Roll Model

Roll Model

I don’t remember how I heard about Del Monaco’s Italian Market, which turns 32 in February, but I know how I found it: quirky and unpretentious, set across from Nathan Hale School in quiet Morris Cove, attached at the hip to a small home.

Just inside were a few tables and a woman who looked like the cashier’s counter had been custom-built for her. She chatted with a diner and his daughter, and I could smell the red sauce simmering, which got me thinking about, and ordering, a Chicken Parm on a roll ($10) for takeout. While I waited, I checked out the grocery stocks lining the moat around the central kitchen: to the right of the deli counter, fridges with fresh Durante’s pastas from West Haven and Foxon Park sodas from East Haven; in the back, commercial-size cans of peeled and ground tomatoes; and continuing around, minimalist shelves of foodstuffs from cooking oil to pepperoncini to instant ramen.

When I finally got home and unwrapped my sandwich, I was brought right back to the shop as a beautiful burst of tomato and garlic slugged my nose. The tender breaded cutlet, still warm, was perfectly cooked, and the mozzarella was melty but still holding its shape and texture, a sure sign it was fresh. The plump round bread was soft and pillowy and a wonderful experience in itself—“fresh-baked every day,” the cashier had said, and I could tell.

The sandwich was so good that, two days later, I returned for another, only to find Del Monaco’s had closed early owing to the holidays. I plotted my next attempt and even salivated over it, to the point that I felt slightly apprehensive walking back in. Was that perfect sandwich a fluke, maybe a dream? Inspired by the thought, I ordered a half-sub of the Italian Dream ($10.50), a cold-temp combo of prosciutto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella and Stella table cheese—like a creamier, softer, slightly sharper fontina.

The look was less less tidy, but the taste confirmed that Del Monaco’s is the real deal. The sub bread, more structured with a chewier crust, was as good as the roll. The prosciutto was fresh and the cheeses were fine.

Fair warning: Del Monaco’s is only open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 3 and may close a bit early, so plan accordingly. I can’t yet speak to the many sides and stuffed breads, pizzas and pastas, soups and salads (deli-style) and dozens of other hot and cold sandwiches Del Monaco’s has on offer. But it’s an offer I plan to keep accepting.

Del Monaco’s Italian Market
475 Townsend Ave, New Haven (map)
Tues-Sat 11am-3pm (or close)
(203) 468-0360
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Written by Anna Konya. Image 1, featuring a Chicken Parm on a roll, photographed by Dan Mims. Image 2, featuring views outside and inside the shop, photographed by Anna Konya.

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