Take a bite out of Ottawa's favourite sandwichesPublished on September 10, 2007


Move over, peanut butter and jam. Get out of the way, grilled cheese. So long, bland ham and dry tuna. It's a new era for sandwiches, the favourite lunchtime staple.

No longer fit for a last-minute rushed bagged meal or an easy make-do for dinner, speciality sandwiches are cropping up all across the capital. Whether it's a heaping portion of old-fashioned Italian meats lathered with spicy eggplant or the finest smoked salmon on a freshly-baked baguette, these five Ottawa-area eateries offer a wide range of mouth-watering selections to suit any sandwich aficionado's tastes.

DiRienzo's Grocery

Practically an Ottawa institution after 35 years in the business, DiRienzo's on Beech Street is known for its lightening-fast service, friendly smiles and sandwiches available for a song (namely, $4 including tax for any selection). Those with more adventurous pallets can try spicy selections like the Diavolo, while sandwich-seekers who prefer things a little more basic can munch down on a ham and cheese. After picking your choice of bread, DiRienzo's staff will whip up an old-fashioned Italian sandwich while you browse the aisles of the homey grocery. The eatery offers 18 different sandwich varieties, as well as the option to make your own. You can also enjoy your lunch while you take in some fresh air at Ev Tremblay Park across the street, which is sponsored by DiRienzo's. For those further west, DiRienzo's Foods on Meadowlands (same family, different business) also offers tasty treats in their deli and an extensive catering service.

La Bottega Nicastro

"Bottega" may be Italian for boutique, but this eatery in the heart of the ByWard Market is much more than just a place to do some shopping. The Nicastro family's Ottawa legacy began in 1972 with their first grocery on Gladstone Avenue. The business soon expanded with a Nicastro's on Merivale, then La Bottega opened its doors downtown in 1995. An old-fashioned Italian grocery that expanded into a modern deli, restaurant and food-to-go section, La Bottega offers an easy step-by-step process - especially handy for first-timers - to build your perfect sandwich for $5 with tax, including a wide assortment of breads, meats, toppings and condiments to choose from. A knowledgeable and friendly staff can also help newbies navigate the generous selection of sandwich options. Afterwards, take a seat at La Bottega's small café-type setup outside the front entrance and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Market while you indulge in a piece of Italian history.

La Gourmandise

Bite into a little taste of continental Europe at this east-end eatery on Montreal Road. Run by Claude and Yanick Baudequin - both certified chefs since 1978 from Bordeaux, France - their sandwiches offer simple, yet elegant fare that transports the taster to an idyllic bakery in the French countryside for only $5.75 including tax. At La Gourmandise, the bread is the stand-out - every sandwich is created using homemade baguettes, baked in-store daily. Offered in either traditional French, whole-wheat or rye varieties, La Gourmandise baguettes are also a plus for the health-conscious - they include no additives or sugars. The trays of sumptuous desserts, pastries and international cheeses may tempt, however, so check your calorie count at the door and enjoy a slice of France without the pricey vacation.

Il Negozio Nicastro

Strolling through the Glebe on a sunny Saturday afternoon, no spot seems better for a tasty bite than Nicastro's on Bank Street. In business since 1999, the eatery offers four different options of grilled focaccia sandwiches, including one with house vegetables, sundried tomato pesto and crumbled goat cheese for those seeking decent vegetarian fare in a meat-heavy industry. Prices for the grilled sandwiches vary between $5.99 and $6.99, though the low cost is misleading when it comes to their lavish ingredients, such as smoked provolone, roasted porchetta or lemon garlic thyme dressing. Nicastro's also offers their staple fresh deli sandwiches, starting at $3.99. For those in the Westboro neighbourhood, Nicastro's mouth-watering menu can also be sampled at their Wellington Street location, which includes an in-house licensed restaurant called Café Ventuno.

Pesto's Deli

Amid the west end's ever-expanding housing suburbs and high-tech behemoths, Pesto's - owned by the same family as Il Negozio Nicastro's - is a sandwich diamond in the rough, where old-world style meets new-world convenience. Selection at the Hazeldean Road restaurant ranges from classic meats to more high-priced fare like breaded chicken and veal, with prices from $2.99 to $9.99. Along with their stand-out sandwiches, Pesto's also offers a selection of hot meals including pasta, which comes with a choose-your-own-sauce option. Adorned with black and white photographs of the Old Country amongst the more modern decor, Pesto's traditional lunch counter feel in a contemporary setting is the perfect blend of old and new, and after eight years at its current Kanata location, is more than well on its way to establishing itself as a west-end sandwich tradition.

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