Reading the reviews for Viafore’s Italian Deli might lead one to belief they found the holy grail of New York food on the west coast. The majority of reviews are glowing indicating that Viafore’s is the only “real” Italian deli in the area. Not to beat a dead horse, but I LOVE New York style Italian deli sandwiches so as you can imagine I have been scoping this place out for years. Sadly Fircrest, WA is not exactly close to Seattle so it wasn’t until my most recent drive to Portland, Oregon that I was finally able to take a detour and visit this Italian Deli that has been showered with praise.
Fircrest is small suburban town south of Tacoma, Washington. When I drove up to Viafore’s I found a fairly nondescript building mixed with a bunch of suburban homes. I was beginning to think I found another New York food needle in a haystack! When I walked in the door I was equally excited by what looked like signs of a good New York Italian deli experience staring me in the face. There was a big deli case with tons of fine Italian meats, a refrigerator full of fresh made Italian foods, and shelves of imported Italian products. Let’s just say I was giddy.
After a stroll around the store and quick look at the menu board I opted for the “make your own” sandwich option. I knew exactly what I wanted to order, the same sandwich I grew up eating in my local Italian deli: Smoked Turkey, Hot Salami, Fresh Mozzarella, roasted red peppers all on a Italian baguette. I went up to the counter and requested my sandwich and this is where my illusion of New York food supremacy was CRUSHED! First I was told they didn’t put the Hot Salami on sandwiches. Then when I asked for fresh mozzarella I was also rebuffed. Then the gentleman behind the counter did the unthinkable … he gave me the sandwich checklist! NOOOOOOOOOOO!
You see the Italian delis I grew up with had no such thing as a sandwich checklist. If anything they had a notepad. You could walk into any Italian deli and ask for anything in their deli case and they would put it on your sandwich. There was no segregation of meats, cheeses, and condiments. Everything was on the table (or Sandwich). Sandwich checklists are the norm on the west coast at every supermarket deli counter, but I really expected better from this place.
Despite my sudden onset of New York food depression I capitulated and ordered the closest sandwich I could create. I got turkey, pepperoni (which wasn’t on the checklist but he let me have), aged mozzarella, and pepperoncini’s, all on a hero roll. I also picked up a jar of fresh made tomato sauce.
I ate half my sandwich in my car before I took off for Portland. The sandwich was pretty ordinary. Without fresh mozzarella or roasted red peppers, the sandwich was too dry. The turkey was pretty bland, and the pepperoni was run of the mill pepperoni. The bread was sadly just a lot like the sub rolls you find in a supermarket. Was it the worst sandwich I ever had? No. Was it better then what you would get in your local supermarket? Slightly. I left the second half of the sandwich with my friend in Portland. The text he sent me after he ate it summed up the sandwich pretty well; “Thanks for the Sandwich, but it was extremely mediocre”. As for the tomato sauce … well it was pretty good but not good enough to make up for the sandwich debacle.
Anyway, if you are looking for the New York Italian deli of your dreams in the Seattle/Tacoma area, this place will most likely disappoint you. If you live in the Fircrest, WA area and you are looking for a selection of imported Italian goods and reasonable selection of Italian cold cuts then by all means stop by. Just don’t order a sandwich unless you like the selection on the checklist!