The New York Italians will tell you; just because a deli sports an Italian-sounding named does not mean it is an authentic Italian deli! You have to know what to look for, what to smell, and what to taste. There is a list of things that have to be there, or it is not authentic Italian deli at all. Capisce? That said, here is how you find an authentic Italian deli.
The Owners Are Definitely Italian
It is not Italian if the deli is run by someone other than a native Italian or person with strong Italian ancestry people. While non-Italians may try their best, you cannot make homemade Genoa salami from an online recipe. Your Mama taught you how to make it, as did her mother before her. In a deli, that is a big deal. It speaks to the authenticity of the food, which speaks to the authenticity of the deli itself.
There Are Cured, Dried, and Pickled Meats Everywhere
If you were to walk into a New York Italian deli, there are meats everywhere. They are hanging in nets from the ceiling. There are sliced meats and Italian cheese in the cases. There are more meats in the refrigerators in the back, but you will not see Italian meats in a freezer. The freezer sucks the flavor out of the Italian sausages and hams, which is why they do not belong in the "cooler."
You Can Smell the Bread, Meatballs, and Marinara Before You Open the Door
Fresh-baked Italian breads, fresh meatballs made daily, and rich marinara sauce float out the door and the air circulation vents into the street. Those smells are what Italian delis are known for. They are also what causes you to float in through the door and order a large meatball sub with provolone and mozzarella formaggia melted and dripping over the edges of the Italian herb-rubbed sub rolls. Do not forget the capicola slices and focaccia for your picnic lunch on the weekend!
Shaved Italian Ice, Italian Sodas, and Gelato Are Calling to You from the Other Cases
If you stop in for a sub, you have to have an Italian soda to wash it all down. Follow up your main meal with Italian shaved ice, which is especially refreshing on a hot day. Finally, take home a pint of gelato (thick and creamy Italian ice cream), knowing that you have successfully found an authentic Italian deli.