When people ask me what I miss most about New York, the answer pretty much solely correlates to food. There are a lot of things that are better out here in SF, but there’s some things that I’ve found particularly difficult to get my hands on. Specifically, I truly miss my weekly stops in at the old Italian meat and cheese shrines at Di Palo and Alleva in Little Italy. Their prosciutto, mozzarella, porchetta, meatballs, and other sliced meats rank as some of my favorite things to eat in all of New York and it sort of feels like I’ve lost a part of myself without them in my life.
Upon moving to SF, I learned the hard way that finding incredible versions of these simple Italian classics wasn’t nearly as easy as it was back east. Sure, SF has North Beach – its own unsatisfying version of Little Italy, but just like New York’s Little Italy, most of it is just touristy dreck. In SF, to find the good stuff, you’ve got attack the city with a little bit more of an informed approach. And that’s exactly what brought me to Lucca Delicatessen on this Sunday afternoon.
Lucca Delicatessen is located right in the heart of *gasp* the Marina on Chestnut street. It’s a part of town where basic bitches and douche-bros perpetually frolic in sunglasses and yoga pants – a part of town I don’t ordinarily choose to spend much time in. But, when my desperation for a traditional Italian sandwich boils over, there’s no telling what I’m capable of. At a minimum, I’d certainly be able ignore my surroundings and endure (the annoyances of) the neighborhood to get my hands on a sandwich full of delectable Italian sliced meats.
The narrow shop consists of not much more than a gigantic deli case loaded with meats, cheeses, and mayo-coated salads on one side and never-ending wall of refrigerators full of fresh pasta, sauce, and soda on the opposite. And from the ceiling, dry salamis hang, just like they did in my beloved shops in New York. As soon as I entered the place and took a look at the shop, I knew I was in good hands.
And have no doubts about it. Lucca is definitely a very popular place, so lines often build to unpleasant lengths if you hit it up at the wrong time. I fortunately stopped in during a lull in the lunch rush was able to step right up to the counter to place my order. Italian hero, you’ll be mine soon enough!
Based on Foursquare tips and the craving I felt compelled to quench, I went with the #1 – The Italian Combo. This complex sandwich involved piling layers of sliced salami, ham, mortadella, and provolone high and dressing the meaty stack with lots of mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomato, and mild Italian peppers on my choice of bread. I actually let my sandwich guy choose whatever bread he thought would work best and he selected the hard sourdough for me.
All in all, it was an incredibly delicious sandwich that successfully crushed my craving in nearly every regard. Sure, the mayo and yellow mustard combo seemed pretty non-traditional to me, but it was still really quite tasty in its own right though I do think I still may have preferred a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing like I’m used to. But really, I think the mild Italian pepper spread was the highlight of the sandwich. It added such a nice, sweet contrast to the savory, salty meats and transformed the sandwich’s flavorful profile into something truly special.
This was the sort of sandwich that became so much more than just the sum of its parts. Everything worked together in harmony. But, I did find the hard sourdough a bit tough to chew through. Next time, I’d probably choose a bread that’s a little less of a jaw workout. But, for now I’m just glad to have I’ve found a satisfactory sandwich shop substitute capable of filling those gaping Italian Deli holes in my heart. Plus, at only $7.99 for the big, hearty, filling sandwich, it was a damn good deal.
In conclusion, I think Lucca Delicatessen is a really excellent place to know about for when the inevitable, uncontrollable craving for an Italian sandwich strikes. I don’t particularly love the Marina’s vibe and I still don’t think it can hold a candle to Di Palo or Alleva, but that’s an extremely high bar to live up to. This’ll do for now, though I’m still on the hunt for Italian perfection in SF.
Got another great Italian spot in SF that I should check out? Let me know in the comments below.
2120 Chestnut St. San Francisco, CA 94123