Wednesday, October 31, 2012

“You'll Instantly Feel…

as though you've been transported to Little Italy in New York City.” (Theresa Cano at So she describes Romanelli’s and goes on to say: “Heck, you feel like you're in Italy.
Or at least like you're from Italy; there are so many little Italian themed signs, shirts and other trinkets at this place that as soon
as you walk in the door you can't help but feel like you've got a little Italian blood in you even if you don't.”

“For more than 25 years, this family-owned deli has been serving such specialties as homemade Italian-sausage subs and pasta dishes such as lasagna. Romanelli's cases are filled with imported salami, pepperoni, ham and other traditional meats and cheeses. This also is the place to buy freshly baked Italian bread” (The Arizona Republic).

While our metro-Phoenix favorite restaurant—Andreoli Italian Grocer—does carry a modest supply of Italian food stuffs, their inventory pales in comparison to Romanelli’s. Romanelli’s shelves groan under the weight of vegetable colored and flavored pastas,

canned and jarred sauces, and delectable looking cookies.

And cheeses and cured meats hang from hooks behind the deli cases.

But in addition to being an Italian grocery store, Romanelli’s also serves as a local sandwich shop with more than thirty hot and cold subs and sandwich offerings along with pasta dinners and salads. “…There are a few tables by the meat counter if you can't wait to eat your meal at your home or office, which we suspect many cannot do. Though you may have to make the waddling walk of shame after you devour your food…” (Theresa Cano at On the day of our visit, many of the tables had been shoved together and a group of ten to twelve gentlemen were loudly enjoying lunch.

I had come for one thing only—Romanelli’s Italian Beef sandwich which was described by Katrinka at as being “the best Italian Beef in Arizona, it has that good Chicago Italian Beef flavor…. If they would just make a good Italian poor boy (sub to those who don't know any better) with all Italian deli meats…”

My heart wanted to order the ten-inch Italian Beef, but my head told me to stick with the six-incher.
The problem with leftovers here is that the juices in which the beef have been cooked soak into the bread and a long holding time would result in a soggy mess. This was—other than my own—one of the better versions of this Chicago classic. In fact, a sign near the front door stated that the Italian beef came from Chicago. The meat was thinly sliced and carried the flavor of the Italian herbs used in the cooking process. And I had my choice of hot or sweet peppers and, of course, chose the hot. The peppers were really a form of Chicago giardiniara or pickled relish. You can find giardiniara in most grocery stores and the mix usually includes carrots and cauliflower. Here the giardiniara was mostly peppers (I saw a few of the infamously hot sport peppers that are a garnish for a Chicago-style hot dog) with some celery for filler.

Chuck ordered the Supersub—a half pound of ham, capicolla, pepperoni, and cheese covered with about two inches of shredded lettuce.
The major complaint—other than the excess of roll—was that the cold cuts were cut too thick. In a really good sub, the meats are sliced so thin as to be almost shaved.

I ordered a side of macaroni salad and Chuck a side of potato salad. Neither knocked our socks off.

As we were leaving, I noticed a display of bright blue bottles sitting on one of the shelves and was immediately transported back to my teenage years. As I have mentioned before, I spent a couple of years working as a waitress at Rastrelli’s, a pizza, pasta, and sandwich restaurant in my hometown of Clinton, Iowa. And if you went back into the kitchen, there you would find a bottle of Brioschi on one of the shelves.

“The company’s origins date back to 1880 when Achille Antonio Brioschi…began the small-scale production of the so-called effervescente Brioschi: a powder, which, when dissolved in water, produced a refreshing drink. It was not a medicine, nor was it marketed as one, although the idea for it derived from effervescent products based on magnesium citrate which had originated in the UK. The business grew and the product found various export markets…. In 1907, the business was transformed into the company Achille Brioschi & C. The popular, analgesic cachet Brioschi…was introduced in 1911…. Brioschi is an antacid which uses sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid as its active agents. It is known for the distinctive blue bottle in which it comes and the fizzing action it exhibits when used. The Brioschi pellets…are put in cool water to effervesce which is then drunk to relieve the ache of heartburn…. It appears to have an ‘Alka-Seltzer like’ reaction when placed in water, but does not contain aspirin” (

Have I given too much information again?

Even though Andreoli has a much shorter sandwich menu, both Chuck and I agree that it will remain our “go to” place for great Italian sandwiches. Romanelli’s was OK—just OK—and earns a 3.0 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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