Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico's Sesquipedalian Sybarite. 831 Restaurant Reviews, More Than 6300 Visitor Comments…And Counting!

California Pastrami & More – Albuquerque, New Mexico

California Pastrami for some of the very best sandwiches in New Mexico

During a 1997 episode of Seinfeld, the “show about nothing,” George Costanza and his girlfriend du jour discussed the possibility of incorporating food into their lovemaking–not as a post-coital meal, but in flagrante delicto. George listed as potential food candidates: strawberries, chocolate sauce, honey and…pastrami on rye with mustard.  Yes, that’s pastrami on rye.  His girlfriend, unfortunately, failed to appreciate the erotic qualities of pastrami and thus, their relationship terminated.

Ultimately George met up with a woman who echoed his sentiments when she declared pastrami to be “the most sensual of all the salted cured meats.”  With that proclamation, their lustful appetites took over and they succumbed to the pastrami inspired throes of passion, albeit also incorporating television watching.  It’s no wonder George Costanza’s face grew flush when he ate with friends at their favorite neighborhood diner; the association of food with pleasure became a sensual one.

The interior of California Pastrami

I don’t know about pastrami being the most sensual of all salted cured meats (sounds like a bit of double entendre here), but do know there are few sandwiches quite as wonderful as a pastrami sandwich.  Alas, not all pastrami is created equal.  The perfect pastrami finds its genesis as brisket given a salt, sugar and spice rub, dry cured, smoked, and cooked.  Having grown up in bucolic Northern New Mexico, I had no idea pastrami existed until the Air Force sent me to Massachusetts and I discovered pastrami at Steve’s House of Pizza in Bedford. It was love at first bite. For two years I visited delis throughout New England and New York City in search of the best pastrami.

If you’ve ever wondered what the differences are between pastrami and corned beef aside from taste and texture.  Pastrami comes from the naval area while corned beef emanates from the brisket area.  Where pastrami is given a salt and spice rub, dry cured, smoked then cooked, corned beef is cured in brine.  To me, the main difference is that pastrami is much better, but then, like George Costanza, I consider pastrami the most sensual of all salted, cured meats.

The”Classic” Pastrami Sandwich

Since returning to New Mexico in 1995, I’ve lamented being short-changed insofar as Duke City restaurants or delis not offering a world-class pastrami product, not even close.  Fortunately semi-frequent (every few years) trips to Chicago have proven to be fulfilling pastrami pilgrimages.  Most meat distributors serving New Mexico sell a processed pretender, pastrami “loaf.” I wanted the real thing–whole beef brisket with lots of marbling and heavy, briny seasoning.

Real pastrami is also what Joseph Rodriguez wanted to bring to New Mexico.  A California native now living in New Mexico, Rodriguez was raised on hot pastrami sandwiches and like dozens of us pastrami paramours, he couldn’t find good pastrami in New Mexico.  Rodriguez buys his pastrami from a supplier who furnishes it to The Hat, a Los Angeles area pastrami sandwich shop chain.  It’s the real stuff–well marbled, briny, highly seasoned and absolutely delicious.  It’s comparable to pastrami I remember fondly in New York City, but not quite as good as my favorite pastrami in Chicago.

The Eastern: pastrami on fresh baked New York style rye bread with spicy brown mustard

The rest of us are thrilled that he took it a step further and begin selling it at the New Mexico state fair during the fall of 2006. His success there convinced him there was a legitimate market of passionate pastrami fanatics like me. Rodriguez didn’t start off by selling his pastrami at some fancy storefront.  He built a concession trailer and parked it on the corner of St. Francis Drive just as you turn into Alameda.  The trailer was furnished with all he needed to prepare his product and was so portable, he took it to the state fair and balloon fiesta. 

In November, 2009, Duke City pastrami aficionados no longer had to drive to Santa Fe to assuage their chile fix when Rodriguez launched California Pastrami on Alameda Boulevard.  California Pastrami was in that location until January, 2011, its closure coinciding with the opening of a location at 6125 Montgomery, N.E.  By year’s end, he had sold the concession trailer and closed the Santa Fe operation.  Ever the entrepreneur, he remains optimistic about opening another storefront location both in Albuquerque’s west side and perhaps in Santa Fe.

Corned Beef Reuben sandwich

9 December 2012: Having lived on the East Coast and traveled extensively in the Golden State, the term “California pastrami” gave me nightmarish visions of pesto packed pastrami desecrated with sushi grade sashimi, artichoke and the designer vegetable de jour. Fortunately, as it turns out California (since renamed as the “Classic”) pastrami is served on a hoagie bun with yellow mustard and dill pickles (just as some grinder shops in Massachusetts sold it). Even better, this is an outstanding sandwich. It’s got the requisite marbling (for flavor) pastrami lovers crave and the addictive flavor profile that keeps us coming back for more.

