Salumi Salami

Seattle is a city filled with amazing restaurants, and as someone who likes to eat, I’ve already discovered this is going to be a serious problem for me. I recently decided to explore downtown Seattle, and I read about a restaurant called Salumi that was at the top of my list to check out. It strictly serves sandwiches, mainly various cured salamis, plus a few specials they might have that day.

Line out the door 10 minutes after opening.
Line out the door 10 minutes after opening.  This woman was clearly as concerned about the line as I was.

The first sign that this place is doing something right is that it is only open for lunch Monday through Friday. I got there 10 minutes after they opened on a Tuesday, and the line was already out the door. As I waited to even be at a point where I could see a menu, the excitement level was palpable.

People in the line were discussing the best sandwich choices, how long they had been loyal customers, and how many times a week they stop in for food. As the guy next to me was debating whether he had time to wait, he was talking about his Salumi addiction. He seemed like a regular, and was clearly in a quandary, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and looking at his watch, deciding whether to make it on time to a meeting or risk his job to wait in line for a sandwich. I asked him what my first Salumi sandwich experience should be. He looked at me in horror as if this was his own personal version of Sophie’s Choice.

“I mean, I like them all. I’ve never had a bad one. You can’t have a bad sandwich.”

“Yea, but which one would you recommend for my first one ever?” I pried.

“God. I don’t know. I don’t know how to choose, they are all so good.”

“So pick one.”

“There’s the mole salami. Hot sopressata is amazing. The smoked paprika is great as well. And the Vino.”

The best sandwich you'll ever have.
The best sandwich you’ll ever have.

“Vino?” I asked, recognizing the one word I know in every language.

“Do you like wine?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“Do you like salami?”

“You better hope so if I’m waiting in this line.”

“Then you’ll love that one.  That’s all there is to it!”

He looked around, fidgeting like a drug addict, and then said, “I hope you enjoy your first time here. I just don’t have the time to be waiting. Enjoy it for me.”

As he walked away, I wondered whether my incessant need for him to choose one sandwich contributed to his decision to leave. It didn’t matter. His decision put me one step closer to my sandwich.

As I neared the window, an older woman was rolling fresh gnocchi by hand, as it was “Gnocchi Tuesday.” If that didn’t give it the perfect mom and pop feel, I don’t know what would. My mouth was watering already, and as I entered the tiny building and followed the line through past a window of hanging meats and fresh cheeses (which they make themselves), I was more than ready for this meal.

The couple in front of me ordered the special of the day, the gnocchi made by the woman in the window, to go. The woman behind the counter questioned them taking it, because, as she informed them, it was fresh and would not be good if they were thinking reheating it for dinner. There was something beautiful about the fact that she was worried about them ruining their lunch, to the point where she would talk them out of a sale if need be. It’s reminiscent about everything I love about Italian food. They care about the experience. There’s an emphasis to savor in every bite.

I got to the front of the line and decided on the hot sopressata salami, which she layered onto thick, fresh-baked bread with fresh mozzarella cheese on top with various sauces. She asked if I wanted peppers and onions. I declined.  She looked at me blankly and said, “trust me, you do.” I don’t particularly like being told what to do, but I innately trusted these people as they were clearly sandwich wizards with a knowledge that I could not dream of having.

She wrapped it up, and I paid and took the bus home, wondering what was awaiting me in this perfectly wrapped, white paper package. There was a lot of fuss about this place, I wasn’t sure it would live up to the hype.

I took it to the park and sat down, eagerly unwrapping it, and sinking my teeth into all of the layers. No disappointment to be found. It was truly worth the wait. These people knew what they were doing. As I was shoving my face, a man’s dog came running up to me. He looked up at me, begging for a bite, and the guy yells, “No, that’s the lady’s sandwich.”

Damn straight it was. I looked at the dog and thought, there’s no way you’re getting a bite of this. You didn’t wait in a line for 45 minutes. Quit your griping.

They proceeded to sit down next to me. He asked me a few questions, but I wasn’t interested in talking. He probably could have been my new best friend, but I was willing to put it all on the line to just sit there and chow down in a very unladylike fashion. And I don’t even regret it a little bit.

Next time many of you see me may be a few months from now, so I’m throwing out a fair warning: there’s a good chance I’m going to double in body weight before Christmas. Don’t be surprised, as I have mentally prepared you for it now, but blame it on the mass quantities of salami, cheese, bread, and lack of self-control. And I’m not even a little bit sorry.

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