When my husband and I were looking to move house, lots of people told us to find a primary school we wanted our daughter to attend and move within a stone’s throw of it. Though this is sage advice we did not follow it. What we did do is move within walking distance to one of the best Italian delis in South London.
What can I say? My husband’s mother’s maiden name is Castiglione. Marrying him was no accident. He makes my heart happy. Just like Italian bakeries and delis also make my heart happy. They always have.
In Williamsburg, on the corner of Manhattan and Devoe, the old men smoking cigarillos and shooting dice outside Fortunato Brothers were always half the charm. I loved the way they’d remove their flat caps or fedoras and hold them over their hearts and say, ‘Ciao piccola. Come estai?’ While some of them gave me nods and huge smiles that implied the trouble they would have given me 40 years ago, I never felt uncomfortable. I felt like a young Sofia Loren. In fact, their presence made me want to go in for late night cannoli and cappuccino more than I should have done.
In Santa Monica, the sandwiches at Bay Cities more than made up for the clusterfuck of a parking lot that I’ve witnessed ruin traffic for miles on Lincoln. Honestly, by the time you took that first bite of your sandwich it’s not that you had forgotten, but you no longer cared about waiting fifteen minutes for a space because some girl in a Prius that her father bought for her was parked like an inconsiderate jerk who like all inconsiderate jerks did nothing but apologize for her inconveniencing you rather than just not inconveniencing you. Hand to god, the meatball and sausage sandwiches are that good you won’t even care. You won’t even mind that Bay Cities isn’t open on Mondays. Unless of course you’re there on a Monday.
In my neck of the woods, I’m spoiled for choice with Gennaro’s at the bottom of the hill and Tziganos at the top. Between them both, my husband filled my Christmas stocking with all the sweetness of Sicily–glass jars of tuna, citrus cakes, cannoli, saffron, and squid ink.
Well last week was a first for me. After having lived in London for five years, I finally found myself at Lina on Brewer Street on purpose. Wowsa. I thought I’d died and gone to greedy guts heaven. There were enormous displays of homemade pastas. Refrigerators full of Pellegrino sodas and sparkling waters. Shelves of noodles and nocciola chocolates. And if you lined them up piece by piece, slice by slice, what would have been miles of meat, cheese, and olives. Lina is to the Italian delicatessen what Ladurée is to patisserie–the gold standard.
I left with two sleeves of salami. One was perfectly spiced with fennel, the other with pepper. I also took home a container of spinach and ricotta tortelloni that I served in rich turkey stock from Thanksgiving. The salami was used to make Post-Lying-Vegetarian Sandwiches which is one of my easiest and mot delicious recipes to date. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It’s all kinds of satisfactory.
Below are photos documenting the deliciousness that happened. Believe me when I say though it’s not close to home, I’ll be going back to Lina soon and if you’re ever in London and find yourself on Brewer Street, I suggest you do the same. Don’t be a strunze.