4661 Park Boulevard, University Heights
‘"She gives me everything…and tenderly…”
Her voice rings out loud, clear, and beautiful. She’s singing along with the Beatles tune on the sound system, “And I Love Her,” looking at the tiny baby in her arms, and when it comes to the last line, she makes it “…and I love you.”
This is happening in a little restaurant in Uptown. There’s only me, a couple of others at the back, the chef, the server. Still, this gal is fearless, sitting in the window seat. Then her guy comes in. She hands him the baby.
“Six weeks,” she says when I ask how old the kid is.
The place we’re in is called Savory Deli & Market. Easy to miss.
I almost did. I was sauntering down Park Boulevard, passing under the University Heights sign at about 8:00. Love this part of town at night. It glows. I resisted the temptation of places like El Zarape, Soltán Banoo, and was almost to Adams when I saw a sign in a window: “Gazpacho.”
Gazpacho! My dad loved that. He used to make it for us when he felt the world wasn’t such a bad place, after all. It’s one of those hot-weather Spanish soups, served cold. Then I see the sign that says, “Specializing in the regional foods of Spain, France, Italy.” And another sign: “Paella Saturday.” I’ve never cottoned to paella, big jambalaya mess of mostly rice, but it has its fanatics. I want to be cool and love it and its saffron whatever…maybe some Saturday. Meanwhile: gazpacho!
I walk into this half-deli, half-eatery. The eating side’s modest. Cream paint, black tables, black chairs. Red back wall. But then they’ve spiced it up with full-size flags. French, Italian, Sicilian (red and yellow, with three running legs sprouting out from the Medusa head at the center), Corsican. The flags drape the walls and ceilings. They give it a weirdly good vibe.
But Mike the server-owner says no more gazpacho today — they’re out. I check the rest of the menu. Sandwiches and soups and salads. “But our bread is different,” says Mike. “Piadina. From Romagna, Italy. It goes back to the 1300s. We learned how to make it when we were over there.”
It turns out Mike and the chef, co-owner Julius, spent most of the past decade in Italy, France, and Spain, studying how folks cooked. “We were reverse explorers,” Mike says.
They have five piadina sandwiches, all in the $7 range. The prosciutto has mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil ($7.50). The alioli is like the prosciutto, but with a garlic-mayo spread ($7.65). There’s a bunch of vegetarian piadina; the roasted veggie ($7.20) is zucchini, yellow squash, red bell peppers, goat cheese, and tapenade (chopped olives, capers, anchovies with olive oil). That sounds pretty tasty. Oh, and there’s a manchego/quince ($7.50), with melted manchego sheep’s milk cheese (Manchego means from La Mancha, like Don Quixote) and quince paste. I remember eating quince as a kid. Tasted — and looked — like a strange yellow apple-pear. So that sounds interesting, too.
Then Mike throws me a curve. “Are you really hungry? Because we have pastas, and…let me check.” He heads off to where Julius is slaving away in the kitchen.
While he’s gone, I check out the pastas. One really grabs me: pasta lunghe (long pasta) with mussels in a garlic-wine sauce (small $5.40, large $10.80). Oh, man. Gotta have that.
“Yes!” says Mike when he gets back. “Julius made a beef bourguignon today. And he still has some…”
Decisions, decisions. Just so happens I l-o-v-e beef bourguignon, despite disappointments, like the watery stews you so often get. In the end, I go for both, the small pasta lunghe and the plate of beef bourguignon (even though it’s $12), plus a small coffee ($1.45, with refills). Farewell, Jackson.
They are definitely both worth it. The dish of spaghetti with four mussels, lots of garlic, an awesome wine sauce, and chunks of French bread to sop it all up — it’s heaven. I’m bread-wiping my bowl clean and dry when Mike arrives with the beef stew (that’s what it is, except the beef’s been soaked in wine and herbs, which make it as far from Irish stew as, oh, Mars is from Earth). Mike says they marinate it in burgundy for a morning and slow-cook all day. The meat is fall-away tender, winey, garlicky, with pearl onions, ’shrooms, and pancetta — a kind of Italian bacon — to sex it up.
I say to Mike, “All we need is a glass of red plonk.”
“We’re expecting our wine-and-beer license any day,” he says. “But you’re always welcome to bring in your own.”
That’s when Roger, Eliza, and their six-week-old baby, Raiden, come in. They order gnocchi (potato dumplings, small $4.99, large $7.99) and the piadina alioli. They tell me they love them both.
Roger’s an artist. Eliza’s a singer and actress, an expert in accents. She’s from L.A., and she’s voiced “most of the chick voices” on South Park. “And I’m Rebecca in [the game] Assassin’s Creed II.”
So this is the point when Roger takes off (to check parking? take a phone call?) and Eliza starts singing to baby Raiden, along with McCartney on the sound system. The few of us in here stop eating and listen.
“Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die…”
I ask Eliza about her singing, ’cause, man, that’s quite a voice. “I might be getting together with Shawn Rohlf. You know, 7th Day Buskers?”
Uh, wracking my brain. I should know who this is…
Julius is stacking chairs when Eliza, Roger, Raiden, me, and the two other stragglers finally get out of here.
It’s that kind of place. ■
The Place: Savory Deli & Market, 4661 Park Boulevard (near Adams), University Heights, 619-683-3772
Type of Food: French-Italian-Spanish
Prices: Prosciutto piadina (sandwich), with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, $7.50; alioli piadina (with prosciutto, garlic-mayo spread), $7.65; pasta lunghe with mussels, garlic wine sauce), $5.40 ($10.80 large); gnocchi in tomato-basil sauce, $4.99, $7.99; beef bourguignon (occasional), $12; paella on Saturdays, $14.50 with seafood, $10.50 with chicken and chorizo; tapas (Tuesdays and Fridays, after 5:00 p.m.) $3–$6
Hours: 11.00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., Tuesday–Friday; 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., Saturday; 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m., Sunday; closed Monday
Nearest Bus Stop: Park at Madison