1934 Macklind Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63109
Walk into Gioia’s, a little deli on the Hill, and you’ll find a place that is indisputably Italian. Just look around to see not one, not two, but upwards of three full-sized Italian flags posted inside and outside the one-room restaurant. The place is quaint but not trite, with wooden floors, a fancy chalkboard menu and a company consisting of many regulars.
Their specialty is hot salami. I have actually been a vegetarian for almost five days now, so I was looking forward to showing some willpower in the face of strong temptation. When one of the sandwich artists handed me a sample-sized hot salami sandwich, afforded to every first-timer, I started to consider the unnaturally black-and-white nature of the view of morality implied by vegetarianism. In one swift protein-deficient spasm, I devoured the sample. I do not regret that choice: The salami was tender and moist, a nearly quarter-inch thick slice of meat bitten through as easily as cake.
The sandwiches come in regular (9 inch) and medium (6 inch) sizes, though the medium was a rather generous six inches, leaving me stuffed and in a dazed meditative state.
The method at Gioia’s is simple: Select the base sandwich from about a dozen options, pick white or wheat bread, and add your choice of cheese, pickles, onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise and mustard. Final step: enjoy!I had the large version of the sample hot salami sandwich. The wheat bread was fresh and airy but lacked the overbearing presence that might overrule the tang of the pickle, the juice of the salami and the pleasant crunch of the fresh lettuce and onions.
I also had the pleasure of trying the New York Philly Beef sandwich. Though the blend of cream cheese and ground meat was intriguing and satiating, the texture of the meat was somewhat coarse, and I think I would stick to hot salami on future visits.
The deli focuses on its sandwiches, but salad, soup, lasagna and desserts, like brownies and Italian ices, are also offered. Had I regained some semblance of my previous vegetarian resolution, I would also not have had to struggle to find vegetarian options in the veggie sandwich, salads and a “build your own” sandwich option.
Located a mere 10-minute drive from Washington University, Gioia’s deli is worth stepping out of your routine to visit, and perhaps even worth temporarily dropping your vegetarianism. The multitude of sandwiches is excellent; the atmosphere is picturesque, and the place has a certain informal ambiance. It is certainly worth your time—and money.