We strolled into the Half Italian Grocer (2643 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and were immediately greeted warmly by the (half Italian) owner and staff. We gazed around the little shop and were surprises to see a unique selection of artisanal cheeses, dips, meats and fresh breads baked by D’Amato’s Bakery (cough, cough) as well as some small craft brews and boutique wines.
We walked back to the deli counter and checked out the colorful chalkboard which served as the menu. Offering a small handful of sandwiches, we made our selections. The gentleman recommended the Italian as well as their BLT. Good choices.
The Italian was preparred with freshly sliced mortadella, Genoa salami and imported ham. Sharp provolone as well as a drizzle of house Italian dressing brought the sandwich together on the Turano loaf. Crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside, their Italian bread delivered daily from D’Amato’s, was a sign that they have clealry put some thought and effort into the selection of their suppliers. Unlike many Italian sandwiches where all the flavors of meat just blend together, Half Italian prepares theirs so you can distinctly taste each of the three meats as well as the provolone as a seperate ingredient – it was great.
The gentleman making our sandwiches, Dan, was a true “sandwich artist” – and I don’t think he was trained at Subway. The layering of ingredients as well as the care taken into the applcation of dressing was noted and came through in the finished product.
As I’ve stated in past, BLT’s are one of my overall favorite lunchtime items. There are hundreds of thousands of versions of this classic that’s been around since about 1903 – really! Click here!
Half Italian uses thick cut Neuske bacon that has just the right amount of crisp and chew to make it great “sandwich bacon.” That is, it’s easy to bite while still being thick and tender. The lettuce was crisp and fresh as well as the uber ripe and juicy tomatoes. They use a garlic aioli on their BLT which pushes their version over the top. The garlic flavor enhances the sandwich instead of overpowering or detracting from it. It adds a unique herbaceous quality that I haven’t experienced in a BLT.
Normally, I’m a BLT simplest, but in this case the garlic flavor has immediately grown on me. Using the same Italian bread is a great call in this case. Again, I often prefer my BLT on toasted white bread. The construction of the sandwich – we were watching him – was done with love and a sense of perfectionship – I made that word up.
Jill ordered a simple but flavorful orzo pasta on the side and I opted for a homemade cannoli. I’m sad to say that it easily could compete with D’Amato’s which until now was one of my favorite examples of the classic dessert. Their version had a thin chocolate coating INSIDE the cannoli which was just enough to give it a dark slightly bitter quality that balanced out the sweet filling just right.
The shell wasn’t too crispy and the pistacios were well ground and made for a clean and creamy bite.
We decided this was going to be one of our new go-to local spots for great deli food and a quick lunch. Every sandwich except for the roast beef is only six bucks (beef being eight) so it’s easy to have a full meal including side, drink and dessert for just about ten dollars a person. The staff was great and there are a few cute tables outside to enjoy your food on a nice day. Thanks for reminding me that some of the city’s best foods come from your local grocer.