Don't get excited yet. We're going to talk about a sandwich shop that you may never see, or even visit unless you found yourself standing on the corner of 3rd and Spring streets one day wondering where to go and what to do.
I'll heartily recommend a sandwich at Europa, if you are ever stuck for an idea on Spring and 3rd. Or should television nights inspire a sandwich party. You'll get the best ham, salami, mortadella, capocollo, smoked ham, pepperoni, Italian salami, turkey, mozzarella, Provolone and American cheese sandwich on Italian or Persian bread in the Downtown area, bar none.
You'll also get one of the biggest and best six-foot submarines you'll ever want to serve a crowd. With the six-footer you also get six pounds of potato salad free, all for $49.99. There are also "Godmother" sandwiches (three-footers) and the less cumbersome "Godson" sandwiches, a two-foot-long sandwich meant for stevedores. Those sandwiches come with free potato salad too. Order them to go for a party sometime only if you feel like trekking downtown to pick up an order. They don't deliver beyond a five-mile radius.
As for the pizza and spaghetti, they're so bad they are good. They're the kind of pizza and spaghetti you enjoy as leftovers from the pizza or spaghetti you had the night before, except that Europa's tastes like the night before version without a wait. They'll zap it in the microwave for you for an extra rubbery effect. Frankly, I rather like pizza and spaghetti that way now and then. I love chewy, bleary-eyed, day-after, pizza and spaghetti. There is something terribly homey about it.
But that is not what we are talking about, either.
Europa Deli happens to be an institution for people working in the buildings throughout the downtown area. They have known and enjoyed Europa's presence since it began as a grocery store in 1913.
If the walls could only talk. My, my. The clientele? They are our city's finest--law enforcement officers from top to bottom echelons at nearby Parker Center, who park their vehicles on the red zone in front of the delicatessen for a quick bite with colleagues. Bank officers from the numerous banks in the area stand there, whispering professional secrets between puffs of the cigar, against the backdrop of Godfather, Godmother and Godson sandwiches in the making.
Times employees--pressmen, reporters and editors alike, have walked the few short blocks on Spring Street to Europa for a filling lunch, mid-morning or after snack, or maybe as an excuse to walk off a worry or gripe, or maybe work out a story in their heads. State and county employees have been seen with box loads of cold-cut trays to take up to their quarters for an impromptu party or an after-hours feed. Many office lovers' rendezvous have been traced to Europa's tables, where half-eaten sandwiches and unfinished beverages tell all. But who's telling?
A Grocery at First
I, myself, have used the deli on occasions too numerous to name: during Food Section photo sessions, when I've had to rush out and pick up a missing ingredient for one of our photographed dishes. I've stopped to buy filo dough when company was expected, and to stock up on Bulgarian feta cheese that, in the old days, was not easy to find elsewhere. I've picked up Italian, French and Persian bread so fresh I've succumbed to the temptation of breaking off and eating most of it even before reaching home.
Europa began as an import Italian grocery store. Originally, its owner, who went by the name Dante, sold such things as loose pastas of numerous shapes and sizes, cheeses, olives and olive oils from Italy, which you can still find in bins. Since taking over 15 years ago, however, Albert Mansour, whose heritage is French-Italian, and his wife, Abby, have turned Europa into an international import market offering olives, dolmas and tarama (caviar) from Greece, stuffed grape leaves, tahini and foul (fava beans) from Lebanon, wines and cheese from France and Spain, olives from Peru, dry fish from Norway, pistachios from Iran, plus a bevy of Middle Eastern pastries such as bourma, baklava, kadaif and filo dough, which come from local Greek bakers and are sold by the piece or the pan. The flat Persian bread comes from a local bakery daily, as well.
Until recently, Europa was a dreary, pathetically undecorous place, with inventory too sparse to be enticing. It got its lift when the women--wife and friends of the owner--came to help out. It was the women who put some color and charm into the place, with their bright faces, habits of cleanliness and the addition of checkered tablecloths and tables when they moved a few doors down to its present corner spot on Third Street.
It was the women, too, who helped introduce the pizza and spaghetti, such that it is. But it works and no one is complaining much--I suppose.
Sandwiches a Mainstay