V&S, a New York-style Italian deli, offers crusty subs with line-out-the-door popularity

Making the sandwiches at V&S

From the moment we entered the doors for the first time of V&S Italian Deli in Boca Raton more than four years ago, my wife was is trouble. The pungent aromas of aged Italian cheeses, spicy meats and pickled peppers overwhelmed her delicate nasal receptors.

For me there was no better sign that V&S was indeed an old-fashioned, New York-style Italian deli—the kind that I grew up with in Brooklyn—transplanted to a strip center on Federal Highway.

V&S opened its doors in 1985 after brothers Vinnie and Sal Falcone—the V&S of the name, exited Queens for South Florida.

Further validation of V&S’s authenticity would come later, upon tasting the humongous hero sandwiches made with Boar’s Head deli meats and Citterio specialty meats and from the variety of homemade, mostly red-sauced, Italian offerings.

The lunch line

Don’t touch the bread

V&S is popular at lunch hour (it’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 5 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday). On a recent Sunday more than a dozen customers were queued up from the ordering counter—a gap between the deli cases—to the door and it never let up.  If you don’t order ahead, you might wait 20 minutes to a half hour from the time you join the line until one of the friendly guys behind the counter hands you your order.

Decorated in red, white, and green tiles—the colors of Italy’s flag, V&S is a cramped place. There are but a few stools near the small dining counter opposite the front deli case and there are a couple of café tables outside. Toward the rear are refrigerator cases filled with a variety of soft drinks. Yes, Manhattan Special, the venerable espresso-flavored soda is among them And in the very rear stands a tall baker’s rack stacked with the crusty, sesame-seeded Italian breads that make V&S sandwiches unique in South Florida. It’s marked by a hand-lettered sign that reads:  “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE BREAD.”

V&S Special

Don’t want crusty bread? V&S also offers sandwiches on soft hero rolls from Cusano’s Bakery in Coconut Creek as well as rye (sorry, no seedless), white and whole-wheat breads. Cuisine’s, which has been around for 52 years, uses water treated to resemble New York water in its doughs,  There also are salads, meatballs, sausages, lasagna, stuffed shells, rice balls and more Italian specialties, all prepared in-house. The rice balls are pre-packaged, sold from the refrigerator case just below the Manhattan Specials. And, there are the cannoli, offered in two sizes and filled to order.

The sandwiches that Vinnie and Sal and their crew turn out in Boca Raton are stuffed with thin-sliced meats or chicken cutlets pounded thin. Add such fixings as cheese, arugula, dressings, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers of all sorts and you have a perfectly balanced sandwich.

My faves include the V&S Special, crusty bread packed with soppressata, mortadella and provolone, and the Chicken Fontina, a tasty mélange of those thin, breaded chicken cutlets with melted fontina cheese, roasted red peppers, arugula, basil and aioli, all stuffed into a warmed crusty loaf. Also, very good was the rice ball, an increasingly hard-find-southern Italian specialty that’s made with buttered rice, ground beef, peas, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce,and then rolled in herbed bread crumbs, fried and served with red sauce.  And the cannoli, filled end to end with a grainy, not too sweet, creamy ricotta mixture, was as good any I could have found in Brooklyn.

Back during a visit during football season, as Mike, one of the countermen and a Bayside, Queens native, handed me my sandwich, he warned his customers that despite his allegiance to the New York Giants, he was tuning the TV to the Dolphins game.  Those heroes would be welcome at any game-watching party, or at any other time. Maybe snag one before a day at the beach.

And while my wife won’t return to V&S, I don’t have to work too hard to find an excuse to head there for one of those exquisite artisan heroes.

V & S Italian Deli

2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton


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