Casa D'Italia
2615 NE 65th St, 525-7747
Mon-Thurs 4-9:30 pm, Fri 4-10 pm, Sat 11 am-10 pm.

Every time I pay eight bucks for a sandwich, I die a little. Is this what we're reduced to here, living in this area? It's like getting the big-city treatment, without any of the bennies.

Or so I once thought, before an innocent visit to Casa D'Italia turned me into a drooling hero addict, willing to pay any price for just one more fix. The gateway sandwich was a seven-dollar number, the Joe Pesci: Italian tuna fish, tomato, and mixed greens. "This one will amuse you," lures the menu, with deceptive understatement. Although the Joe Pesci compromised my usual sandwich principles--served without mayo, on chewy bread--I was instantly hooked, a testament to the skill of the restaurant's cooks/pushers. They cut the crusty Italian hero bread from the top, to hold in the ingredients, and soften it up with tangy Italian dressing. Capers and other goodies are mixed in with the mild tuna, and the whole affair is gorgeous, the best Pesci's looked… um… ever.

After that, I'd travel to Ravenna on frequent sandwich safaris, seduced by exotic-sounding new temptations: prosciutto, porchetta, capocollo, soppressata. Ahhh, soppressata. I'd feed my habit with hot heroes, like the sausage and peppers ($9), or with the Verrazano ($8.25)--wine salami, smoked mozzarella, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions. Each sandwich is a little work of art, carefully made (hot-sandwich phone orders are put together when you arrive, so they won't get soggy), and complemented with a consistently interesting pasta side dish.

Small and cozy, the restaurant is a fun place to stop for dinner, with nightly specials ranging between $13 and $18. But I'd rather score and run, indulging my weakness at home, covered with olive oil and crumbs like the pathetic sandwich junkie I am. Just another broken cheapskate in the big city.

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