We’ve probably all heard the saying that such-and-such “isn’t anything to write home about”. In the age of social media and email, not much actual writing home takes place anymore, but this old idiom still stands as a monument to mediocrity. When it comes to deli sandwiches, plenty of them may qualify as “not bad”, but frankly, most fall into the “not anything to write home about” category. They’re just meh. Gioia’s Deli, in the historic Hill District of St. Louis, offers its hungry patrons a chance to go beyond meh.
The Hill District is the Little Italy of St. Louis and is known for serving up highly regarded eats in the neighborhood’s numerous restaurants. Although The Hill is known more as the home of toasted ravioli, Gioia’s has staked its claim as the home of hot salami and after partaking of their scrumptious sandwiches, I have no reason to dispute them. In my opinion, these folks can go head to head with any Italian deli in the country.
There are a number of items on the Gioia’s menu, most of which feature their high quality meats. I doubt you would go wrong with any of them, but the hot salami is their signature offering. The original recipe, brought to St. Louis by the Gioia family was known as Salam de Testa, first served in their little neighborhood grocery and then featured on sandwiches when they later added a lunch counter to their business. Now known simply as hot salami, that original recipe still reigns supreme at the iconic Hill sandwich shop.
If you were to walk into a location of a typical American sub sandwich franchise, you could easily spend seven or eight bucks on an unexciting, uninspired hunk of bread, layered with mediocre quality meats and toppings. Meh. Nothing to write home about. Overpriced. You get the picture. For roughly the same cost, Gioia’s serves you a deli meat masterpiece. They’ll top it the way you want it, but with premium quality ingredients and, be forewarned, the sandwiches are large. One of their thick, juicy, hot salami sandwiches could be a shared meal for many couples, particularly if you add a drink and bag of chips. I’ve eaten a whole sandwich myself, but I could have (should have?) saved half for later.
When I think of serious sandwiches, only a few places come to mind. Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal (smoked meat), Katz’s Deli in Manhattan (pastrami), Central Grocery in New Orleans (muffaletta) and Geno’s in Philadelphia (cheesesteak). Gioia’s Deli, with their hot salami, belongs in the same ranks as these renowned establishments. In short, it’s a sandwich to remember.