Food & Drink » Food Review

Eli's Italian Deli

On the plate of Reviewer No. 1


Ba-Da-Bing! For Tony Soprano, those words signified naked dancing girls, clandestine meetings and solace. For me, they mean a mouthful of flavor, and I get to keep most of my dollar bills.

When Eli's Italian Deli opened in the back of Boise Cafe on the corner of 10th and Bannock streets, I didn't venture in right away. It doesn't look like a typical deli and I wasn't sure of the protocol. The counter is way at the back of the restaurant, the menu on the wall is hard to see from the front door and the small tables and booths are seldom occupied.

Having heard of the glory of an Eli's sandwich, I ignored my reluctance and stepped in. I uneasily tiptoed to the small counter at the back of the space where the welcoming smile of owner James Elizondo relaxed me. Then the menu came into focus and I had to face another food hang-up: I don't like to order items with silly names. A place here in town used to have a burger called the Big Man.

Me: "I'll have a Big Man."

Server: "Ha, ha, ha! Gotcha!"

No thanks.

The hot Ba-Da-Bing! Sandwich ($7.75) at Eli's was destined to fall into the category of "food I really want but won't order to avoid being the butt of a joke" until I read the ingredients: turkey, ham, pastrami and provolone. The vision of melted provolone dripping down multi layers of multi meat was enough for me to get over myself. The bread was so mouthwatering--long, thin 12-inch homemade sub rolls that are like biting into a crunchy cloud--asking for the belly-filling Ba-Da-Bing! became easy. After a few weeks of ordering it, I braved a major mispronunciation hazard and ordered the Mufalata ($7.75), another hot sandwich. Genoa salami, ham, mortadella, provolone and the special olive tapenade would have been enough to upstage the Ba-Da-Bing permanently, but the Mufalata--I'm guessing due to the tapenade--proved too spicy for my palate.

Wanting to switch it up one drizzly afternoon, I spotted the sign for the lasagna special ($5.95) with garlic bread. I have been pronouncing "lasagna" correctly for more than 30 years, but as a kid, I struggled with it after seeing the word on the side of a cardboard noodle box. Weirdly, I flashed back to that briefly, and to avoid a regression, asked for "the special," adding a house salad ($3) with gorgonzola dressing. Thick, soft, piquant chunks of gorgonzola in one bite bounced off the sweet marinara and soft pasta, mozzarella and ricotta of the next. Back and forth, back and forth scooping dressing and sauce off the sides of the to-go containers with the too-few slices of buttery garlic bread, made from the same airy Italian sandwich bread.

Because Eli's is open until 7 p.m. on weeknights, it's a sweet spot to pick up a little somethin' somethin' on the way home. When I walk in the door and my spouse shouts, "What's for dinner?" I'm happy to holler back, "Ba-Da-Bing!"

--Amy Atkins is no longer afraid to order the Justin Quesadilla.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Eli's Italian Deli.