Worth the drive

David Barajas prepares a Sammy’s barbecued garlic tri-tip sandwich at Paisan's.

David Barajas prepares a Sammy’s barbecued garlic tri-tip sandwich at Paisan's.

Photo/Allison Young

For more information, visit www.paisanscatering.com.

There are a lot of places to get a decent sandwich in Reno. So many, in fact, that if someone asks, “Where can I get a good sandwich?” the answer will likely be more about geography than anything else. Name a part of town and any longtime resident can tell you the closest place to get a good bite of lunch from a locally-owned purveyor of deli stuff. Then there’s the short list of exceptional sandwich shops, those for which people will drive across town and willingly stand in line for something extra special. Paisan’s Old World Deli & Catering is just such a place.

I’d heard of Paisan’s for years, even driving past it on occasion and thinking, “I really need to stop there someday.” It wasn’t until my wife and I moved across town that we finally stopped in for lunch, and we were instantly hooked by both the food and the above-average service. If I have to find something at fault here, it’s that they’re only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, closing at 3:30 p.m. I understand the catering side of the business keeps them busy on evenings and weekends, but I still hold out hope that someday they’ll be open on a Saturday, even just once a month. Please?

The secret to Paisan’s success boils down to one of my favorite words: Family. Opened in 1995, the Angelis family is not just serving up tasty soups, salads and desserts, they’ve also lent their names to a series of “signature sandwiches” ($7.50) available on a choice of breads (sourdough, dutch crunch, rye swirl, nine-grain, and foccacia). From Jacob’s Grilled Garlic Chicken (pesto, lettuce, tomato) to Noona’s Pot Roast (horseradish spread, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion), there’s something here you’re going to like. Or love.

Speaking of love, my wife has a fondness for Angelo’s Hot Italian Meatball sandwich that borders on obsession. The core of this creation is the familiar combination of homemade meatballs and marinara sauce paired with provolone cheese and sourdough bread. All the ingredients are satisfying, but it’s the way they magically seal the roll together that makes it special. Whoever heard of a meatball sandwich you can eat without wearing it? Angelo’s is all deliciousness, no mess.

Nonno Ben’s Gourmet Sub (with salami, coppa, mortadella, swiss cheese) is great on any bread, but their sourdough is my choice of foundation. All of the breads served at Paisan’s are above-average in texture and flavor, but the sourdough has that piquant zing and chewy crust that is often lacking at lesser establishments. And although Nonno Ben’s sub is really yummy, I would literally drive from another city to get a taste of Sammy’s barbecued garlic tri-tip on that great sourdough bread (with pesto, lettuce, tomato, red onions). The combination of garlic pesto with marinated and grilled beef tri-tip takes this western favorite to a new level. Paisan’s tri-tip has become so popular with both deli guests and catering customers, they offer it pre-cooked and wrapped to go from its own refrigerated case next to the counter.

The hearty soups ($3.50-$7.95) and wide variety of salads available ($2.50-$9.50) ensure that you could order lunch from this kitchen every day of the month and never have the same combination twice. Even with the busy lunch rush, orders stream out of the kitchen at a rapid pace, with indoor seating for perhaps 40 and several picnic tables out front. Don’t have time to leave the office for lunch? Paisan’s offers delivery service to your workplace. I haven’t experienced an event catered by these folks, but their reputation is pretty solid. If you should happen to hire them for your event, I’d really love to be invited.