Best Italian Deli 2023 | Romanelli's Italian Deli | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Walking into Romanelli's Italian Deli is like gliding into an olfactory orgy. As soon as the smells of freshly baked bread, zesty spices, piquant peppers, tangy cheeses and cured meats hit your nostrils, your mouth starts watering, and your eyes start wandering. Where to start? At the deli counter for a George's Special sandwich, overflowing with ham, capicola, salami, mortadella, pepperoni and provolone? Or hit the grocery aisles in search of the perfect pasta or extra-virgin olive oil? The family-owned and -operated Romanelli's has been the site of such dilemmas for almost 50 years. Wherever your senses take you at Romanelli's, you'll be glad you went there.

This mini supermarket in a West Valley strip mall is an oasis for anyone looking for a taste of the old country — or countries, to be exact. No other place in the Valley carries such a stunning supply of canned, jarred and boxed delicacies from Poland and Eastern Europe to help with homesickness or to re-create familiar flavors from family dinners back in the Midwest. Whether you crave imported pickles, beets, sauerkraut, chocolate or beer, you'll find a mind-boggling variety here. The deli counter at the back also deserves a stop for its superior hams, sausages and cheeses, and if you want to speak Polish, you'll feel right at home — all staffers are fluent. Next to the deli are steam tables proudly boasting an array of ready-to-eat foods, including insanely affordable homemade Polish favorites like pierogies, golabki (stuffed cabbages), pork cutlets and creamy cucumber salad. And yes, they make paczki — those irresistible jelly doughnuts so popular around Fat Tuesday — all year long on Saturdays only, but they sell out fast, so get your dupa there early.

The wide selection of everyday and unusual cuts of quality meats, many of which are locally raised, is remarkable at this small but mighty family-owned shop. Though the owners, Tim and Beth Wilson, no longer supply the pork because their slaughterhouse couldn't keep up with the demand, they source it from a family-owned farm in Iowa where it's raised and processed humanely. The ribs, roasts, ham, gourmet sausages and more are so superior that the shop supplies top restaurants including Tratto, Valentine and the Phoenix location of Belly. And it created a special footlong all-beef dog for this year's Super Bowl Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Wilsons also have an on-site smokehouse and carry grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild game (call ahead for the selection) and specialty items such as beef tallow, organs, wagyu beef and homemade dog treats. Though the prices are astonishingly fair, they also sell in bulk for deeper discounts and offer quarter, half and whole cows cut to your specifications by their expert butchers, who can do custom cuts on smaller orders as well.

Nelson's Meat + Fish just gets better and better over time. Chris Nelson will sell you a slab of salmon, sure, but where else in town are you going to find razor clams, fresh sardines, footlong tiger prawns and live Nantucket Bay scallops in the shell? Nelson's Instagram account routinely heralds fresh shipments of highly prized specialties, and the shelves are stocked with plenty of sauces, supplements and tinned fish to boot. Meanwhile, the meat locker is no slouch, filled with steaks and chops from local producers plus premium sausages and charcuterie from across the country. And though it isn't a formal dining establishment, the menu boasts the city's best lobster roll, a sparkling chilled seafood tower, outstanding creative crudo specials and more, all plated for you to walk over to the taproom next door.

Stoop Kid

Stoop Kid blew up for a hot minute when it entered the scene back in 2020, as much for its bagels as for its burgers. But while a tsunami of smashburger pop-ups rose and receded, Stoop Kid kept doing its thing over at The Churchill, slinging a couple of basic burgers along with the occasional special. Now that the dust has settled, circling back to Stoop Kid has been a pleasure. The thing about those "basic burgers" is that they're done awfully well. Flavorful brisket patties are seared to a startling crisp, layered and tucked into a pillowy brioche bun that's substantial without being too bready. A slab of quality cheese, deeply caramelized onions, some thick pickle chips and a swipe of bright house sauce are a tried-and-true formula, but here they're a sterling take on the total package, juicy and dripping and messy in all the best ways. Bonus: The house-made potato chips kick ass.

