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A meaty treat at The Market's Salumeria by Piero Selvaggio. There may not be such a wonderful selection of dried meats anywhere else in Los Angeles. (photo by Merv Hecht)

I was disappointed to see that Santa Monica Place’s The Market, which opened last month, is, in large part, just another high-end food court, competing with the other food court on the same level (that I love). I had hoped that it would be a real market, with high-end products to take home. But then I ran into Piero Selvaggio, the owner of Valentino restaurant, and he showed me his new Salumeria. And I fell in love.

I had already seen a few interesting spots in The Market. The chocolate chip cookies are as good as I’ve ever had. And another nice chocolate lady, Christine Hanson, was offering samples of incredibly delicious fudge, some with orange-grand marnier flavor, some with coffee flavor — all wonderful. And I had a very good beef wrap in one of the food stalls that I think shouldn’t be there.

And the wine store was a disappointment — the same old wines, and no real wine person there to discuss wines and reminisce about past meals and bottles.

But the Salumeria makes it all worthwhile. There may not be such a wonderful selection of dried meats anywhere else in Los Angeles. The prosciutto, thinly sliced to perfection, had just the right amount of saltiness and rich meat flavor. The roast pork was a completely different but equally delicious flavor. And a nice feature is that you can buy little plates of assorted meats, with a small bun, and have a great lunch right there.

Genuine authentic Guanciale, the strong flavored unsmoked Italian cured meat from pork cheeks, is wonderful to add to pasta dishes. And the dried salamis and bolognas come in a number of different preparations, some spicy, some with just that wonderful fatty taste on the tongue.

In addition to the great selection of salamis, there is a cheese counter also giving out samples, and this is where I will be buying my cheese from now on. The blue cheddar from Dorchester was fresh and strong flavored. The selection was incredible; the service fast and friendly.

There are about 50 kinds of cured meat products, and 50 different cheeses available. And they make little sandwiches, such as the “Calabrese” with spicy salami, tomato, mozzarella cheese, pesto sauce, arugula and basil — just to describe one of the six available.

What a find!

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com.