There are plenty of transplants from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia in Washington, and most of us are only too happy to tell you exactly what’s wrong with local versions of the foods we grew up with: pizza, cheesesteaks and especially sub sandwiches.

People who live in Northern Virginia will tell you that the Italian Store offers a reasonable facsimile of those sandwiches and pizzas, and those who are really in the know will urge you to check out Mangialardo and Sons on Capitol Hill for sandwiches – assuming you can make it down there while they’re open.  7:30 AM to 3 PM weekdays is not exactly convenient for those who don’t live or work near their location on Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast.

But the best bet for sandwiches (and a wide range of Italian products) is A. Litteri, Inc.  Hidden among the warehouses and wholesalers in the Capital City Market (bordered by New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, 5th and 7th Streets, Northeast), these guys have been offering pastas, spices, wine and olive oil to Washington’s Italian-American community and those who appreciate Italian delicacies since Calvin Coolidge occupied the White House.

So to celebrate my officially becoming an old Italian man with our friends, we knew we had to have Litteri’s Italian sandwiches.  Elizabeth was also wonderful enough to make a delicious homemade tiramisu for dessert, but you’ll have to wait to get the details on that sweet treat in a future post.

More about Litteri’s deli delicacies after the jump.

If you’re going to judge an Italian specialty store on its sandwiches, you had better start off with the “classic Italian,” or whatever title they opt to give their version of the sandwich that features ham (usually capicola), salami (genoa more often than not), a third, less easily categorized meat (mortadella or a more basic bologna) and provolone cheese.  These are the fundamentals – everything else is window dressing. 

Though the purists will argue that any sandwich that doesn’t come on bread from Calandra’s (a Jersey staple) or Amoroso’s (Philly’s go-to) is doomed to fail, the bread they bring in from Catania Bakery on North Capitol Street is worth a try.  Besides – I tend to pay a lot more attention to what goes into the bread, and Litteri delivers nicely.

Walking up to the deli counter past shelves full of pasta, imported olive oils and vinegars, and wines from all over the world, visitors are greeted with iconic hanging cuts of meat and a board that advertises the various cold cuts and cheeses ready to be sliced to order.  Sausages are made in house.  Olives and peppers are sold by the pound from large tubs of brine and vinegar.  And sandwich order forms sit on the counter to the left, beckoning.

If you’re not in the mood for an Italian sandwich, you can make your own from a selection of meats and cheeses that puts your average sandwich chain to shame.  Roast beef, pepperoni, prosciutini, turkey, and all the rest are available (choose two) at no extra charge.  Half a dozen cheeses are also on the list – including fresh mozzarella!  Toppings run the gamut from lettuce, tomato, hot peppers and onions (no charge) to marinated mushrooms, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes for charges that vary by the size of the sandwich.  At $4.50 for a six-inch soft roll, $8.95 for a foot-long soft roll or $5.95 for a nine-inch hard roll, they’re competitive with everyone else in the market and they do it right.

A. Litteri, Inc.
517 Morse St., NE
Washington, DC  20002
(202) 544-0183

A Litteri on Urbanspoon