The new Italian sandwich shop on the ocean end of 41st Avenue might look a little incongruous among the trendy coffee houses, boutiques and surf shops, but it’s exactly what Pleasure Point needs.
My initial discovery stopped me in my tracks while strolling to the Hook. I had gone to San Francisco the week before specifically to visit a couple of Italian delis in North Beach and another in the Marina and gorge myself on hard-to-pronounce salumi, and mozzarella so fresh it’s barely holding itself together—ingredients that can be difficult to find in Santa Cruz. So I was excited to walk through the doorway of Bellagio Deli Italiano, ushered in by the aroma of freshly baked bread and the possibility of cannoli.
Giovanni Spanu, who is also the chef and owner of Lago di Como Ristorante and Pizzeria in Live Oak, opened Bellagio Deli Italiano in May, and both of his eateries offer fresh Italian dishes that stay true to the traditional recipes. At Bellagio Deli, he offers homemade ravioli, meatballs, lasagna and pasta sauces ready to be taken home and passed off as your own (just kidding), and yes, there is cannoli and tiramisu, both divine. But the real reason to hop on the freeway and brave the struggle of finding a parking spot that close to the ocean are the sandwiches.
Despite being a seemingly simple food that doesn’t require any cooking, sandwiches are surprisingly easy to mess up. We’ve all experienced the disappointment of biting into a sandwich to discover that the structure was ill-conceived or the maker has misused some key ingredient. At Bellagio Deli, the sandwiches are simple but perfect.
The smell that beckoned me into their doorway like an amorphous cartoon hand was freshly baked ciabatta bread with an unparalleled crumb and crust. They season the bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper—take notes, people—before layering in freshly carved cold cuts. I adore the Panino Parma, with prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, ripe tomato and basil. The Panino Valtellinese with rich, earthy bresaola, shaved parmesan and peppery arugula is also delicious. All of the sandwiches come with a small side salad of mixed greens, ripe tomatoes and parmesan for less than $10—a great deal and a welcome addition to the thriving neighborhood.
743 41st Ave., Santa Cruz.