The Unforgettable Marco's Italian Deli
I pushed open the creaky wooden door to a cacophony of boisterous laughter. The guys behind the counter, having just finished a busy lunch rush, were telling jokes and singing, responding to one another with big, deep belly laughs. It wasn't the kind of laughter that leaves you feeling like you missed out on the joke, but rather the kind that pulls you in, imparting a sense of camaraderie.
Marco's Italian Deli on Hertel was the first of the four Marco's Delis to open in the Buffalo area. Originally owned and operated by Chef Marco Sciortino of Marco's Restaurant on Niagara Street, this Hertel Avenue location has belonged to his brother-in-law, Nick Tollar, and his wife Tina for the last four years. “I saw what Marco does and how people love his food. I wanted to be part of that,” Nick said while John, his extremely funny and magnetic employee, whipped up my lunch. There's a reason why Marco's Italian Deli became a franchise, and it's as simple as this- it's good. The food is good, the ingredients are of high quality and the service is the best kind of service Buffalo has to offer- efficient, friendly and downright genuine.
Sciortino, the mastermind behind these delis, developed a unique menu, the items of which illustrate his West Side childhood, where everyone in the neighborhood said “sangwidge”. All of the sandwiches have fun names, and even though each of the Marco's locations are now operated by independent owners, they all offer the same set of serious signature sandwiches. I love Marco's sandwiches, and I'm not the only one. The signature “sangwidge”--the Forget About It--is a real winner. A toasted roll is loaded with nicely sliced Boar's Head turkey breast, crisp, spicy red peppers, Sorrento's provolone, red onion, lettuce and the condiment that helped make Marco's what it is today, Marco's own chili mayo.
How-You-Doin'? Pretty well, I'd guess, after a How-You-Doin' of grilled prime rib, lettuce, tomato, onion, melted provolone and sun dried tomato-basil mayo. The Foot of Ferry and The Fargo Grill invoke the names of West Side landmarks. The first is made of marinated eggplant, provolone, cheese and hot and sweet peppers, the second of tuna topped with cukes, American cheese, olives and tomatoes. The Don Corleone would make any mafioso happy with capicola, fresh mozzarella, lettuce, onion and sun dried tomatoes all unified with a drizzle of oregano garlic oil.
Burgers and panini are available as well, again each with a fun reference tied to its name. The Al Capone panino is made of Boar's Head roast beef, red onion, tomato, fontinella cheese and oregano olive oil. The Chazz burger is topped with bleu cheese, lettuce and that great sun dried tomato basil mayo. Yum. Most everything on the menu hovers around $7, but the burgers are all priced around $4. There are so many good choices, really too many to name. You can take a look at the menu yourself by following this link and clicking on the Italian Deli icon.
Though the printed menu describes those killer sandwiches available at all of the Marco's Delis, each shop has its own set of specials; the sandwiches that make the Hertel Avenue deli so unique can be found posted on a large chalkboard. Good sandwiches dreamed up by customers often make the board; they occasionally even graduate to the permanent menu. Nick offers 15% off to students and seniors, and it seems that a lot of the kids attending UB that call Long Island home have a special place in their hearts for Marco's NY style sangwidges, they make up a good percentage of Nick's clientèle.
No matter how you slice it, Marco's Deli on Hertel rocks. The food is fresh and delicious, the service is fabulous and the personalities behind the counter are worth the trip alone. Before this visit, I had never had a Forget About It sandwich. Trouble is, I can't forget about it. Just before noon every day I start to think about that sandwich with its warm roll, perfectly sliced turkey, toothsome red peppers and the slow and low burn that comes from them when they are combined with the chili mayo. I just wish that Marco's was closer to my office; I'd have been there two or three times already since my last visit. I'll have to figure out an excuse to turn up there before the week is out. You ought to, too.
Marco's Italian Deli
1744 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, 14216