ravioli; and cioppino stew filled with calamari, octopus, clams, mussels, fresh tomato, garlic and parsley.
After one bite of the sweet and creamy Barolo panna cotta, I asked for a second serving. What makes this dessert is a coulis of intensely flavorful red wild Amarena cherries and crumbled pieces of twice-baked and crunchy biscotti cookie sprinkled on top.
Fleischman has another unique gastronomic winner. Visit Heroic Italian deli to pick up picnic fare for a day at the beach or return in the evening to enjoy a romantic, flavor exploding Italian dinner with reasonably priced wines.
Heroic Deli is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 516 Santa Monica Blvd. and Heroic Wine Bar is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. $$ 514 Santa Monica Blvd. (310)490-0202.
This review is featured in the February 21, 2019 issue of the Beverly Press page 15.