As Americans, it has been our tradition that on Fourth of July weekends we honor the ratification of our Declaration of Independence by firing up the grill to prepare foods named after German cities. This year, however, we decided to it was time to add some Italian to the party.
On the ease to deliciousness ratio, Italian sausages stand out ahead of most grilled items. While they can be prepared in a variety of ways, grilling brings out the wonder of the sausage casing. They crisp up under the intense heat while insulating the filling so the sausage retains all its flavors and natural juices. For our cookouts, we found three makers of Italian sausage; A-1 Italian Deli & Imported Groceries, McCall's Meat & Fish Company and Bob's Market, that deliver on the requisite snap and flavor quotient.
In L.A. there was a time when if the family wanted to go out for pizza, you'd pile into the station wagon and head to San Pedro because that is where the Italians were. In business since 1947, A-1 Italian Deli & Imported Groceries is an echo of those times. A-1 makes their sausages using a coarse grind making so you have to work at each bite. Moreover, the slightly looser pack of the filling allows for the creation of little juice pockets that, as the sausage cooks, makes the chunks of meat inside remarkably tender. We particularly enjoyed the assertive garlic and parsley for a sausage that stands up to a crusty roll, grilled onions, peppers and gobs of deli mustard.
Only open since January, McCall's Meat & Fish Company has already become a sausage destination. They have been in such demand that co-owner Karen Yoo told us that she had to buy new equipment to make sure they don't constantly sell out. Of the two types offered, we keep returning for the fennel pork. In this sausage there are no woody fennel seeds to get stuck in your teeth. Instead the fennel flavor is integrated into the dense filling, which seems to have the texture of a fine meatloaf rather than that of your typical sausage. McCall's sausage links are a bit more stout than most, so Yoo recommends grilling under a medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Bob's Market has long been recognized as a major destination for a wide variety of fresh made sausages including merguez, bangers, and a particularly meaty Mexican chorizo. Among their selection suited for the grill, the pork and pecorino is good enough to stand on its own. Grilling seems to intensify the flavors of the meat, herbs and sharp cheese, so the touch of pecorino is always present, but doesn't take away from the porkiness of the sausage. Bob's has a deli for picking up sides and for procrastinators, and, unlike McCall's and A-1, they'll be open for business on the Fourth of July.
A-1 Italian Deli & Imported Groceries: 348 West 8th Street, San Pedro, (310) 833-3430, McCall's Meat & Fish Company: 2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 667-0674, Bob's Market: 1650 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica, (310) 452-2493