Lauren Saria

There's no shortage of excellent places to find bread baked fresh locally. Noble has been at it for over a decade, and while you can sample their breads at farmers markets and restaurants around the Valley, Noble Eatery showcases how that bread serves as an excellent foundation for a sandwich. The wood-fired deli and bakery is only open for lunch on weekdays, but you'll understand the midday rush once you sink your teeth into a soft pide (a Turkish bread) stuffed with tuna, beans, potatoes and farro and punched up with a Cabernet vinegar. The menu of sandwiches is small but hits all the right notes, ranging from turkey to an Italian, with breads that can withstand whatever is piled atop them. Be sure not to miss the rotating chef's specials, which have included Cubanos, meatball subs and roast beef.

We often think of the humble hot dog as a utilitarian food, only to be considered when faced with one at a sporting event or Fourth of July barbecue. But that's not the case at Der Wurst inside uptown Phoenix's Linger Longer Lounge. There, hot dogs are the star of the menu. They start with goods from local purveyor Schreiner's Fine Sausages, and from there, the sky's the limit. Favorites include the Blow-Me, topped with tomatoes, pickles, onions, sport peppers, mustard and celery salt; and the Dirty Sanchez, a gut-busting choice topped with spicy beef chorizo, melted cheddar cheese and jalapenos. (Did we mention that many of the menu items have NSFW names?) If you've happened to bring a vegetarian or hot-dog hater on your wiener quest, they've got options, too: The schnitzel chicken fingers are a popular choice and the Strap-On is a chipotle vegetarian sausage dog that comes with tomatoes, avocado mayo and cotija cheese.

With all due respect to the tremendous strides our local businesses have made in precision-crafted frozen spud technology, there's something about a fresh-cut potato chucked in lard that can't be replicated on a greasy, gut level. Dazzo's is a solid joint for hot dogs and burgers, but the real star here is the french fries — thick-cut with the skins on, fried to a deep golden color, just a little creamy on the inside while the craggy and erratically cut edges take on a shattering crisp. They're served blistering hot with way too much salt (i.e., just the right amount), and you will neither get nor should you desire anything more than perhaps a dab of ketchup. Mostly? They actually taste like potatoes. Which is as it should be.

The battle for wing supremacy is fierce, and personal taste may rule the day, but for our money, no establishment consistently sticks the landing quite like Valley Wings. Take "boneless wings" out of the equation. (The category is Best Chicken Wings, not Best Chicken Nuggets.) Valley Wings' superlative traditional wings deftly walk the line between juicy and crisp, fried enough to give their lightly dusted surface a lively, sizzling crackle, but not so much that the tender meat within dries out and turns into chicken jerky. There's Buffalo-style for the purists and a cavalcade of flavors — both wet and dry — for those who like a little variety. Most are solid choices, and they'll sauce heavy or light, per your preference. And while the ranch and blue cheese aren't top-notch, they're better than most, and good enough not to get in the way of the beautiful meat.

Chris Malloy

Folks tend to be territorial about their favorite pupusa joints, but if there's one Salvadoran restaurant capable of winning over converts, it's Seydi's. The menu at this North Phoenix mainstay looks the same as the rest — pick a pile of pupusas stuffed with cheese-laced fillings like chicken, chicharron, calabaza and the like. But these pupusas are charmingly quirky, erratically shaped in contrast to the others' clinically perfect discs, lending them a pleasant, rustic texture. The dough is unusually light and tender, griddled to a robust golden color, deeply flavorful and scalding hot on your fingertips. The cheese oozes and pulls, and a little always escapes during cooking, adding crispy griddled cheese bits to the edge. And they're paired with a bright and zippy curtido that needs just a little squirt of house salsa to contrast the earthy fillings within.

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