Authentically Italian; Top Quality, Great Prices at Family Delis

Article excerpt

Byline: Gabriella Boston, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sorely missing in Washington is a Little Italy where hole-in-the-wall stores and restaurants compete to sell cheap pecorino and Chianti and offer the best no-fuss pizzas, subs and pastas.

Alas, Italophiles here have to try a little harder. It's not as simple as going to a one area of the city to find our favorite flavors and treasured textures. We have to look and then look again and we still might miss them.

Such is the case with A. Litteri Inc., a store that since 1932 has offered Italian groceries in Northeast Washington. It is so inconspicuous that unless someone in the know leads you by the hand, you could miss it.

Litteri is among the warehouses of the Florida Market near Gallaudet University. Its storefront? A metal door. Not exactly inviting, but once you've been inside this packed-to-the-ceiling store, none of that will matter, because Litteri sells some wines for $2.99 per bottle and unfiltered Paesano extra-virgin olive oil for $15.99 (one liter).

Oh, and you can get a two-pack of ready-made pizza crusts for $2.99. Big-box grocery stores will sell you one crust - of lesser quality - for $4.99.

So, when we say "Italian deli" it refers to flavor and quality and not price. Many of A. Litteri's products are offered at below regular grocery store prices and feature often lauded Italian name brands such as Fiorucci, Bellino and Modena.

This also holds true for other family-owned Italian delis in the area, such as the Italian Store in Arlington and Vace in Cleveland Park and Bethesda where fresh lasagna to-go to feed four is $12 and fresh pasta dough for one large or several small pizzas to bake in your oven at home is $2.75. Ready-made sauce to go with the pizza dough costs $2.

Once you discover the quality and low-price of these gems the only reason to go to the large chain grocery store for anything Italian - sometimes even Italian-like - could be convenience.

"We have people who come to our store from Virginia Beach and Williamsburg," says Mike DeFrancisci, third-generation owner of A. Litteri. "And we ship to old clients who have moved away."

Needless to say, Litteri doesn't advertise.

These Italian grocery stores don't stop at great olive oils and cheap wines. They also specialize in delicious, moderately priced deli sandwiches that sell like gelato on a hot day.

"The subs are a very important part of our business," says Mr. …