Years ago, television and radio commercials for Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups introduced America to a catchy jingle which touted “two great tastes that taste great together” in describing the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. Until my friend Larry McGoldrick suggested it, I had not tried a pastrami sandwich with green chile–a marriage of California and New Mexico. Indeed these are two great tastes that taste great together. Green chile can improve almost everything, including desserts. California Pastrami doesn’t shy away from piquant chile; it’s got a tongue-tingling bite and a nice roasted flavor that complements the pastrami surprisingly well.

Pastrami Burger

1 October 2014:  You can also get your pastrami sandwich Eastern style–on light New York-style rye sandwich bread with grainy mustard. Having tried both the “Classic” and “Eastern” style pastrami, I’m not ready to declare a preference. Both are terrific!  Make that outstanding!  The advantage the hoagie roll has over the rye bread is that it holds up better against the onslaught of juiciness from the fresh, delicious and utterly unctuous pastrami. The advantage of the Eastern-style pastrami sandwich at California Pastrami is that it’s served with a side of coleslaw and a dill pickle spear, both made on the premises and both being excellent.

My friend and frequent dining companion Bill Resnik thought he had partaken of good pastrami during his years of travel and was skeptical when I first brought him to California Pastrami in January, 2010. He had no idea what a difference truly great pastrami can make, his previous experiences with pastrami being less than memorable. By mid-February, he had visited the restaurant at least once a week and as often as three times in one week. He’s hooked and has been every since.  So are many other Duke City diners.

Corned Beef Sandwich

20 May 2014: As for the “More” portion of the restaurant’s name, “more” includes burgers, sandwiches and burritos, some of which I may never try courtesy of pastrami George Costanza would have loved in the Biblical sense. It also includes corned beef and a number of burgers, including a pastrami burger. The pastrami burger is humongous, a generous amount of pastrami, a one-third pound ground beef patty with a slice of cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayonnaise on a sesame seed bun which struggles to contain all that flavor, all those ingredients. It’s a great burger!

9 December 2010: Pastrami and corned beef are often paired together in menus and in the hearts of sandwich aficionados. California Pastrami offers a very good corned beef sandwich stacked high on light rye bread with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As previously stated, it’s a very good corned beef sandwich, but it’s not a special sandwich as both pastrami sandwiches are. Still, I would stack it up against any corned beef sandwich in town. It’s far superior to the one served about a block away at Jason’s Deli, a chain with a large menu. The difference is that California Pastrami’s largeness is in the flavor of its product, not its price.

Philly Cheese Steak

Philly Cheesesteak

Astute members of the Duke City Fix’s Chow Down in Burque Town” forum found it intriguing (to say the least) that mayonnaise and pastrami would share space in the same sentence, much less the same sandwich (the aforementioned pastrami burger).  Though a purist myself, I’ve long ceased being surprised by flavor combinations that work surprisingly well.  My first experience with pastrami and mayonnaise was at the aforementioned Deli Mart’s elder sibling on Albuquerque’s east side where the much-missed New York transplanted to Albuquerque Cerami family served their pastrami sandwiches in that fashion.  My first inclination was to declare that blasphemy, but the mayonnaise-pastrami combination is actually quite good, albeit not as good as pastrami with real deli mustard.

17 January 2010: Call it blasphemy if you will, but I’ve long had a preference for pastrami Reubens instead of the more conventional corned beef Reuben sandwich. A pastrami Reuben at California Pastrami is a thing of beauty. Unlike other Reubens I’ve had in the Duke City, the Russian dressing doesn’t taste like a cloying Thousand Island clone and the sauerkraut won’t purse your lips with its tartness. It’s served on a lightly toasted light rye bread and includes a heaping mound of pastrami, the starring attraction of any sandwich.

Half a loaf of Joe’s outstanding New York-style rye bread

3 February 2010: Joe Rodriguez, like me, recognizes the potential in pastrami to improve everything it touches.  He didn’t blink an eye during a visit in which I asked for a patty melt sandwich with pastrami.  By itself, the patty melt has all the essential elements of a very good patty melt sandwich–a light rye bread grilled until toasty brown, finely chopped onions fried nearly to the point of caramelization, a hand-formed all-beef patty and rich melted cheese.  The pastrami elevated it from very good to excellent.  Some time I may just ask Joe to add pastrami to one of the burritos served at his restaurant. 

