It's all in the bread, they say, and that's partially true. But it's also about the innards and condiments. Most likely, it's in the sum of the parts.

Of course the beauty of a great sandwich is in the eye of the perceiver, right? Some people think sandwiches are just an excuse to eat mounds of mayonnaise, for example, but those people wouldn't appreciate good bread if it fell, as in a hedonist's dream, from the sky. Imported chichi mustard is essential for other folks, and so on. One cafe currently exploring the Landscape of Sandwich is the low-key Capitol Hill Cafe Internet Lounge & Eatery on Broadway--a huge, airy place with high ceilings and a dim back area aglow with computers.

The place's modest paper menu lists about 24 sandwiches, but it doesn't tell you how good they are, or that the customers--including other Broadway merchants-- stalk inside sometimes twice a day for the seriously tasty sandwiches.

Co-owner Mike Petrone, originally from Boston, claims he was "born in a bakery, practically." Maybe that's the reason Petrone knows the value of chewy bread and balanced fixings. Wearing a white cook's jacket like New York restaurant workers, Petrone grills all his sandwiches on a hefty Simonelli panini grill.

One of his biggest sellers is the "East Coast" ($5.90), a juicy, complex, yummy assemblage of Genoa salami, mortadella (a type of ham rarely seen in Seattle), and provolone as thin as postage stamps. On Essential Baking Company bread Petrone adds hints of Dijon, pesto, spicy red roasted peppers, and skinny, vertically sliced pickle chips. The sandwich is served in a basket, drips slightly, and its grilled bread has a bit of crunch. As one displaced New Jerseyite friend remarked, biting into one of these masterpieces "tastes like home."

The cafe also offers some salady creations like the "Caprese" ($5.90), with fresh mozzarella discs, tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, and herbs; "Gimme the Greek" ($5.90) is like a big salad on a dense rosemary roll. There are also several turkey options (including one mentioned previously in these pages, the "Almost Thanksgiving"). I like the traditionals best, including the basic grilled cheese ($4.90), which, thick and gooey and smoky-tasting, is probably better than you can make at home.

The vegan selection of the day, especially the fake chicken salad, is nice. Watching Petrone (or "Pops," as he is known) assemble meals in overdrive while talking to two or three customers at once is fairly entertaining, too.

Capitol Hill Cafe Internet Lounge & Eatery

216 Broadway E (Capitol Hill), 860-6858.

Open daily, 8 am-midnight.