Dining Reviews

Why Zoccoli’s is Still Santa Cruz’s Favorite Deli

Plus a preview of fall benefit dinner season

Zoccoli’s still makes Santa Cruz’s favorite sandwiches. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

The mighty Mediterranean still delivers the East Coast/Italian goods, on a huge fresh sourdough roll. Prosciutto, mortadella, salami, provolone and finely diced olive relish, plus chopped pickled peppers—all nicely drenched in a spicy vinaigrette. That’s a lot of flavor excitement for $8.25.

But then, that’s Zoccoli’s Italian Delicatessen for you. A place where you can walk from one street to another through a clean, well-lit deli filled with custom-made sandwiches, relishes, chips, crackers, chocolate, wine, beer and more. The old hardwood floors have been scrubbed to a soft worn sheen over the 70 years that Zoccoli’s has filled this family-run space with the aromas of another time and place. But the consistency remains.

The Mediterranean is still a wonder of old-school hoagie, and side dishes compete for attention. Those deviled eggs! The faintly sweet grated carrot salad! Dolmas so juicy and drenched with olive oil, you’ll think you’re in Genoa. Speaking of which, Zoccoli’s is lined with authenticity. Long salami hang from the rafters along one wall, while woven baskets stack high above the wall of buns, breads, and rolls for sandwich-making. Lasagne and ravioli, sausage and meatball sandwiches await those who like it hot. And for those who crave cool, the refrigerator case is loaded with beautiful salads all ready to carry out with your favorite dressing. You take a number. You place your order. Consider your dessert options at the checkout counter—I always love the spice-laden homemade carrot cake ($3.50 per slab)— pay, and wait for your number to be called.

If you work nearby, you might take a table outside on Pacific Avenue. Or, if you’re like the Italian couple I saw there last week, you might grab a bottle of wine and one of the little inside tables. A perennial favorite with tourists who seem to know they’re in the presence of Santa Cruz history, Zoccoli’s has won every single local heart over the years, for three generations. Go, order, eat, and give thanks that some establishments still have what it takes. Zoccoli’s, 1534 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz—next to Verve near the top of Pacific and Front streets. Open daily from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., from 10 a.m. on Sunday.

A Better Benefit

Santa Cruz Chef’s Dinner 2018 pulls out all of the gourmet stops to help raise funds for the righteous work of the Second Harvest Food Bank. On Sept. 12, at 6 p.m., the event begins with a six-course meal—paired with top local wines—prepared by featured chefs Anthony Kresge, Steve Wilson (Cafe Cruz), Peter Henry (Cremer House), Ella King (Ella’s at the Airport), Scott Cater (Paradise Beach Grille) and Geoffrey Hargrave (West End Tap and Kitchen).

INFO: $275/person. At the Holy Cross Church Annex, 126 High St., Santa Cruz.

Wine of the Week

The 2016 Chenin Blanc from Birichino. More sensuous than its 2015 sibling, this is an unpretentious 12.5 percent alcohol creation from Alex Krause and John Locke. Loaded with delicate moving parts, lychee, geranium, stone fruit, it loves to accompany pretzels, tamales, and green olives, but not all at the same time.

INFO: $22. Available at the postmodern Birichino tasting room on Church Street.

Of Further Benefit

The Fall Sustain Supper at the Homeless Garden Project features organic farmer/speaker Nikiko Masumoto, the al fresco entrees by Marci Carl of Suda, and an oyster bar by Jeffrey Wall of the soon-to-open Alderwood. Andrea Mollenauer of Lifestyle Culinary Arts does salad, Justin Williams and Danny Mendoza of Kickin’ Chicken make additional appetizers, and Anna Bartolini of Carmel’s La Balena does dessert. A wonderful event.

INFO: $150, including farm tour. Sept. 15, 3:30-7 p.m. HomelessGardenProject.org.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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