1 min

Sanguiccio Deli Café

If it goes on a bun, it's best at Sanguiccio's Deli Café

Sanguiccio Deli Café owner Genio Ienzi. Credit: Laura Zahody

A tiny little spot in Little Italy with an Old World feel, Sanguiccio’s even has a cupola over the door. The restaurant is a room of indigo on orange with sprays of dried herbs hanging from the rafters. Chef-owner Genio Ienzi celebrates his Calabrian roots by serving up home-style panini.

Everything is made fresh with zero advance preparation. The imported deli meats are shaved, the cheeses and tomatoes are sliced and the fillings are tossed to order.

It’s half about the food and half about sitting on a barstool and chatting with Ienzi while he performs the ritual of the sandwich on the worn wooden countertops of his open kitchen.

But this is not the place to go for a quick in-and-out bite to eat. Everything starts with a roasted garlic and rosemary bun, specially made at a local bakery using his own recipe to give just the right texture for panini. Piled into a cloth-lined basket, his buns have the structured, crusty texture of unrefined flour and are fruity with olive oil. All the paninis are smeared with a vegetable spread made with sweet peppers and onions.

The star of the tuna panini is chunks of mild, olive oil–packed, imported yellowfin tuna. Ienzi tosses it with olive oil, tomato, black olives, pungent capers and a chiffonade of fresh, delicately peppery basil. A sandwich of mortadella and provolone with lettuce and tomato also stands out. Folded shavings of pistachio-and-pork-fat-marbled meat are peppery with a hint of citrus, and the meat works well with the rosemary in the bread. Butter-coloured, mild provolone adds smooth texture and brings everything together.

A side salad of tomato wedges and briny purplish Niçoise olives sprinkled with bold and earthy dried oregano is served in a little cup that accompanies the paninis. Not to be forgotten are the expertly prepared coffees and espressos. The bean blend is a close recreation of the Italian standard roast. Real deal Italian Nutella — not reliant on artificial flavours and much nuttier than the North-American version — is used in milky lattes.