Federal Hill seems like an appropriate place for Wise Guys Deli. “If you don’t like our sandwiches, try our cement shoes,” the ads tell us.
Obviously playing to the tourist trade, the deli has bullet hole decals on the windows and has named its nearly two dozen sandwiches after such infamous mobsters as John Gotti, Don Corleone, James Bulger and Al Capone. We avoided the place until friends told us that the sandwiches were great.
Ranging from $8.50 for The Whitey, named after Bulger and consisting of Willow Tree all-white meat chicken salad, lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes and red onion, to $9.50 for The Godfather, parma-style prosciutto, house made fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil, the sandwiches may be a bit pricey, but oh, are they good.
On my first visit, I chose #1 on the list: The Boss-Giuseppe Masseria ($9). The fresh soft roll was packed with pepperoni, mortadella, hot and sweet soppressata, salami, hot and sweet capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, hot pepper rings, red onion, oil and vinegar. The combination of tastes brought me back to my childhood, where my Italian friends in New Haven shared their lunches with me. It wasn’t reciprocal, because they didn’t want my bologna sandwich on Wonder Bread.
My favorite sandwich is #18, The Accountant-Meyer Mansky. What’s a Jewish sandwich doing in an Italian deli? I don’t know, but I’m glad it is there. The Accountant is loaded with hot pastrami and corned beef and topped with Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut ($9.50).
A friend had #10, La Madrina (The Godmother), which was loaded with house-made bacon, plus lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes and mayo ($9.50).
I have yet to try the Italian tuna, which is a world apart from what my Yankee mother made, plus the eggplant, house-made meatballs and sausage and peppers. Check out the deli case for some delicious house-made prepared foods, like stuffed peppers, chicken salad and soups. On Wednesdays and Fridays they have fish & chips for $8.99 and stuffies for $3.
Wise Guys Deli is at 133 Atwells Ave., a block from the entrance to Federal Hill. Unlike many of the restaurants on the Hill, they have a parking lot in back. You can eat in or take out and they deliver and cater. They are open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight, and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. You can call ahead at 621-8111.