A day at Otto's: Circa 1990

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Otto Huber, the founder and 40-year owner of Otto’s Import Store and Delicatessen, died of natural causes at his Burbank home. He was 77.

While researching his legacy for Wednesday’s edition of the Leader, Huber’s family sent me a local newspaper article by correspondent James Danelli. The April 25, 1990, story from the Burbank Leader is attached below:

Otto’s Delicatessen

Pickle or polka, you’ll find it here

By James Danelli,  Correspondent

Accepting an assignment to write about guy named Otto, owner and operator of Otto’s Import and Delicatessen, this reporter for one was a little skeptical.

After all, who would have thought that being inside his store s like taking a trip to Hungary, of that Otto himself would whip it some polkas on his computerized accordion, or that his beautiful wife, Irma, would make me an “Otto Special” – a sandwich where the meat is piled as high as the hospitality?

Otto bought the property, located at the corner of Clark and Brighton in Burbank, some 20 years ago. At the time it was just a regular corner grocery store. That was before his Hungarian friends asked him to carry different specialty foods and meats that are important to many Hungarian dishes.

There’s antique cookware and Hungarian books and records stacked along the crowded aisles a decorum not at all keeping with the “Play the California Lottery” banner nearby.

In the midst of it all sits a display case filled with beautiful Hungarian porcelain figurines.

Turning to the deli case, that’s where the real lunchtime connoisseur will head. Scrumptious cleats from Europe fill the olfactory senses.

Much of Otto’s business comes from the nearby Media District and John Burroughs High School, just

couple blocks away.

Otto self-acclaimed, wise-cracking Hungarian, Otto tells how he met and married Irma.

Otto was a manager-of a general store in Hungary, selling music instruments, when my Irma came came in,” he said. “I told my business colleague in the store that she would be my wife. He didn’t believe me. Then, I visited her home in Igal, Hungary, and we played accordions together.

“When I asked her to marry me, the revolution in Hungary broke out. She stayed as I fled for Austria with just the clothes I had on. In Austria, I played my accordion in various taverns to make money.”

“I arrived in Pennsylvania, and then moved to California in 1960, opening up an ice cream business,” Otto continued. “I played a polka at each stop and business boomed.  “Irma waited nine years for me to return, as the Communists kept her there. In 1965, I returned to Hungary, married Irma, and re-turned home six months later.”

Otto and Irma have a son, Thomas, a senior majoring in business at Cal State University Northridge; and two daughters, Anita and Erika. Anita is a student at USC and also works as a paramedic during the summer. Erika attends the sixth grade at Stevenson Elementary School in Burbank.

As the interview continued, Otto then played some tunes on his accordion, opening with the “Anniversary Waltz.”   He followed with “Bring Out the Barrels,” until Irma corrected him.  “It’s Roll Out the Barrels,” she said.

As Irma blushed, Otto asked his audience of a few customers, “Does everyone love music?” A customer answered, “Yes, please play us another polka!”

Just a typical day at Otto’s!

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Written by Christopher Cadelago

October 14, 2009 at 10:28 am

Posted in burbank

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