Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery is making you an offer you can’t refuse — a taste of the best Italian sandwiches outside of the Bronx. Gather your pals for a legendary lunch, but be warned: One bite, and you’re in for life. Every time you think you’re out, those Italian deli meats, cheeses, seasonings, and fresh bread pull you back in.
As soon as you step into this popular Santa Monica lunch spot, your nose senses a symphony of savory aromas, from house-made meatballs swimming in marinara sauce to fresh garlic and herbs. The crowd is buzzing, waiting in line at the packed deli counter. You could skip the wait by placing an order in advance online, but then you’d miss out on on the fun of picking out the most tantalizing things you see behind the glass, so take a number and get ready for a feast. Not much has changed about the kitschy, Italian-flag-themed decor since Bay Cities opened in 1925. Every nook and cranny is crammed tight with Italian cookies, cappuccino cups, gourmet chocolates, and canned escargot. Take this time to peruse the assortment of offerings, including the deli case’s heaping trays of lasagna, Caprese salad, and stuffed peppers – not to mention an extensive Italian wine selection and an entire aisle packed with hundreds of imported olive oils.
When it’s finally your turn to order, you and your friends can choose from dozens of toppings, from mortadella and meatballs to prosciutto and pastrami, but if you really want the best, go with the Godmother. This aptly-named matriarch of all Italian sandwiches is stacked high with Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola, ham, and prosciutto, accented with creamy provolone. Order it with the works and kick things up a notch with hot peppers. Top off your meal with one of the giant, house-made chocolate chip cookies calling your name at the checkout counter and you’re finally ready to dig in.
Snag a table outside (if you’re lucky) and savor every messy bite of salty, spiced cured meats tucked between the pivotal ingredient: the fresh-baked bread. Crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, the golden exterior crunches perfectly through the very last bite.
Having shared a close relationship with The Godmother, you are officially ruined for all other sandwiches. But with a deli this good nearby, there are worse problems you could have.