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Don't look for checkered tablecloths, fake grape arbors dangling from doorways, or wicker-bottomed bottles of chianti. Lucci's Deli is more authentic than that. Anthony and I picked out a booth next to stacks of torn-open cardboard boxes filled with gallon jars of pepperoncinis and quartered artichoke hearts. I had a nice view of some bowling trophies, and Anthony—well, he always sits where he can see who's coming through the front door. That's Italian!
Don't look for Dave Garofalo at Lucci's Deli, either—no matter what you may have seen on a slickly produced videotape the former Huntington Beach mayor showed in council chambers and pumped into the city's cable-TV channel last month. The only Italian celebrity photo on the wall at Lucci's is long-ago Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo. The only Huntington Beach mayoral proclamation on display is signed by Dave Sullivan. As for that video—a State of the City speech he did on videotape even though he was in the council chambers—which showed Garofalo scurrying behind the counter at Lucci's last January with his sleeves rolled up, wearing an apron and serving up cold cuts? That's baloney! Or is that bologna?
"What does Dave Garofalo have when he eats here?" I asked our waitress hopefully after we'd studied Lucci's menu for a while.
8911 Adams Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92646
Region: Huntington Beach
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"I don't know," she said, shrugging.
"We figured he was a regular, you know, on account of that video they showed at the City Council meeting," Anthony explained. "We figured whatever he usually orders has to be good."
"Really, I don't know," the waitress repeated, looking at us as though we were a couple of lame geeks who probably wouldn't tip her enough for testing her patience with all of our stupid questions. "Dave Garofalo doesn't come in here that much. Really."
The waitress summoned her pen and receipt book, along with her fading hopes that we might soon place our order.
But there was so much to choose from. Lucci's offers more than 30 hot or cold sandwiches under $5, not counting the house-specialty torpedoes that go for $2.99 and $5.25. There is pizza. There are the standard Italian dinners like spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna and eggplant, along with classics like linguine with clam sauce and fettuccine alfredo—all between $6 and $10. And there is a fully sizzling American grill featuring patty melts, Philly steaks, fish sandwiches, BLTs and a cheeseburger on a kaiser roll. For large to-go orders, soup and spaghetti are available by the bucket.
In fact, most of what Lucci's sells is to go, inasmuch as most of its floor space is dedicated to a bountifully stocked Italian market. Lucci's does catering, too. They even bake wedding cakes.
"How's your chicken parmigiana?" I suddenly heard myself ask the waitress, never fully imagining the tender breast that awaited beneath a richly spiced red sauce and thick layer of mozzarella, accompanied by a swirling side of spaghetti and two pieces of garlic bread. But before the waitress could even answer, I'd decided. "I'll have that. And a soda."
Just as quickly, Anthony shook free of his obsession with the ghost of Garofalo, too. He stepped up to the counter.
"A cappacolla sandwich and a soda, with a half-pint of macaroni salad on the side," Anthony said with certainty, the words spinning out of him like a sewing machine. The waitress, sensing the breakthrough, hung right there with him, firing off the choice of sandwich breads—white roll, sourdough, wheat or rye. "White roll," snapped Anthony after respectfully waiting for her to finish. She asked him about lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mustard and mayo. Anthony just kept nodding, saying yes. He was smiling. He wanted it all.
Lucci's Deli and Market, located at 8911 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, is open Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (714) 968-4466. Beer and wine. Meal for two, less than $20, food only. MC and Visa accepted.