I can’t say whether the two are related in any way, but since around the time that Covid first hit the U.S., it’s been difficult to find kosher salami in supermarkets and other stores that used to stock it. I know this isn’t just a phenomenon of the Philadelphia area, where I live, because I’ve seen a number of people from a Facebook Jewish delis group complain about it over the past year or two.
Of course, in most non-kosher stores, the most common brand of salami generally found was Hebrew National. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of their 12 or 16 ounce chunk salamis that used to be virtually ubiquitous. On one occasion, at an Acme Supermarket in Bala Cynwyd, which borders Philly, I found chunk A&H brand salamis. A handful of other times, I’ve stopped at supermarkets in areas with a higher concentration of Jews than my more immediate vicinity, thinking they were bound to have salami, only to walk out of those stores empty-handed.
But today, I decided to go the extra mile – or more like several miles – by leaving home an hour early for my weekly visit with my father, who has Alzheimer’s, and taking a detour into Northeast Philly. There were two reasons for this side-trip. The first was to check out a kosher market on Bustleton Avenue called House of Kosher. I was fairly sure they’d have kosher salami. In fact, my only excuse for not checking there sooner is that after nearly a lifetime of having relatives in that part of the Northeast, I have none at this point and rarely find myself in that part of the city.
And in fact, I finally hit the jackpot. While there were no Hebrew National or A&H salamis at House of Kosher, they did have a couple other brands in stock. And they were available both in the regular 12-16 ounce size and in a jumbo size that was probably in the two to three pounds range. I felt fairly sure I’d be happy with whichever brand I chose, but I decided to go with a regular sized salami rather than a jumbo one, just in case I was less than happy with it. I can always go back there to buy more now that I know they have it.
I chose a 12-ounce Meal Mart beef salami, which I haven’t tried yet. But the A&H tasted very similar to Hebrew National, and I’m guessing there also won’t be a significant difference this time around.
My other reason for detouring to the Northeast was a straight shot, about 10 minutes south on Bustleton avenue, from House of Kosher.
Dattilo’s is a very old-school Italian deli that is known for serving great sandwiches, including cheesesteaks that are routinely raved about by members of the Facebook Cheesesteak Gurus group I’ve referred to in other posts. I have been meaning to try one for a while and finally got around to it today.
There is no seating at Dattilo’s, and it’s very cold today, so I ate the steak in my car. Before I get to my review of the sandwich’s quality, I have to say that I’ve never had a better-packed cheesesteak. I neglected to get napkins and thought I might have a bit of a mess on my hand, as some of the better steaks I’ve had have been very drippy. But there wasn’t even a hint of stray meat, cheese or grease to be found when I was finished with this cheesesteak.
Based on the many raves I alluded to above, I had extremely high expectations for Datillo’s steak. And it was certainly well above average and probably even upper echelon. The seeded roll was outstanding, with a nice crust, but very lightweight and fairly soft. The proportion of meat, cheese, onions and roll was also pretty close to ideal.
I may have preferred that the meat be chopped a little less finely. But more than that, my one real issue with the steak was that I thought the overall flavor was not quite in the stratosphere with what I experienced from a few of the other sandwiches I’ve tried in recent months. Perhaps it needed just a tad more seasoning.
Having said that, I wouldn’t turn anyone away from this place. It was, again, a very good cheesesteak. If I lived in that area, I’d be at Dattilo’s often.
I’m slowly, but surely working my way through the cheesesteak purveyors that have the best reputations in the area. I still need to get to a few of the biggies, but I’m pacing myself.