Today’s sandwich is the “Capicola and Pepperoni” from Brea Lu’ Cafe, in the USM district. It combines pepperoni, capicola, provolone, and tomatoes, grilled on your choice of bread.
Location: 428 Forest Avenue
Notes: It’s hard not to be immediately smitten with the Brea Lu’ Cafe. It’s a small, cozy space, decorated with worn furniture, a mix of artwork and knicknacks on the walls, and a wide counter given over to the owner’s handmade jewelry, all for sale. As soon as you walk through the door, she will show you around the place, and seem genuinely disappointed that you will be getting your food to go. And, it should also be noted, she delivers her sales pitch in an accent exactly, awesomely like Kim Kelly’s mom, Cookie Kelly…but that’s neither here nor there. After briefly checking the menu, which contained a basic but solid offering of diner-classic sandwiches and burgers, I settled on the Capicola & Pepperoni special, for $7.95 . And because I tend to go with whatever the chef is excited about, I even caved to the suggestion that I have my sandwich on seven grain bread, which seemed like kind of an odd choice.
Overall, it was the right one. The bread was light, and toasted in lots of butter, but didn’t have that overwhelming “woods” flavor that can spoil a lot of whole-grain breads. The melted provolone, pepperoni, and tomatoes were all pretty standard-issue, combining with the capicola to give the sandwich a nice back-of-the-throat spicy tingle. But the capicola, as far as I could tell, wasn’t capicola. This was definitely a cooked, rather than cured, meat, and I didn’t see the heavy marbles of fat I would expect from a capicola. This seemed more like a hand-carved ham, which absolutely gives it a pass from me. Hand-carved anything on a sandwich earns it instant bonus points (as was also the case with Jillian’s turkey wrap, made with hand-carved thick slices of turkey breast). The side of homemade coleslaw and a few ragged slices of delicately-spiced pickles were a nice bonus, as well.
This was, overall, a solid diner-style grilled cheese sandwich, with a few flavorful extras, and somewhat higher-quality ingredients than you would expect from a typical diner. While I can’t see going out of my way to return for takeout, it seems like a perfectly pleasant place to kill an hour for a quick lunch out…particularly if we have other errands that take us to Forrest Avenue.