Four Best Delis

One of the great things about living in a multicultural city is having easy access to all that good food. Restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and street markets offer tantalizing and delicious foodstuffs unavailable elsewhere, but the best place to scarf on a global scale is the delicatessen. There, a culture's greatest achievement -- its snack items -- is available for consumption in wide and mouthwatering variety. Here are four of our favorite nosheries.

Moishe's Pippic

425A Hayes (at Gough), 431-2440

Moishe's is a living, breathing tribute to the city of Chicago -- from the Cubs paraphernalia on the walls to the all-beef dogs with sports peppers, hold the ketchup. It's also one of the few Jewish delis in the city, and Moishe's bears the burden admirably. Kreplach, latkes, kishke, and knishes are a noteworthy presence. Eggs are scrambled with kosher salami. Sandwiches of corn rye are stuffed with pastrami and corned beef, there's chopped liver for the purchasing, and the matzo ball soup is very good today. In honor of Chi-town there are specials named the State & Lake and the Comiskey Park, and there's lots of Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic to wash it all down. Quibble: What, no Italian beef?

La Palma Mexicatessen

2884 24th St. (at Florida), 647-1500

La Palma is a great place to find really fresh tortillas -- while you're standing in line waiting for your morning-after menudo, you can watch the experts in the back of the shop patting them out from preservative-free masa. (La Palma is one of the few places in the city that still grinds its own corn.) The deli (Mexi?) also serves up freshly made tamales, carnitas, flautas, pupusas, quesadillas, tortas, tacos, and salsas, or if you'd prefer to do the cooking yourself, the well-stocked grocery section offers hominy, yucca chips, spices in bulk, cheeses and sausages, house-rendered lard, hibiscus syrup, several varieties of chili pepper, and coconut candy in red, white, and green. What we have here, in other words, is an excellent culinary resource.

Gastronom

5801 Geary (at 23rd Avenue), 387-4211

If "delicatessen," literally translated, means "a place to purchase delicacies," Gastronom is the real deal. Every snack, nosh, and nibble out of the hearty Russian tradition is present and accounted for. Tubs of red and black caviar, smoked salmon, herring and whitefish, pâtés, dolmas, three kinds of mushroom salad, a dozen cheeses, flaky coulibiac, piroshki in several varieties, and two dozen kinds of sausage are among the zakuski waiting to be savored. A refrigerator case holds kefir, pelmeni, halvah, and several elaborate cakes for less delicate appetites, and there's a fine selection of Russian wines and vodkas to warm those Dostoevskian summers in the Richmond.

Molinari Delicatessen

373 Columbus (at Vallejo), 421-2337

Walk into Molinari and before you know it your appetite will quadruple and your diet will be a distant memory. Temptation is everywhere. Sharp, crumbly Reggiano and pungent Gorgonzola. Blood-red prosciutto and fennel-sweet finocchiona. Imported gnocchi, pearly arborio, and pasta in every conceivable configuration. Takeout lasagna and ziti and cannelloni, thick green olive oils, 30-year-old balsamic vinegars, biscotti and anchovies and porcini mushrooms, and there's no end in sight. Molinari's handsome old surroundings, affable countermen, and general abbondanza reflect the deli's old-time North Beach lineage, and as such it is a real municipal treasure.

 
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