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Mom-and-pop deli keeps things delightfully simple

| Thursday, June 22, 2006

Yep, it's a little deli. Nothing fancy, just freshly sliced meats and cheeses on good bread, spinach pies, calzones and, of course, chipped-chopped ham.

I'm tempted to draw broad conclusions about the fearless comeback of this historic neighborhood, or to decry the slow demise of unique mom-and-pop sandwich shops in this era of overabundant Subways and Quiznos.

But it's just a little deli. Nothing to get worked up about. Good sandwiches, though. I'll be back, and not just because it's convenient (although it is).

The Little Deli is part convenience store, part sandwich spot, operated by an enthusiastic middle-aged couple. It's the kind of thing every neighborhood should have -- a place you can walk to and find friendly faces, short-term provisions, and a quick, cheap, tasty lunch.

The sandwiches are a normal size, which is nice. You can pick your bread, cheese and meat -- basic, staff-of-life type stuff, like Jewish Rye bread, Garlic Bologna, hard salami and Isaly's Chipped Ham. There are a few Greek items, which gives The Little Deli a little distinctiveness.

One of my lunch companions ordered the Stuffed Grape Leaves (3 for $1), which skirted Mediterranean grub's usual downfalls -- they weren't too sour or oily. He admitted that they didn't go so well with the Italian Hoagie ($3.25), "but that wasn't the hoagie's fault."

The hoagie was stuffed with ham, salami, cheese and exceptionally fresh green lettuce and tomato, and warmed on a sandwich toaster. Folding the sandwich roll was a bit tricky, though, and the salami gets a bit greasy when heated, so eat it over the plate.

The Turkey Reuben is pretty much the most expensive thing on the menu, at a paltry $5.50. Between two thick slices of rye bread, there's freshly cut turkey, swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing leaking out of the bread -- sloppy and tasty.

The Spinach Pies ($2.50 each), another Greek specialty, are stuffed with creamy spinach, although the phyllo dough was a little on the chewy side. The Pepperoni Roll $3) is meal-sized, with a nice balance between dough and pepperoni.

The Roast Beef & Swiss ($4.95) sandwich is outstanding -- and much smaller than expected, filling a soft, sliced Kaiser roll instead of a massive hoagie roll. It's very simple, and not so heavy that you'll need a nap afterward.

Additional Information:

The Little Deli

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat.

Address: 910 Galveston Ave., North Side.

Phone: 412-231-2678.

I didn't get to try...

Someday I'll get a Chipped Ham Sandwich ($3.25) for old time's sake, although I wish it came with a side of Jello squares, like the Mom-packed lunches of yesteryear.

I might pick up some Marinated Kalamata Olives to go next time, too.

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