One beautiful winter day in Los Angeles, Chris and I decided that it was time for lunch, and, doggone it, we would find ourselves a delicious sandwich. One failed attempt later, Chris suggested that we check out an italian deli by his place that he had noticed. Having already wasted quality eating time getting lost and being teased by unopened cafes, Chris and I were hungry enough to take down a zebra each by the time we parked. And then we walked in.
It was the smell that hit us first. You know that scene in Ratatouille, the one where the critic with no soul takes a bite and is transported back to his childhood in the French countryside? That first aroma was just like that, except that it took me to an Italian childhood I never had (same for Chris, though that was actually his childhood). But seriously, the smell hit us so hard that it stopped us just inside the doorway and held us there for a full thirty seconds, just breathing it in, until we looked at each other, grinning.
Our noses took us straight to the hot case, where a proud Italian matron was lording over the sandwich proceedings. Above her, almost completely unnoticeable, was the sandwich menu. A simple board with an even simpler list, it looks so old that our first impression was that it had been there since the deli opened fifty years ago. What really confused us, you see, were the prices: this board proclaimed that the most expensive sandwich cost $5.50! After a good deal of questioning double takes, Chris and I decided to just go for it.
We immediately realized that ordering a sandwich can be quite an ordeal. Though there is no hard and fast rule regarding what goes on one of these sandwiches, if the Italian mama doesn’t like your selection, she won’t hesitate to make her disapproval known. On this first visit, Chris got a large, double meat pastrami, and I a large, combination sub. And then I made a mistake — I asked for mayo. Now you would think that by now, I would know to just take the food as it comes, but I am a sucker for mayonnaise. Let me tell you, the look she gave me made me want to move to a place where they’d never heard of mayo. After giving me a decisive “no” I decided that this was not a battle worth fighting, and took the footlong sandwich she handed me with all the gratitude and shame I could muster.
The shock that Chris and I received when we got to the register (a vintage metal till) and our two sandwiches and drinks cost about $12 was palpable. And though I must admit that the combo sub is not the best I’ve had, everything else is. The pastrami is just outrageously tasty, the meatballs and Italian sausage both taste like your grandma just made them (and ohhh how I wish the sandwich matron was my grandmother), and the beef and peppers may even top the pastrami. These days, I stick to a small sandwich (grand total with a drink is $4) because the bread is a little better and I can definitely take the whole thing down. I also stick to the hot sandwiches because it’s all homemade and sitting right in front of you wafting its delicious aroma in your direction.
But regardless of what it is that you get, everything is delicious. Coincidentally, we never would have found this place if our first choice hadn’t been deserted. I suppose it just goes to show, having an open mind and trying new things really can lead to great places…and great sandwiches.