Genova is one of the places that Zach’s nonna would take him for fine Italian ingredients and meal basics. There are two locations in Walnut Creek, but as we were coming back from a morning in Oakland, it was easy to get off Highway 24 and breeze into the ample parking lot off Mt Diablo and S California.
The deli is small but stocks a lot. There were many salads to choose from, and they all looked delicious. Bread is brought in fresh from Boudin and Maggiora, and some of the desserts are made in house.
Zach tried this pasta salad with three types of beans, olives, and fine carrot shreds. The pesto was fresh and mild, more like a vinaigrette than a full-on pesto sauce. He liked the al dente pasta, so every element added texture to the mix.
August’s pasta salad had what was essentially Caesar dressing as its sauce, with thinly sliced onions and chunky feta cheese. She felt that this was a good pasta salad, and could equally be a good potato salad, swapping out pasta for maybe red skin potatoes.
Carol our sandwich artist suggested these stuffed cherry peppers. Wrapped inside the mildly salty prosciutto hides a hunk of white cheese like jack or provolone (today’s variety was jack). The peppers themselves were pickled yet still crisp and fresh with a nice balance of tang and kick.
Essentially a quiche with no crust, August picked out this frittata for her lunch tomorrow. Zach, having made these before and tried Genova’s version, can attest to the taste: it will be a rich, savory egg custard with fresh zucchini, garlic, and Parmesan cheese; it would be good served cold and paired with a salad.
A simple french roll with all of the toppings made August’s sandwich pretty thick. Besides the pastrami, it was loaded with green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and onions all fresh, pickles, peppers, mayonnaise, and mustard.
Zach hand picked his dutch crunch roll for his favorite type of deli sandwich: ham and Swiss. He nearly never waivers. The ham was freshly baked, tender, mildly salty and smoky. It brought him back to having ham sandwiches the day after Easter as a kid. If you like simple sandwiches and that’s what you’re used to getting, then this ham won’t disappoint you. It’s a refreshing alternative to typical processed deli meat. Green leaf lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise were the only other adornments, and all were put together well.
If you’re shopping in downtown Walnut Creek and are willing to walk a little off the main drag, here you can try a nice lunch spot plus pick up some good Italian-inspired ingredients for your dinner.
Nestled in a strip mall under the BART rail in downtown Concord, Luigi’s has been open for nearly 40 years and has just as many sandwiches on their menu. Zach went out with his brother Will, first to drop off a tiramisu at August’s school for a meeting, and afterwards to try Luigi’s for lunch. Will has gone with us before to take on an eating challenge; he’s a good sport and companion for going to restaurants.
When you walk in, the smell is amazing; Will describes it as if every ingredient was being freshly sliced at that moment. The line is also a sign that you can expect good things here. The deli showcase is quite a sight, with a broad selection of over 30 salads. Zach thought the cheesy dip that was sampled out while they waited for their sandwiches was rich with multiple cheeses and garlic, and had no chunks so it was smooth and creamy to go well with crackers, vegetables, or spread on sandwiches.
Of all the salads, they picked a pesto tortellini. Simple cheese tortellinis with a fresh, delicious pesto sauce were done right with three to four cheeses in the filling, good textured pasta, and rich basil, garlic, pine nut, and Parmesan layers of flavor in the pesto.
Zach ventured to get a sandwich with sprouts – he usually prefers lettuce for the greenery. The Luciano Pavarotti is standard with turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, and garlic mayonnaise along with the sprouts. Bordenave’s Bakery provides the delicious dutch crunch roll that has a great crunch on the outside but a soft inside with just a little chew. It was definitely a high quality, fresh baked bread. The turkey was freshly sliced, tender, juicy, and rich in turkey flavor. The bacon was thick cut and freshly cooked that day. All the vegetables were super fresh and abundant, and the garlic mayo was rich, creamy, and light in garlic but still deep in flavor. The sandwich was so well balanced, Zach “can definitely see why this is one of ‘Luigi’s Favorite Sandwiches’.”
Cotto salami, mortadella with fresh pistachios (that’s the tiny bit of green you see), pepperoni, mozzarella and jack cheeses, tomato, onion, and garlic mayonnaise make up this meaty monster. The bread choices include sour, sweet, seeded, onion, wheat, and dutch crunch rolls; and wheat, white, sourdough, and light and dark rye slices. Will got dutch crunch like Zach, but we can imagine all the breads are marvelous. All the meats tasted freshly sliced, and the pepperoni was particularly memorable for its flavor (in a good way). Will is “a big mortadella fan” and that was, he feels, the best he has had. Most of the salamis and Italian meats are from Molinari’s and are superb. He seconds everything said about the vegetables and garlic mayo, save the tomato – he got the sandwich as it comes with tomato for the sake of the picture but removed it to eat, and he was very happy that the tomato was so fresh, no juice had contaminated the rest of his sandwich.
Daniel, Garrett, the third guy on shift that Zach and Will chatted with, the owner of Luigi’s, and one of the food purveyors were all friendly and warm. For a tidy establishment, simple and high quality ingredients, and a friendly staff, we recommend that you try Luigi’s.
Without a car but with hours to spare on foot while waiting for new brakes, a tire rotation, and an oil change, we walked around downtown Martinez in the vicinity of the repair garage. We thought about other people who might be drawn here for any number of reasons, since it is the county seat, and we figured, why not find the best places to recommend to those who, like us today, are on foot? Where can someone walk to for great, quick food? Today we sampled from three restaurants, to provide a spectrum of what’s not just available, but also great quality.
Luigi’s Deli and Market was the final stop during our day downtown. It has had a makeover in the last couple of years since we’ve been here. Outdoor patio seating and lots of indoor tables accommodate all the people that flock for the fresh sandwiches and deli salads, and Zach noted all the salads looked fresh. To share, we got a hot corned beef sandwich with all the trimmings: Swiss cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing. It was grilled on a panini press with Semifreddi’s bread, melting the cheese perfectly. Ninety percent of the cheese and all the meat served here comes from Boar’s Head; the 10% of the cheese that’s not is special order for customers. The sandwich was everything you could hope for in a hot, traditional style. From grilling the bread it was nice and crispy on the outside but not too hard at all to pull through. The highlight of the sandwich was the corned beef, followed closely by the Swiss cheese. The meat was very lean, fresh, and not too salty and very mild with the pickling spices. The cheese was strong and sharp but not overwhelming, as it balanced well with the other elements. Additionally, the meat and cheese are available for you to buy sliced and take home.
If you are a soda fan, you will be left with your jaw on the floor. There are over 400 different kinds of soda available, and many of them are from small bottlers that have been open for over 100 years! Even though this picture shows hundreds of them on a shelf, there is also a cold case so don’t worry, not everything is room temperature. For the sodas that are, they have an ice machine with cups for you to cool your drink in a jiff. Not pictured also are the six racks of different potato chips, including baked, low-calorie, and kettle.
With a variety of sandwiches for your hunger, and an even bigger multitude of beverages for your thirst, Luigi’s won’t leave you dissatisfied.