Sunday Gravy Comfort Food Italian Restaurant is a mainstay of Inglewood
Every Monday, Sunday sauce owner and chef Sol Bashirian determines which lasagna to prepare for the weekend. That’s not an easy question to answer, given how much he has had to increase the production of his popular lasagna in recent months. Scale and details are as much about him as the ingredients themselves at this point. Yet at 4:30 p.m. every Friday, the phone rings and regulars ask what type of lasagna is on the menu, whether it’s prawns Alfredo, chicken with garlic or the hearty bolognese. It never matters; the specialty lasagna will sell out completely by Sunday.
During the week, patrons order through Sunday Gravy’s Italian-American menu, with its deeply rich stew and rigatoni, and standard spaghetti and meatballs. The entire menu features old-fashioned fare prepared in the kitchen of Sunday Gravy’s Inglewood on Centinela, slightly west of South La Brea. The block looks like a time capsule from the 1980s, with an adjacent barber shop called Close Up Kuts, all backed by residential homes and apartments surrounding the bustling strip. Just across the street is the longtime African-American Grace Chapel. These are all well-established places in Inglewood, but the new Sunday Gravy still fits in perfectly.
On the contrary, the restaurant, which opened in September 2019, gives the impression of having always belonged to the neighborhood. That’s because Sol and his sister Ghazi Bashirian have been in the area themselves for years, reclaiming Sunday Gravy’s space from their father, who ran Jino’s Pizza & Deli restaurant on the same site for 42 years. Elder Ahmad Bashirian has retired and passed the baton on to his children, who updated the decor and menu, but still find themselves cooking for the same generations of Inglewood locals who ate at Jino’s. over the decades.
“Jino’s was our father’s first restaurant,” says Sol. “He was 25 when he opened it in 1970 as Ahmadi’s. Eight years ago, he became more passive and praised him to his manager. When dad wanted to retire [in 2018], we had the choice to get started. We decided to continue, but in our own way.
The Bashirian siblings grew up all over the South Bay. They lived in Westchester, then in Playa del Rey, and went to school at Escuela de Montessori on La Tijera for almost decades Coffee company. The school was full of well-known African-American families from LA, including the son of restaurateur Greg Dulan. Most of Sol’s friends lived near Jino at the time, and Dulan’s Soul Food and Jino regularly fed students after school and for local school programs.
Opening Sunday Gravy six months before COVID-19 initially posed remarkable challenges for the family, but ultimately the pandemic helped the Bashirian siblings figure out how to become a true neighborhood restaurant. An elderly local once complained that he was not a fan of the Sunday Gravy menu, so now Sol is making unique dishes especially for him. The Bashirians are on a first name basis with many of their customers this way, even though there is no formal sit-down service or some of the other traditional restaurant pitfalls. The sound system features a mix of R&B from the ’70s, with plenty of old-school hip-hop and hot comfort food right at your fingertips. With a current shortage of employees, this style of operation best represents the restaurant and fits the area, so now they’re going to keep it that way.
Portions of Sunday Gravy’s menu are also sourced from the neighborhood, including local spaghetti, linguini and rigatoni. Florentyna Fresh Pasta Factory. The mind-blowing organic ciabatta bread with garlic is native to Cadoro Bakery; both are less than a mile from the restaurant.
Not all small businesses thrive in Inglewood these days, but the Sunday Gravy team runs their small restaurant. Sol and Ghazi Bashirian recently started to get their first glimpse of what Sol describes as the SoFi effect. Sunday Gravy is five minutes from SoFi Stadium, the massive sports complex that hosts two NFL teams, the Rams and the Chargers. Development travelers now frequently use the Centinela entrance / exit and walk right past the front door, which means more business on match days ahead. “Out of nowhere, 20 people showed up [before] a rugby match at SoFi, ”Sol explains. “They were all at the same party and came at the right time. They ordered their food, their beers and continued on their way.
The name Sunday Gravy often throws at customers who may not be familiar with Italian East Coast usage, in reference to the red sauce available on the menu. But for the Bashirian siblings, they hope to give the phrase a meaning that is only theirs and Inglewood’s. “The idea of Sunday Gravy is not about the sauce,” Sol explains. “It’s about your own family enjoying this lovingly made meal. Everyone is cool, happy, and laid back. We are Persian, we have that too, it’s the same idea. Each culture has its own Sunday sauce. Come in and be surrounded by people you love, have a good time and laugh.