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Thursday, November 11,2010

The classic, comforting deli sandwich

By Clay Fong

As prosaic as it is, the humble sandwich can possess comforting — if not tranquilizing — qualities. Consider the Peacemaker, a New Orleans specialty consisting of a baguette stuffed with fried oysters. Husbands in the region would give these to their spouses as a way of making amends after a night of boozing and who knows what else. While most of us don’t need to serve penance for a Big Easy bacchanal, we all can appreciate a well-constructed sandwich’s restorative qualities.

 

Such sandwich aficionados comprise the bulk of the lunchtime crowd at Salvaggio’s Italian Deli near the intersection of 28th and Pearl streets in Boulder. While this locale won’t score many points for décor, as it wholeheartedly embraces its position as a utilitarian lunch counter, it does compensate by offering a classic American sandwich menu augmented by soups and salads.

While there’s a rotation of soup-of-the-day specials, a $3.25 cup of clam chowder is a menu constant. Of course, I’ve learned to temper my expectations regarding seafood soups nearly a thousand miles away from the nearest ocean.

The New England–style white version here is decent for the price, albeit a bit thick in texture. But it has a good clam flavor going for it as well as considerable bulk due to ample quantities of potato chunks.

Friend Peter led the archetypal sandwich charge with an $8.50 Italian sub loaded with pepperoni, mortadella, Genoa salami and provolone. He was surprised that whole-wheat bread wasn’t an option, and felt that the ratio of bread to filling was higher than he would have liked. Nevertheless, he couldn’t argue with the balance of smooth provolone against the salty spiciness of pepperoni and salami. A dash of vinegar and a bit of banana pepper con tributed balanced tang and heat to the proceedings.

Salads are available in strictly veggie versions, as well as topped with meaty sandwich stuffings. Even the most basic salads are vividly colorful here, with the yellows of banana pepper contributing to an attractive palette shared by red onion and bright tomato. Lisa opted for an $8.75 garden number anchored by a heap of agreeable chicken salad. Pleasingly moist, without an overwhelming measure of mayonnaise, the highlight of this poultry spread was an understated mix of herbs that made for a fresher flavor than one would expect.

The centerpiece of my $8.95 prime rib sub was the home-style slices of red, rare roast beef. While it wouldn’t be fair to compare the meat to my Mom’s preparation, it was of better quality than what you’d find in most restaurant sandwiches. The seasonings of banana and black peppers, as well as tomato, vinegar and onion, served as comforting foils to the heft of the beef. Another point in this sub’s favor was its sheer size, which was enough for the next day’s lunch as well. Having absorbed the flavors of the meat and other fillings, the initially bulky bread was less dominant on the second go-around, and made for a surprisingly satisfying second meal.

Salvaggio’s won’t win awards for ground-breaking sandwiches, but that isn’t the point. In this case, a predictable menu is a virtue. Fans of textbook delistyle sandwiches will be content here, and the generous portions and classic flavors will put the diner in a comfortable frame of mind.

Clay’s Obscurity Corner Origin of the sub

Despite the name, the sandwich known as the Italian sub likely had its origins in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Many locales, nearly all of them in the Northeast, claim to be the birthplace of this dish, and Italian immigrant workers figure into most of these tales. One story holds that an Italian baker in Portland, Maine, popularized his rolls by adding meat and cheese to them, and these rapidly became popular with hungry working folks. Other tales attribute the sandwich’s place of origin to various naval yards, leading to the term “submarine sandwich.”

Salvaggio’s Italian Deli 2609 Pearl St. Boulder 303-938-1981

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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