ALEX COGGIN ’16
A staple of south Hartford since 1930, LaRosa’s Italian Deli & Catering boasts some serious food–and history.
Two generations ago, LaRosa’s history began when Joseph LaRosa began making homemade sausage in the basement of a family home on the south side of Hartford. The garage of the home was cleared out and used as a storefront to distribute imported pastas, oils, and his homemade sausage. He even began canning his own olive oil for distribution.
After some time, the operation became too large for the basement of LaRosa’s home, so the small business moved to an old furniture storehouse in the same area of south Hartford where the deli is located today. LaRosa’s has been approved by the USDA and is now deemed an approved sausage kitchen, which allows them to sell their sausages to restaurants, stores, and in their marketplace.
The tradition has certainly not been lost. LaRosa’s is still selling fresh sausage in-store and wholesale, along with a variety of classic Italian meats, sandwiches, and prepared foods.
Open for lunch and breakfast Monday through Saturday, LaRosa’s is a staple of the Hartford lunch scene. I visited at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday and the place was packed with local workers.
The outside of the building is unassuming, with a green awning and white scripted sign reading “LaRosa’s Rustic Italian Deli & Catering.” Upon entering LaRosa’s, the scent of fresh-baked bread and Italian herbs overwhelms you. There is a deli counter and hot food bar with menus printed on large white marquees. There are also a handful of tables scattered throughout the deli.
The hot food bar usually has about four lunch specials ranging from lasagna to roast pork and scalloped potatoes. The daily specials are posted online for the week ahead, so visit their website to figure out what the hot specials will be.
Ordering for both the deli and hot lunch specials is generally done in the hot food area.
Sandwiches come oversized on fresh baked Italian bread. The sandwich options are generally divided between grinders and paninis. Grinders include options like sausage, meatball, as well as all of the classic cold cuts, such as roast beef, turkey, and ham. There are also Italian specialty cold cuts including capicola, salami, mortadella, and soppressata.
The panini sandwiches are very popular. Selections include the Panino Rustico with grilled chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, roasted peppers and pesto cream. The Panino Bistecca features marinated sirloin steak, peppers, onions, and provolone cheese. In addition to the sandwiches and daily specials, a variety of salads and wraps are available.
Although I have not visited for breakfast, the menu also includes many different types of egg sandwiches.
I ordered the combo sandwich, which consists of ham, capicola, and genoa salami. I got the “half” size, which is basically a large. A whole would be about 2 feet of sandwich. My sandwich consisted of provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted pepper, and oil and vinegar, with perfect Italian sandwich bread and piled high with freshly sliced Italian meats. Oil and vinegar was the perfect choice of condiment, as it did not overpower the meat and soaked nicely into the fresh-baked bread. The roasted peppers were a nice addition to the sandwich.
I have been to LaRosa’s countless times for their delicious Italian sandwiches and specials. It is a great change of pace from on-campus food and so much better than any fast-food sandwich chain like Subway. LaRosa’s is only about a five minute drive off campus in South Hartford, so it is a great lunch spot for the weekends, or during the week if you have a few extra minutes for lunch and easy access to a car. LaRosa’s history in Hartford and true-to-tradition Italian fare make it a great destination for casual lunch.
ALEX COGGIN ’16