3 February 2010: Lest you think California Pastrami is a one-trick pony whose expertise is limited to pastrami, the menu includes several burritos as well as fish tacos (on hard shells, no less) I’ve heard draw utterances of “wow” from other patrons.  The restaurant also prepares a very good Philly cheesesteak.  It’s served on a hoagie roll and is engorged to overfull with chopped beef steak, finely chopped green peppers and onions and melted white cheese.  It’s steaming hot when you bite into it and is as juicy and delicious as almost any Philly cheesesteak you’ll find in Albuquerque (my favorite being the one at Itsa Italian Ice).  You won’t find a speck of excess fat or sinew on the beef which is very tender.

Housemade potato chips

10 APRIL 2013:  Several years ago, television commercials for a pseudo Mexican fast food chain encouraged diners to “make a run for the border.”  Duke City diners should run, not walk, to California Pastrami to partake of a new menu item called The Border Dog.  The Border Dog is perhaps as close to a Sonoran Hot Dog as you’ll find in Albuquerque. The hot dog is wrapped in bacon and deep-fried.  Nestled in the bun are caramelized onions and chopped jalapeños.  The hot dog bun is made on the premises and is quite good.

Another addition, perhaps in response to complaints of bread which withered neath the moistness of the steamed pastrami, is a much improved bread baked on the premises.  The bread is chewy and formidable enough for the moistness of the steamed pastrami.  It doesn’t wither and doesn’t get soggy.  Best of all, it’s a delicious bread which disproves the notion that good bread can’t be baked in the alkaline-rich Albuquerque area.  Joe not only bakes his own hoagie and rye breads, but the buns for his burgers and hot dogs.  The rye bread is especially delicious, a wonderful canvas for sandwiches or toast.  It’s amazing how much better bread can be without artificial preservatives.

The Border Dog

The Border Dog

Joe Rodriguez knows that the best way to grow his business is to invest in his business. To that end, he continues to expand his restaurant’s offerings.  A pastry case displays several dessert options, but on balmy summer days only Breyer’s ice cream will do.  Currently available only on a cone or bowl, Joe is planning on making milkshakes and malts available in the near future.  Smoothies are also available as are some of the best housemade potato chips in Albuquerque. 

1 October 2014: Joe is especially proud of the pineapple upside-down cake which is baked by his lovely bride who works beside him at the restaurant.  He’s got good reason to be proud of this dessert.  It’s rich, moist and utterly delicious.  It’s also not overly sweet as some pineapple upside-down cake tends to be.

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

California Pastrami is one of the best sandwich purveyors in New Mexico, introducing new diners to “real” pastrami while continuing to appease those of us who consider pastrami the most sensual of all cured meats.

California Pastrami & More
6125 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505-730-4507
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 1 October 2014
# OF VISITS: 18
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: California Style Pastrami Sandwich, Eastern Pastrami Sandwich, Corned Beef Sandwich, Pastrami Burger, Philly Cheese Steak, Pastrami Ruben Sandwich, Fish Tacos, The Border Dog, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Potato Chips

California Pastrami on Urbanspoon

Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Never mind the signage.  This is the home of Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs in Rio Rancho

Imagine a world without sandwiches! That daunting premise would make a pretty fatalistic post-apocalyptic movie in which Dystopian societies exist in a nightmare of deprivation, hopelessness, terror and processed food rations (Soylent Green anyone?).  No sandwiches–it’s just too incomprehensible to imagine, especially considering everywhere you turn there’s another Subway.  Frankly, my own post-apocalyptic nightmare would be a world in which Subway and other restaurants of that ilk are the only option for sandwiches.  Like the indestructible roach, chain restaurants would survive even a nuclear cataclysm.

Alas, my personal post-apocalyptic hell is closer to reality than you might suspect.  CHD Expert, the worldwide leader in collecting, managing and analyzing food service industry data reports that the sacrosanct sandwich, one of America’s iconic foods, is dominated by chains.  It’s not even close.  A bleak analysis indicates chains account for 90.4 percent of the sandwich market landscape while independent sandwich restaurants represent only 9.6 percent.  That type of dominance hasn’t been experienced since Mike Locksley coached the UNM Lobo football team.

