While most Italian eateries with a PIZZA BY THE SLICE sign in the window offer hot and cold subs, you’re hard-pressed to find one smack in the middle of downtown that stuffs fillings into bread that’s made on the premises. When you’re pining for a sliver of Sicily but only have a lunch hour to spare, scoot over to the Italian Café, and you might get your sandwich on bread still warm from the oven. An unassuming little carryout spot deep in the maze of the Financial District, the café appears to operate under a principle of no frills, all authenticity. Maybe it’s the prime Post Office Square locale, or maybe it’s the North End–caliber cuisine, but come midday, throngs of hungry lunch hunters flow from the surrounding offices and form a line out the door. Not that anyone minds the wait. After all, it affords an opportunity to observe the lively crew behind the counter as they engage in complex kitchen choreography that involves grilling, slicing, spreading, stuffing, and seasoning.
All the flurry and bustle yields a steady outpouring of sandwiches that taste like they were crafted with quiet concentration. Though you’d be perfectly sated with an enormous slice of pizza smothered with homemade marinara sauce ($1.75, plus 25 cents per topping) or a gigantic salad of the antipasto ($5.95) or caesar ($3.95/$5.95 with chicken) varieties, don’t pass up the opportunity to snatch a sub ($5.75/large, $3.95/half). Among the standouts are the hot chicken cacciatore with more mushrooms than an enchanted forest, and the delicately nutty chicken pesto. My companion devoured his albacore-white-tuna sub with enough zest to validate the café’s claim that it has the " Best Tuna in the City. " We only have one quibble: when will the kitchen start applying its baking abilities to desserts?
Italian Café, located at 65 Broad Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Call (617) 357-4433.