Loreto’s is a Compton take-out spot specializing in deep-fried turkeys and serving turkey dinners. The operation is contained within a small, modest space bursting with charm, owned and operated since 2003 by turkey prodigy Joe Loreto. Whatever category of place that Loreto’s is, this is the no-frills, no-bullshit version of it.
During my visit, I saw a couple of the turkeys displayed out front like precious jewelry, both monster birds with glistening copper skin that made me want to bring on Thanksgiving early (but without the in-laws). Fortunately, Loreto’s also offers their delightful Cajun-seasoned fried turkey carved up on a plate as a turkey dinner, sliced and heaped into sandwiches, or chopped in tortillas as tacos.
Mr. Loreto is a friendly and avuncular operator who wears his chef’s whites (including a toque blanche) while he’s in his store. He’ll speak transparently about his cooking processes and ingredients, not that you’ll ever be able to replicate it yourself: Joe knows more about frying turkeys than I’ve known about anything in my life. He fries birds as small as 12 pounds and as large as 25 pounds, and always in peanut oil. While Mr. Loreto is chicano, his wife is black, and the recipes used here are a combination of his and hers, fusing the “soul food” of old Compton with the Mexican appetites and evolving culinary sensibilities of new Compton.
The Turkey Taco here is excellent. Where other turkey tacos in Compton and South L.A. are made with ground turkey that could just as easily be ground beef, Loreto’s slices up some of the best turkey you’ll have: luscious, savory, with a juicy texture derived from a combination of tender white meat, silky dark meat, and crispy skin. This taco has a warm, griddled tortilla with lettuce and chopped tomatoes in it, as most “black tacos” in this micro-region do.
Even better than Loreto’s turkey taco is their Turkey Taco with Soul. The tortilla and turkey are the same as used in the turkey taco, but without the lettuce and tomatoes and with the addition of a well-seasoned poultry gravy flavored with onions, garlic, and bell pepper mixed with a hot sauce. It needs to be known and appreciated by all that this is the best taco de pavo I’ve had in America. Go get some. Eat tacos. Eat turkey.
Taco Scores: Turkey Taco with Soul (97), Turkey Taco (92)
Jay Recommends: Turkey
Loreto’s Fried Turkey; 983 Compton Blvd, Compton, CA 90220; Monday through Saturday from 11:00am-7:00pm; (310) 537-7612; http://loretos.net