Anthony’s Italian Deli: Go hungry, leave happy

Advocate photo by GEORGE MORRIS -- The GodFather sandwich at Anthony's Italian Deli combines American prosciutto, Genoa salami and provolone cheese with romaine lettuce and marinated peppers. Show caption
Advocate photo by GEORGE MORRIS -- The GodFather sandwich at Anthony's Italian Deli combines American prosciutto, Genoa salami and provolone cheese with romaine lettuce and marinated peppers.

Sandwiches worth sinking your teeth into

There is an art to making sandwiches. Anthony’s Italian Deli employs its share of Michaelangelos.

Tucked in the back of a building on the south side of Florida Boulevard, Anthony’s would be impossible to find but for the sign near the service road, and it rewards the seeker. The tiny establishment, with a table or two for those who insist on eating in, dispenses some excellent sandwiches, along with a few plate lunches as daily specials. We concentrated on the sandwiches on our visit, and are happy we did.

Employing the First Rule of Ordering Food — if it’s got the restaurant’s name, order it — we had to try the Tony’s Special (all sandwiches are priced $12.95 for large, $8.25 for small), and it turned out to be warm, melty perfection. The marinated onions cut through the rich layers of prosciutto and mozzarella cheese with just the right amount of zing to balance the sandwich out. The muffuletta bread on the larger sandwiches was a wonder, toasty and slightly chewy without being difficult, and the romaine and tomato worked better than we expected on a warm sandwich.

By the way, the large sandwiches are massive. Bring a friend, or plan on leftovers.

A corollary to the First Rule of Ordering Food is to apply that rule to anything the restaurant specifically advertises as its specialty, as Anthony’s does with its muffuletta. Everything about it is special. The combination of mortadella, ham, Genoa salami, capicola and provolone cheese provide the foundation for this Frisbee disc-sized sandwich, but it’s their “famous olive dressing” that puts it over the top. The briny tang of the olive mix covers every millimeter of the sandwich, which is pressed on a hot grill until the cheese melts into that just-right gooey-ness. They say it’s enough for two. That would be two very hungry people.

The GodFather combines American prosciutto, Genoa salami and provolone cheese with romaine lettuce and marinated peppers. To our taste, this is a sandwich that works much better cold than hot. We made this discovery after being initially disappointed in the hot version, in which whatever zip the meats provide was muted by the cheese, and the peppers didn’t have much edge to them. We thought the peppers also could have been chopped into smaller pieces, because when we failed to bite through them, they pulled away from the sandwich in limp strings that dangled from our lips, which isn’t the most pleasant eating sensation.

Fortunately, since we ordered a large, we had enough to eat later, and when we pulled it from the refrigerator, it was like a different sandwich. The flavor of the meat and peppers came through much better, and the peppers were easier to bite through and provided a pleasing crunch.

The meatball sandwich is a product of superior ingredients. Composed of homemade meatballs sliced in half, a flavorful tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese, it is stunningly good. Onions and basic seasonings mingle in the slightly sweet sauce, and the meatballs are sizeable, an inch or more across. None of the sandwich’s components dominates.

We should note that the po-boy bread used on the smaller sandwiches is also of high quality — warm and crisp, but not too hard , just the right contrast of textures with the soft meat inside. The roast beef sandwich was sloppy, of course, but more because of the thick mayo that dripped from the sides. This isn’t a gravy-heavy po-boy in the tradition of many roast beef sandwiches, although the meat was tender and juicy. We also liked the fact that the roast beef wasn’t the least bit stringy, a frequent sin with carved deli meat.

Similarly, the turkey sandwich was flavorful and dripping in mayo on pressed po-boy bread, a satisfying portion for lunch and easy for a hungry mouth to consume.