Eli's Italian Deli 

On the plate of Reviewer No. 2

My new addiction has a catchy little name: Ba-Da-Bing ($7.75).

They never warn you about thin-sliced turkey, ham, pastrami and provolone on homemade bread when they give you the lecture about the dangers of drugs in school, but seriously, this sandwich deserves its own public service announcement. Check that, there needs to be a full campaign, warning everyone that trying this sandwich just once can lead to profound and undeniable cravings and the urge to run out to Eli's Italian Deli in downtown Boise and grab one at all times of the day.

And, just know now, that your plan to eat only half of the sub-style sandwich will fail. Once you've bitten into the layers of warm meat and cheese, topped with lettuce, onion, tomato and house dressing (a sweet Italian with just enough vinegar) engulfed in fresh bread that is both light and airy inside while still providing a substantial crust, you're a goner. Or rather, your sandwich is. You may have the best intentions to save some for later, you may even get it wrapped up and into the refrigerator, but that nagging need for a fix will overwhelm you, calling like a Siren from the depths of the ice box.

While the sandwiches can induce dependency, the physical surroundings aren't so persuasive. This little place is hardly more than a counter hidden in the back of Boise Cafe, a street-corner space that morphs itself into whatever the occasion calls for--be it Latin dancing and drinks or a quick lunch. But those who dare to explore beyond the assortment of small bistro tables that look like they've just been slid into place--because they might have been--will find a reason to keep coming back.

Occasionally, other sandwiches, both hot and cold, have called to me from the wall-mounted menu above the counter, shouting things like Genoa salami, mortadella, artichoke hearts, pepper sopressata, capacolla and Albacore tuna at me. But in the end, I give in to my addiction.

As part of my own 12-step program, I recently forced myself to order the lasagna lunch special ($5.75), which came with two large pieces of toasted garlic bread. While the layers of pasta, Italian sausage and cheese doused in a sweet and freshly made marinara sauce with big chunks of tomato were tasty enough--even if they could have done with a little more filling between the layers of pasta--it did nothing to help cure me of my addiction.

Once, when I just needed a little Eli's fix, I got a cup of homemade minestrone ($3.50) from the giant, steaming pot that takes up residence next to a rotating variety of daily soup on one end of the salad bar. The substantial chunks of zucchini, carrot and tomato and ample beans clobber the thin concoctions most restaurants call minestrone, but it didn't do much to rid my mind of the Ba-Da-Bing.

Luckily, the friendly crew at Eli's is happy to help me feed my need. But then, aren't all pushers?

--Deanna Darr is still trying to come up with the next 11 steps of her recovery plan.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Eli's Italian Deli.
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