Take a number
Massimo’s Fine Italian Deli100 W. Liberty St.
Reno, NV 89501
I’d been to the location on Moana Lane countless times to order my favorite sandwich in town, the “Number 19,” a simple, scrumptious affair containing fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, oil and vinegar on my choice of focaccia bread. The sandwich was my favorite when the deli was under different ownership and called Paolo’s, and the sandwich is still my favorite under the equally Italian moniker of Massimo’s.
When I heard there was a second Massimo’s downtown, I was excited, not so much for myself, since downtown is not an area I frequent, but for the owners and all Massimo’s loyalists. I was pleased to think it could be the beginning of a local franchise.
My friend Raymond and I took a minute to find the restaurant, which is located inside the old Porsche building at the intersection of Liberty and Sierra streets. We saw the classy looking sign “Massimo’s Fine Italian Deli” hanging on the side of the building that faces Liberty Street, but we got confused when there was no glass door leading directly to a deli. After entering what appeared to be somebody’s up-and-coming office space, we were pointed in the right direction. We should have gone into the building’s ground floor foyer; we’d have found it directly on the right.
With sterile gray walls, floors, chairs and tables, the deli looks more cafeteria-like than the first location, which has terracotta-colored tiled floors and wooden patio-style furniture. The cafeteria vibe makes sense, however, if a lot of the customers working in offices nearby just swing by to pick up sandwiches to go. Since, unlike the Moana location, it also caters to an early-bird coffee crowd, it also makes sense that it wouldn’t be particularly geared toward customers who intend to stay longer than the time it takes to make a latte.
All the same sandwiches and hot meals I’ve come to know at the Moana site are offered at Massimo’s downtown spread. Knowing that the bread is brought over from the original location in the morning and assuming the ingredients were all the same, I thought I’d try something different than my “19.” So I ordered the manicotti and a bowl of daily soup, broccoli and chicken.
The manicotti ($8.50) was a truly grownup-size portion served steaming hot, dripping with marinara sauce and oozing with ricotta cheese. It was made all the more satisfying because it only took five minutes from me ordering it to having it set in front of my face.
I asked Ray how his Number 13 sandwich (ham, salami, mortadella and provolone for $6), his personal beloved, tasted at the new locale.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I think I might like it more. It seems like the oil is different.”
The broccoli chicken soup ($4.50) was a new experience for me. The broccoli was puréed, so there were no large vegetable pieces, only the mild smoothness of creamed broccoli. The chicken was in long, finger-length chunks and tasty in the green suspension. I ordered a lot of food and easily finished all of it.
“Do you have a different soup every day?” I asked the waitress.
“Not always,” she said. “It kind of depends on what Massimo feels like making.”
I knew that there actually was a Massimo. In fact, he’d been sitting next to the cash register when we ordered, but when our server referred to him on such personable terms, I thought of him as an icon. I felt special that I’d come on a day when he’d put his culinary genius to such an ordinary use.
But I guess when your name is attached to two fine delis, you have to do whatever is necessary to keep and gain new fans.