And... I'm back! I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend full of fun, friends and family. Or if nothing else, just lots of great food! Bryan and I made a collective effort to get out of Dodge early Thursday morning, beating throngs of both L.A. and Labor Day traffic on our way to Lake Tahoe for a friend's wedding weekend. Before we headed out on our eight-hour-plus journey, I made one very important stop: Bay Cities Italian Deli. That's right, I drove almost half an hour to "deep" Santa Monica -- Lincoln Boulevard is considered "deep" when you live in West Hollywood -- simply to get sandwiches for the drive. I know I've mentioned my love for Bay Cities in the past, but I'm going to do it again. This time with photos.
Just why is Bay Cities so great? First, it's one of the few authentic Italian delis in L.A. Our city has no shortage of amazing Jewish delis where matzoh balls, lox and freshly-baked loaves of rye run rampant, but Italian delis are scarce, forcing locals to fight traffic just to get a mortadella fix. Second, Bay Cities' loaves of crusty-on-the-outside-yet-pillowy-on-the-inside bread are baked fresh every morning, still hot to the touch as you grab one from the wicker bread "station" at the back of the store.
Best. Bread. Ever.
When I got to Bay Cities at 8:50 a.m. last Thursday morning -- ten minutes before it opened, mind you -- I was the fourth person in line. It was pure torture, too, as we each craned our necks to get a glimpse of the still-steaming pans of turkey and sausage lasagnas, platters of mustard-dill potato salad and tubs of marinated olives being set up inside. At this point, all that separated us from the goods was four long minutes and a locked door.
Nine a.m. brought with it an almost a surreal experience, as for the first time ever I walked straight up to Bay Cities' deli counter and was met with a "what can I make for you?" I'm used to grabbing a number, perusing the store for a good half hour and then, when my ticket's up, rushing through my order. God forbid I go too slow and receive disapproving looks from other hungry ticket-holders, not to mention impatient sandwich-assemblers themselves. But on this morning, there was no line, no angry looks, no impatience; only a friendly face, stacks of blistered bread and a Godmother sandwich with my name on it.
A Taste of Italy Behind Glass.
Here's the pièce de résistance: The Godmother. It's what Bay Cities is known for. It's so good, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger named it the best thing they ever ate between bread on The Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. So what's in it? Genoa Salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, prosciutto, provolone and the works: mayo, mustard (yellow, honey or dijon), onions, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, Italian dressing and mild or hot pepper salad. It's pure genius. Just one bite and you know you've got something special. The crust of the bread crunches between your teeth, giving way to the layer of salty, cured meat, crisp vegetables and tangy dressing. Normally there's a great layer of heat from the pepper salad, but this one time I opted out, knowing the sandwich would sit in its own juices for several hours before being enjoyed. Some people love soggy sandwiches; I think it's a crime to remove the crunch from a Bay Cities Italian loaf. Eh, to each his own.
You might be shocked that after all this talk about the Godmother, it was actually for my husband. We're fans of the "want a bite?" offering, so knowing I would get at least 2-3 tastes of his sandwich I went with my go-to order: Sausalito (spicy) turkey, avocado, provolone cheese and the works. Again, I took a rain check on the hot pepper salad. It'll be there next time.
My Turkey Sandwich
Fast forward about two hours into the drive -- right around noon, I believe. We dug into our mini cooler. Bryan unwrapped the sandwiches, gingerly placing one half on my lap as I drove past a variety of McDonald's, Carl's Jr's, Jack in the Boxes and long-forgotten "EAT" signs.
Hungry? Not anymore.
Smiling at each other with full mouths and happy tummys, we knew we did the right thing. Nothing beats the Godmother.