I first came across Salumi
, an artisan cured meats delicatessen, upon walking back to my office from lunch in Pioneer Square a couple months ago. As I walked toward Salumi's hole in the wall location on 3rd and Main, a line around the block to its entrance unfolded. Its window was filled with consecutive “Best Of” awards from every major Northwest publication for several recent years. This place had to be something special.
But my attention was claimed when I witnessed a coworker eat a Salumi sandwich. I watched the sandwich tease her into a near culinary orgasm as she breathed heavily, sighed, squirmed, moaned and, after the meal was finished, demand a cigarette.
Today, I took a long lunch and ventured down to the acclaimed deli. According to its Web site
, Salumi is the retirement dream of Armandino Batali, a former Boeing engineer. His maternal grandfather, Angelo Merlino, opened the first Italian food import store in Seattle in 1903. Food Network personality Mario Batali is the son of Armandino and his wife, Marilyn.
I stood in line outside with about 20 people ahead of me to the front door. That’s fine. I could smell the meats even two stores down the block. But I waited. And I waited. I looked to the Salumi flag, orange in color and with a pig standing in its center, as guide to how close I was getting to the front door below it. At a crawling pace I moved closer to the flag, and the pig looked back at me with approval of my patience the closer I got to it. Obviously, I let my imagination get the best of me as I waited 30 minutes just to get inside the door. And nearly 50 people now stood outside behind me.
Once in the doorway, I saw a menu to my right, which stated an abbreviated sandwich selection and extensive cured meats list, priced by the pound and reminiscing a wine list in its grandeur. A sink and cutting table was pushed up against the store window, where Marilyn makes gnocchi by hand on Tuesdays.
The deli has high ceilings, but is extremely narrow. The entire right side is the kitchen and production line – The showcase cooler of hanging meats is in front and behind it is a row of four women cutting meats and building sandwiches. The left side of the building is where the customer line continues as people squeeze past each other to make their respective moves toward satisfying cravings or making a satisfied exit. Toward the back, past the register, there are few tables that can seat maybe a dozen people. At the larger communal eating table, red wine is on the table and at the ready for those needing an early happy hour.
Now I have six people ahead of me. I noticed a man in front of me using an iPhone and made the connection – Salumi is the iPhone of delis. This place is all about redefining experience. There are a lot of places in this city where you can get a cold sandwich, but the process of waiting in line, chatting to your neighbor, digesting the smells and atmosphere and simply taking the time to treat yourself all contributes to a greater culinary experience, even if it’s just a lunch sandwich.
The experience continued when I was greeted by my sandwich architect. She, like everyone else behind the counter, looked Italian, but was also the Capitol Hill type – tattooed arms, wild piercings, hipster glasses and a chunk of her otherwise auburn hair bleached. While she made my sandwich, she asked about my day, my job and my weekend, but not in that shallow, hair stylist kind of way. She wanted to know details, and was completely engaged in our conversation while she simultaneously and efficiently built my sandwich. I could now understand why the line took so long. They don’t rush you through the line at Salumi – they welcome you, converse, and get to know you. You feel like you’re in that sliver of the city that maintains the Old Country sense of time where no one’s in a hurry, which is obviously so appreciated by a clientele of corporate 9 to 5ers who seek escape from their hurried, intense work environments.
I left Salumi with $10 less in my pocket and a Salumi Salami sandwich, which comprised of foccacia bread, a ton of salami, pesto, garlic and peppers. Great date breath, I know. I got back to my desk (It took my whole lunch to get the sandwich) and was prepared to dig in. There was a lot of hype for this sandwich to live up to between my coworkers rave reviews, the Salumi reputation and all that wait time.
I dug in. Bliss.
And now, I’m succumbing to my food coma.