WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Sanguiccio Deli-Cafe is a gem of a sandwich shop in Little Italy
City Bites

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Sanguiccio Deli-Cafe is a gem of a sandwich shop in Little Italy

Ottawa is having a meatball moment and these ones are hard to beat

The Place: Say Sanguiccio out loud and you’ll see: it’s what we’d imagine an Italian with a thick accent might call a sandwich. It’s a good introduction to the quirky nature of this unassuming little sandwich shop that sprouted up in Little Italy during the chaos of the street’s construction over a year ago. Now that the dust has settled, sandwich lovers are savouring this secret gem on Preston Street, just north of Sala San Marco on the way to Somerset. From the moment you walk in, you feel like you’re in someone’s home. It’s the kind of place where you may chat politics or the merits of imported prosciutto with the owner Genio Ienzi or banter with another customer who is perched at the counter about the news on TV. You walk out feeling well fed and a little more optimistic about the world.

The Deal: Before opening the sandwich shop, Ienzi owned the health food and supplements business at the same address for the better part of two decades. It seems odd considering the fact that he now spends his days preparing superb Italian sandwiches — probably the furthest thing you could imagine from the power bars and protein powder that pass for meals in certain circles.

We’re fortunate he made the switch, and it seems to agree with him. Ienzi couldn’t look more content as he prepares the sandwiches, each one made to order, while his daughter whips up excellent cappuccinos. Customers should be prepared to wait a few minutes — even a take-out deli-meat sandwich can take 15 minutes. It’s a reminder that food made with care cannot be rushed and just tastes better. It helps that Ienzi uses great ingredients and keeps the menu simple: various cold cuts, a veggie option, turkey, smoked meat, and several hot daily specials that are updated for followers on facebook and twitter.

The Dish: I happened to visit on a day when one of the featured sandwiches was meatballs. I am seeing meatballs popping up on menus everywhere these days: it seems Ottawa is having a meatball moment. In my opinion these are the ones to beat: they are meltingly tender, meaty, and juicy, paired with a gorgeous sweet tomato sauce that soaks into the warm crusty-chewy Art-Is-In bun. A slice of provolone gives it just the right amount of gooey goodness. When I asked if Ienzi made the balls himself, he laughed and said his mother is the cook. He says everything in the shop is actually the food that he eats at home. “When there are leftover meatballs, I bring them in here,” he says. Now that’s true home cooking! A tasty little tomato salad and carrot stick are served on the side.

Sanguiccio Deli-Cafe, 183 Preston St., 613-569-0456, www.sanguiccio.ca