Filling the belly at a Philly deli

Photos by Susan France

Many times, when you set foot in a Boulder-area deli, you’ll experience a certain degree of geographic predictability. Often you’ll see images of New York landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, to help build Big Apple culinary cred. North Boulder’s D’Angelo’s Italian Deli follows a different tack, as this hospitable family-run spot embraces all things Philadelphia. For example, one of the walls features a mural of pugilist Rocky Balboa in a moment of triumph, which I reckon beats Marion Cobretti.

More importantly, the sandwiches and salads borrow their names from such Philly locales as Germantown and Rittenhouse Square. These monikers were of particular interest to lunch partner Carin, who identified some of these venues as her grandparents’ home turf. Familial venues aside, the menu features a quartet of entree salads, featuring such ingredients as arugula, proscuitto, sun-dried tomato and tuna salad. Cold sandwiches abound, including vegetarian, turkey, roast beef and Italian combo selections. Flagship hot sandwiches feature meatballs, including vegetarian ones, and roast pork.

To begin, we shared a cup of the $3 soup of the day, cream of broccoli with pancetta. While some might covet a more dairy-rich version, this was a chunkier, healthier soup that featured more green vegetable than usual. While it was difficult to discern the taste of smoked pork, a side of bread and endearingly crunchy crouton provided more than adequate recompense.

Carin waxed rhapsodic about the bread enveloping her $6.95 six-inch Grandma Dot’s Meatball Parmigiana. Ideally balancing crust with chew, this baked good was softer than a typical hard roll and nicely complemented the hearty filling. Carin praised the home made qualities of the pleasingly bright tomato sauce. More important, the meatballs had the nuanced profile of ones crafted with a skillfully blended combination of meats and seasoning, including hints of anise. Both the sauce and spheres would be worthy of topping a pricey plate of pasta. As Carin put it, “It’s exactly what you want from a meatball sub.” I’d go a step further and submit it could be the best in town.

One of the City of Brotherly Love’s best-known hot sandwiches is the Italian roast pork hoagie. I ordered the six-inch $6.95 South Philly, composed of provolone, broccoli rabe and marinated pork prepared in broth. At first bite, I found the pork mild. Then I encountered a spot in the bread where the hearty broth had soaked through, and the sandwich became alive with flavor. The provolone was sharper than usual, and this tang worked well against the pork’s earthiness. Lastly, the traditional and intriguing garnish of rabe, a leafier, stalkier cousin of broccoli, added a subtle hint of bitterness that balanced out the experience.

A $1.25 cannolo elicited favorable comparisons to ones costing two to three times as much. What endeared me to it was the fact that the cookie-like pastry didn’t require a diamond carbide drill to crack it. Inside, the soft cheese filling wasn’t too sweet, carrying luxurious creaminess and the right measure of chocolate.

You could easily walk into a soulless chain sandwich shop, spend the same money, and have a meal that isn’t nearly as good as what you’d get at D’Angelo’s. At any price, you’d be hard pressed to find sandwiches as satisfying or put together with more care.

D’Angelo’s Italian Deli is located at 3325 28th St., Unit 1, Boulder. Call 303-247-9000.