DiSalvo’s Deli and Italian Store

By Paula Johnson

I wasn’t even hungry when I went to DiSalvo Deli and Italian Store. After an unexpectedly late lunch, I could have skipped dinner before heading to a show at the nearby Fraze Pavilion. But PIP (Palate In Progress) and I had planned to stop in for a bite, and he was ravenous. My plan was to get a little something to pick at while he filled up. This plan went awry as soon as I experienced the Italian festival of sights and smells that is DiSalvo’s Deli. Everyone knows Mamma DiSalvo’s restaurant right next door to the deli. Admittedly, I had been there several times and even wrote about one of my experiences. But I was unschooled in everything happening right next door, assuming with the moniker of deli that this place was lunchmeat carry out only. I assumed it was the best kind of Italian lunchmeat, and it is, but oh my how much more there was!

Lighting up

Under the tutelage of Lori, who told us she’s there every Thursday night, I got the education on all things DiSalvo’s. When she learned it was our first visit, she was immediately out from behind the order counter to take us in hand. Lori had a little of the spirit of an Italian nonna in her, as she shepherded me around the display cases, proudly saying things like, “You should try the ribs. He (meaning owner Rinaldo DiSalvo) smokes them himself every week. They’re so good.” And to PIP, “You should take home some delicious Italian sausage. He makes it himself!” DiSalvo’s smokes ribs, brisket, and makes their own corned beef and sausage weekly. As she was explaining, we indeed spied DiSalvo at the stove underneath a hanging rack of pots and pans, stirring something that looked red, saucy, and delicious. As we perused, a woman came up to the counter. “Are you here for the brisket?” he called. “Of course!” she answered, suggesting DiSalvo’s Deli must be a regular stop for her.

I mentioned there was a lot more food than expected, but I was delighted to learn that this place also is a wine and espresso bar. There are several tables to eat at once you’ve ordered. Or you can belly up to the bar where you can enjoy a selection of wines by the glass, or even Guinness on tap. Wines by the bottle are available, and I saw a few that I found really tempting. Gathered around the bar were a group of well-dressed professionals having a pre-dinner glass of wine and cheese plate. Lori explained the group had arranged their dinner and meeting in advance. It’s really an ideal spot for an informal gathering or perhaps a book club. The space is not private; however, it’s much quieter than would be in a normal restaurant setting.

This is how you slice it

It was time to order, so I chose a slice of pizza with pepper, onion, and mushroom ($2.95) and a small salad with DiSalvo’s house slightly sweet Italian dressing ($3.00) and PIP went with the grilled cheese and bacon sandwich ($6.95). Remember my lack of appetite? One bite of the pizza and that was no longer a problem. The crust, crunchy as a breadstick on the edges, also had a bit of a chewy, yeasty, bread texture, and something else I haven’t found often in Dayton. It had a taste. Topped with cheese and veggies (no red sauce), I ate the whole slice and wanted more.

PIP’s grilled cheese was equally noteworthy. No plain American cheese here, or even cheddar – Gouda, Asiago, and Monterey Jack combined with bacon on thick, crusty, grilled Italian bread made this one terrific sandwich. (The Cuban sandwich beside it in the case looked just as tempting, and I’m planning to try it next trip.) He followed it up with two of the house made desserts from the case: a chocolate cannoli and a chocolate cream puff  ($3.60 and $3.95). I tried a slice of black forest chocolate cake ($3.50), clearly no longer suffering from a lack of appetite.

As we ate, we were checked on several times by Lori and DiSalvo, something you maybe wouldn’t expect at a casual deli and retail store. PIP remarked, “You can come here, feel like you are part of the DiSalvo famiglia, fill your belly from the deli, have a glass of Chianti and a cappuccino, and leave humming Frank Sinatra tunes.” Or you can dash home loaded up with a complete tasty meal from the grab-and-go case ready to serve the family (we took home smoked ribs and a package of sausage). Better yet, provisions from DiSalvo’s Deli would make a terrific picnic at a nearby park. On their business card, it says “cuciniamo dal cuore” meaning “made from the heart with love.” I believe they really do.

DiSalvo Deli and Italian Store is located at 1383 E. Stroop Rd. in Kettering. For more information, please visit disalvosdeli.com or call 937.298.5053. For Epicurean Empress Paula Johnson’s review of Mamma Disalvo’s, please visit daytoncitypaper.com/hot-mamma.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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