Super Sub

Super Sub

Of all the signs outside Alma’s—advertising cigarettes, lottery tickets, an ATM—one is repeated three times: “DELI.” Tucked below the busy intersection of Whalley Avenue and Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, with its brick shell painted baby blue, the bodega also offers snacks, condiments, cleaning products, automotive fluids and colorful drinks arrayed throughout two narrow aisles. To one side, past the cashier and behind a clear plexiglass partition with family snapshots taped to it, is the deli, formed by a case of meats and a sandwich prep station.

In such places, the deli can be an outgrowth of the grocery, a practical offer to make a par sub from cold cuts. Or the grocery can be an outgrowth of the deli, in which case you might not want to pass up that sandwich.

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At Alma’s, the sandwich comes first. “I make a sandwich like I’m going to eat that thing,” proprietor Kevin Turyaki says, thumb pointed toward his aproned chest. “Not the customer. I make it for myself, not the customer.” Before ordering my own sandwich, I ask Turyaki what’s good. He counters with a question. “Do you want a hot or cold?”

Sure enough, the menu board behind the meat case is divided into hot and cold—on a roll, in a sub or in a wrap—plus separate itemizations for breakfast sandwiches and cold cuts. The idea of pastrami with melted cheese draws me to the hot side, where Turyaki evaluates my options. “You can go with the pastrami. But I use everything, like in the olden times. Like fresh stuff.” (Not pork, though. “I’m Muslim,” he explains. “But it’s not just religion. Pork has too many issues.”) A lot of people, he adds, like his tuna sandwiches. “Or homemade chicken.” This he shows to me, pulling the lid off a Tupperware bin of raw skinless thighs. He pre-seasons them, then slices them up for his chicken cutlet sandwiches.

I’m sold. On his Toastmaster griddle, the tidy strips of chicken take up an area the size of a small plate, which he then tiles with pale slices of American cheese. A few minutes later, he brings me a piece of the cooked chicken to try. A delightfully firm skin had been griddled onto the surface, with an immediate burst of flavor from a sprinkled red seasoning. This is perhaps the test of a good sandwich, if you can pick it apart and enjoy each element by itself. Holding that thought, I ask him where his rolls come from. “The bakery. The one on Grand Avenue.” He draws up short on the name, busy, in the moment, putting my sub together.

Back home, I take my first bite and recognize the soft, flaky texture of an Apicella’s Bakery grinder roll, about a foot in length. Inside, the firmness of the chicken, sliced thicker than standard cold cuts by a couple millimeters, enhances each bite. The sub is soft and firm in just the right places, daubed with a creamy amalgam of melted cheese and mayonnaise and, for a sweet and acidic contrast, grilled onions. And it only cost $9.

Turyaki tells me he’s been at it for 13 years. The deli is named for his daughter, who would be about the same age. But Turyaki suggests the business’s longevity is due to customers who came in early, not knowing what to expect, then came back often, knowing exactly what to expect. “Sometimes, you don’t know. A little corner store. ‘You sell sandwiches here?’” he says in the voice of a head-scratching walk-in. “So when they try it, boom!”

Alma’s Deli
1462 Ella T. Grasso Blvd (map)
Sun-Thurs 7am-11pm, Fri-Sat 7am-12am
(203) 823-9142 (call-in orders welcome)

Written by David Zukowski. Image 1, featuring and 2

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