New-school “Old World”

The Crazy Bird is just one of Paisan’s many turkey and veggie sandwiches. But red-meat eaters will fare well there, too.

The Crazy Bird is just one of Paisan’s many turkey and veggie sandwiches. But red-meat eaters will fare well there, too.

Photo By David Robert

I don’t know how I missed the vegetarian sandwiches when I ordered lunch at Paisan’s Old World Deli & Catering. Usually that’s the first thing I go for, being quite the veggie head. For some reason, the moment The Greek sandwich ($5.95) caught my eye, I was set on turkey. I insisted that my mom, Gail, and sister, Amber, order turkey sandwiches as well. They didn’t argue because the options sounded mouth-watering.

So we ordered the three signature turkey sandwiches Paisan’s offers. When I got home and perused the to-go menu, I realized Paisan’s also offers four unique vegetarian sandwiches. I was far from disappointed that I had gone with turkey. I just wish I had brought along four more friends. One of the woes of writing about food is that there is only so much that one person (or three people) can eat. I’ve never felt this affliction more deeply than I did at Paisan’s.

I always stick with vegetarian, fish or fowl, and I often don’t find tons of choices that cater specifically to the non-red-meat-eater, especially at sandwich shops and even more so at places with monikers that contain words like “Old World.” I’m a big modifier of “specialty” recipes—"Could you hold the bacon, please?” or “Can I get that minus salami?” But the options at Paisan’s are diverse and delicious, covering a range from eggplant-as-the-main-ingredient to meatloaf, with chicken, pastrami, pot roast and tri-tip in between.

My Greek sandwich was a larger-than-I-could-handle affair containing succulent peppered breast of turkey, a lilac-colored kalamata olive spread, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, red onion and cucumber. The olive spread was nasal-clearing robust, a friendly complement to the peppered turkey. The cucumbers and red onions added a pleasant, fresh crispness to the sandwich. I had the choice of sourdough, Dutch crunch or focaccia; at no extra charge, I couldn’t resist focaccia. I truly thought “The Greek” was what a turkey sandwich should be, until I tried the other two sandwiches.

My mom’s Crazy Bird (all the signature and vegetarian sandwiches are a more-than-reasonable $5.95) had your basic juicy turkey with cream cheese, sun-dried cranberries, lettuce, tomato and sprouts on nine-grain bread. It was a refreshing, summer-style twist on your typical turkey and cranberry sandwich.

The three of us were even more impressed with the North Beach Special, Amber’s choice. It was a sweet and distinctly Italian sandwich that included honey-cured smoked turkey, mozzarella, sun-dried-tomato pesto, lettuce and tomato on focaccia. With the sugariness of a good tomato sauce, it was a wonderfully new combination of ingredients.

After one bite of all three sandwiches, I was more than sold on Paisan’s. But the servers continued to sell me on the place. Shortly after starting our meal, which had arrived quickly, one of the staff brought around slices of scrumptious, fresh, moist carrot cake to every person in the packed, little deli. Each of our plates contained my favorite type of after-meal treat: dainty, soft, melt-in-your-mouth mints.

My experience at Paisan’s consisted of one pleasant surprise after another. Since the deli does breakfast and serves all types of Italian salads and desserts, I’m glad to think that I’m in for more.