Neighborhood Joints

Gusto Fino: Fine Sandwiches in Coral Gables

Antonio Vecchio is on the phone. It's a weekday at noon at his tiny Coral Gables restaurant, Gusto Fino, and the place is slammed. "Hot pastrami or cold pastrami?" he asks. The soup of the day, he says, is spicy chicken with pancetta and vegetables. He scribbles on a scrap of paper, hangs up, and sends the delivery order to the kitchen. He takes a short break.

"We've got the best security in Coral Gables," he says with a wide grin. "Those are three detectives in the back."

A photo hanging on the wall shows two policemen holding tomatoes. "Suspicious tomatoes?" reads one thought bubble. "Bro, you can't fool him," reads the other. On the Italian deli's to-go menu, some items are marked with a small badge. The symbol denotes Coral Gables Police Department favorites.

Vecchio, whose family originates from Campania, Italy, opened the spot in 2005. Since then, he has garnered quite the loyal following -- constabulary and beyond.

Patrons trek to the tiny Italian deli for salads such as the Nancy ($8.95) -- arugula with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, roasted eggplant, red peppers, and goat cheese in a pesto dressing. Others opt for the Sicilian meatball sandwich ($8.95), with pecorino cheese, garlic, herbs, pomodoro sauce, and mozzarella. There are cold subs too.

There's also meat lasagna ($11.95) and a pasta dish called Chicken Mike Al'Angelo, with roasted chicken breast over whole-wheat penne pasta, portobello mushrooms, and a creamy Marsala-based sauce ($11.95).

The deli encourages you to create your own lunch. Make a sandwich. Choose from baguette, multigrain, or ciabatta. Build a pasta. Select from rigatoni, whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti, and sauces such as pink, pomodoro, or aglio e olio.

Vecchio's approach is simple. Everything is made from scratch, including sauces, dressings, meatballs, and dessert. It works.

Gusto Fino is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's closed Sunday.

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Emily Codik