"Hey Mister, You NEED this sandwich!" That's how I was greeted as I eyed the daily sandwich special on display at the head of the deli line.
Since I am familiar with the menu at Lambrusco'z To Go, I thought I had my mind made up before I went in as to what I would probably order. But a positive sales technique, a great description and a winning attitude by two very upbeat counter girls convinced me that in fact I DID need that sandwich! I didn't catch their names, but I'm pretty sure if you ask for "sassy pants one and two" everyone there will know who you mean.
If you've never been to Lambrusco'z on 41st Street just east of Peoria, then you don't know how hard it is to select from their huge menu of great choices. Thirty-eight house favorites adorn the sandwich and wrap menu alone. All are great. All are reasonably priced from $6.95 to $8.95 including a bag of chips or a side salad.
I am a big fan of everything I have tried, but their tenderloin sandwiches are incredible. Check out this description of the Italian Beef Tenderloin sandwich: Thinly, sliced marinated, Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Garlic Cheese Melt, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, Provolone Cheese on Grilled Foccacia. Wow! How good does that sound? And trust me, it is.
Now, listen to this one -- Smoked Boar's Head: Deli Ham, Marinated Grilled Chicken, Crispy Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and BBQ Sauce on Grilled Potato/Chive Bread. That's the sandwich the two girls convinced me that I needed last night.
I had a choice of probably nine or 10 sides to choose from as well. And every one I asked about, from the tortellini salad to the firecracker slaw to the fruit salad, sounded like their very favorite as they described them to me. I settled on a delightfully crispy blend of jicima, Granny Smith apples and fresh ginger with what tasted to me like champagne vinaigrette -- not overpowering, just enough to enhance the fresh flavors of the salad.
Not in the mood for a great sandwich? Try the Blue Cheese Wedge: A chilled and crisp baby iceberg salad with a homemade bleu cheese/bacon dressing and toasted almonds -- a classic steak house salad. Other offerings include spinach salad, Caesar and others. A few dollars more gets you a topping of tenderloin, salmon, chicken and more.
Or build your own dinner from homemade specialties such as Glazed Ham, Meatloaf, Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Grilled Salmon and others. The meatloaf is my favorite, with ketchup baked on it the last 10 minutes or so, just like "you know who" used to make!
Then, add a vegetable and side dish from a variety of items made on premises like Wild Rice with scallions and shredded carrots, Potatoes Au Gratin, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, (inhale) Penne with Alfredo or Marinara, Herb Roasted Vegetables-yellow squash, zucchini, carrots and onions, Fresh Green Beans, Grilled Asparagus, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Tomatoes with basil and garlic, Chicago Corn and on and on.
The seasonal vegetables such as asparagus and fresh Brussels sprouts might not be available all the time, but there are plenty of great items to choose. It's equally good there or heated up at home. If you can't find something in all that, there might be bigger issues in your life.
The food is beautifully displayed in large glass deli cases, and the hardest part is deciding what to order. Intentional or not, you find yourself ordering more than you can eat, and invariably you leave with a container of delectable leftovers that make a great lunch the next day. All of the salads, deli meats and entrees are available by the pound, half pound or ounce.
Sitting at your table, you are surrounded by racks filled with a variety of serving pieces, cookware and kitchen items that are great gifts and additions to any home. As you first arrive, you pass through an area of gourmet foods, jams, jellies and relishes as well as house made items by the pint and half pint, including the White Queso Dip that "sassy" and her sister "more sassy" insisted was the best dip in Tulsa. (Did I mention how personable there girls were?)
I must have given them some small sign that I wasn't totally convinced because by the time I walked down to look at the incredible dessert case, I was carrying a free sample of the spicy goodness along with a handful of crispy multi-colored chips to scoop it up with. Now since I haven't tried every dip in Tulsa, I can't say for sure if it is the best, but it was a great combination of cream cheese, sour cream, jalapeno and garlic (and a few other things I'm sure). If I hadn't already been loaded down with cookies and Tootie's apple pie, I probably would have grabbed a pint out of the refrigerator for later.
And yes, I said Tootie's apple pie. It's imported from Texas. I learned from another counter server that it and the Carnegie Deli Cheesecake are the only two baked items not done in-house.
The Carnegie deli is a famous New York City landmark that's been around since the '30s, and the cheesecake looked awesome. I opted for a slice of Tootie's pie that the young lady bragged would be close to a pound, which it was (well, of course, I took it home and weighed it. Wouldn't you?) and a selection of cookies. There was a Chocolate Chocolate, a Buffalo Chip (a combination of cookie, oats, rice crispies, nuts, and chocolate chips) and a White Chocolate Triple Berry. The Buffalo Chip seemed a bit dry, almost stale around the edges, and I am not sure if it was just yesterday's cookie or the ingredients make it that way.
But I have to say that the thing that sets Lambrosco'z apart from most places -- because a lot of establishments have good food and an appealing atmosphere -- is that every single employee takes ownership. Their names might not be on the title or deed, but they definitely own it.
When you walk in the place, you can never tell if the owner is one of them, all of them or Nancy Bruce, who has in fact owned Lambrusco'z for almost 25 years now.
I have never seen a group of employees take such pride and ownership in the place they work. Every one of them brags on the food, the products they sell, and the atmosphere they work in with great enthusiasm and passion. No one hesitates to tell you their favorite item, or how much they love working there. It reflects in the service and the atmosphere as well as in the finished products. It is a real pleasure to see, and something that any of us as people managers wish we could see more.
Someone has put a lot of thought into their Web site as well. It's a slick production with everything from menus to today's dinner case specials; soups of the day to tailgate special packages; cooking and re-heating tips for their items to go, including Thanksgiving dinners; Box lunch items, casseroles, photos of catering trays, recipes, and much, much more.
Lambrusco'z To Go -- Deli and Catering Market
1344 E. 41st St.
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