At one time, the small being currently clamped to my nipple and I were experiencing the benefits of WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), the incredibly well-implemented federal program that helps supplement young kids' diets. Unlike food stamps, WIC coupons are good for specific items that fulfill basic nutritional needs (milk, peanut butter, carrots, milk, eggs, cheese, tuna fish, milk, and... oh, did I mention milk?). But the best part about the program is that every summer, WIC recipients in Washington state get around $20 worth of local-market credit good toward loads of locally grown organic produce.

I would venture out of our tiny apartment and get swept into the hum and motion of Columbia City's community on Wednesdays afternoons: food carts (including an helado wagon complete with a bell), neighbors shooting the shit, farmers from all over the state. Truckloads of corn picked that morning, heirloom varieties of peaches and tomatoes, beets and greens, and mind-boggling arrays of locally harvested honey and homemade preserves transformed buckling parking-lot concrete into a dense neighborhood block party.

A few apartments and lots of vegetables later, I found myself in Columbia City again, sweating heavily and powerfully thirsty. I stumbled into La Medusa's beautiful younger sister, Salumeria on Hudson. While I appreciate a nice Sicilian meal at La Medusa, I can't afford to eat there enough to get cozy. But Salumeria? Who can resist an Italian deli?

Columbia City boasts such a gem, in a spacious, airy storefront stocked with jars of good things, so comforting to gaze upon I'm almost nourished by the mere sight of it all: mounds of glistening olives, the odd-looking (butstrangely comforting) organic curves of prosciutto, the no-nonsense chef brusquely taking your order and then lovingly serving you a meatball sandwich that brings a tear to the eye. But this is no sandwich-on-the-run joint. I walked in, looking for Aranciata (a tiny but refreshing Italian beverage spawned by San Pellegrino), and wound up ordering the Number One Sandwich ($6.25), featuring Salumeria's house-cured pork loin (succulent!), marinated red onions (addictive!), and fontina on focaccia--a simple sandwich constructed from a few, basic ingredients, utterly lacking all the Northwest funny business that plagues most local meals between bread. It was perfect. After gobbling down that treat, I ate a not-very-small chopped salad ($4.75), rife with salami and other treats, in order to aid digestion.

I returned on a hot Saturday evening, family in tow, sweating heavily again, and was delighted by the BABY-BACK PORK RIB dinner special ($10.95, with sides). Not only does this deli know how to make a sandwich, but the place also possesses a skill almost as important as knowing how to satisfy a woman: slow-cooking meat to perfection. Falling-off-the-bone tender, Salumeria's ribs nod at traditional barbecue with their royal, Sicilian crown of a deep, sweet, spicy, chunky tomato sauce flecked with rosemary. The marinated veggies ($3.50), pasta with mushrooms ($4.50), and chicken salad ($4.50) I sampled with my dinner were all very solid, and of a distinctly different lineage than those found in (not so) supermarkets. Besides the deli stuff and nightly specials for dinner, Salumeria also tosses fresh pizza ($9.50-$14.95), provides sturdy chairs and tables to eat at... plus there's no corking fee, AND there's a really nice selection of Italian, California, and Northwest wines, plus beer.

So I sat down with my fella and kid,and leisurely ate a nice dinner with wine and kickass Procopio hazelnut gelato ($1.45) for dessert, all for about $30. I left Columbia City feeling very, very warm inside.

Salumeria on Hudson

4918 Rainier Ave S (at Hudson St), 760-7741.

Tues-Sun 11:30 am-8:30 pm. Closed Mondays. $.

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up.

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