The counter at which you order. Notice the large neophrine sandwich hanging overhead

CHD Expert’s analysis reveals that Subway is the “largest chain restaurant in America in terms of number of locations with over 26,000 units.”  Beyond the fruited plain there are over 10,000 Subway restaurants operating in more than 100 countries.  Subway ranks behind only McDonald’s (18,710) and KFC (11,798) among the ten most prolific fast food chains in the world.  Lest you fall for Subway’s Madison Avenue propaganda about its healthful menu, in 2010 the sandwich behemoth earned a rather dubious honor (is it any wonder I fear the white and yellow logo).   

Knowing all of these facts, perhaps the premise with which I began this essay should be rewritten to “imagine a world without independent sandwich restaurants.”  Let’s make it even easier to imagine by limiting that premise to sandwich restaurants specializing in subs.  At the risk of sounding gloomy, that world may soon be here…at least in the Duke City.  Think about it.  How many independent, mom-and-pop sub sandwich restaurants can you name in the Duke City area?  There aren’t many, folks. 

Meatball Parm Sub

When a new, independent, mom-and-pop sub sandwich restaurant opens its doors, it’s an event warranting a celebration.  Heck, when you pass by an independent mom-and-pop sandwich shop, a snappy salute should immediately be followed by a U-turn and visit.  April, 2011 saw the launch of L.A. Subs in a nondescript strip shopping center on Golf Course Road in Rio Rancho.  The initials L.A. didn’t represent the City of Angels, but rather the first names of owner Linda (L) Lorens-Martin and her mother Ann (A).  It wasn’t easily visible from the street and only simple signage told you it existed.

Despite its obfuscated location and virtually no advertising, L.A. Subs acquired a pretty significant and loyal clientele.  It wasn’t even listed on Urbanspoon until months had elapsed after its opening.  Visitors learned about it solely through word of mouth from satisfied customers.  You got the impression that’s the way Linda wanted it.  Her menu, scrawled by marker on a white board, was hardly a compendium of every sub sandwich and side conceivable, listing only a handful of subs, sandwiches and salads.  Specials of the day were listed on a smaller white board behind the counter at which you place your order.  Suspended behind that counter is a gigantic neoprene sub sandwich, a depiction so accurate it may make your mouth water.

Steak and Cheese Sub

Two years later, word on the street was of a merger between L.A. Subs and a newcomer named Alicea’s N.Y. Bagels, a bi-coastal sounding operation if ever there was one.  In addition to the subs with which City of Vision residents had fallen in love, they could now get fresh, New York-style bagels (and isn’t Rio Rancho often referred to as “Little New York?”) and fresh coffee.  Today, external signage still reads “L.A. Subs” but all other references for the 1,200 square-foot sub restaurant indicate it’s “Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs.”  

Alicea is Frenchy Alicea, a Connecticut native who relocated to Rio Rancho with Hewlett-Packard (HP).  Although HP offered to move Frenchy to its operations in Georgia, he had already established roots in the Rio Rancho community and decided to stay.  Besides, he wanted to transition out of his engineering career into a culinary career and in his spare time had already been working with Linda at L.A. Subs. 

Italian (ham, salami, roast beef and cheese)

Italian (ham, salami, roast beef and cheese)

If there’s one part of the country that knows subs, it’s the East Coast.  You can find phenomenal subs from Maine to Delaware.  Independent mom-and-pop sub sandwich shops rule the East Coast.  Rio Rancho’s New York transplants echo similar sentiment about bagels, arguing that a good bagel can’t be found west of the Hudson River.  Not even in New York City, however, are bagels delivered to your door.  You read that correctly.  Alicea’s will deliver the bagels which are made the old-fashioned way.  Frenchy calls them “real NY bagels” and the subs “real subs,” emphasis on the real.

Subs are available in two sizes: large and small.  A small sub at Alicea’s is as large as a large sub at the aforementioned chain.  A large sub easily exceeds a foot.  They’re made with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, peppers, cheese and Italian dressing.  They’re also accompanied by thick kettle chips and a single pickle spear.  On paper, some of the subs are hold-overs from the L.A. Subs days, but you’ll quickly discover they’re “real” subs, the way they’re made on the East Coast.  They’re bulging behemoths bursting with meats and cheeses.  Oh, and the meats aren’t pre-measured and extricated from hermetically sealed plastic.  The bread is soft and chewy, the perfect repository for high quality ingredients.

18 August 2014: During my inaugural visit since the transition to Alicea’s, the sub calling loudest was a meatball parm sub.  You know it’s an East Coast sandwich if it’s called a “meatball parm” sub.  Everywhere else it’s just a “meatball sub.”  The “parm” is “alla Parmigiana,” because of the cheese.  Alicea’s doubles your fromage fantasy by also adding Provolone.  The cheese is molten, melted deliciousness which blankets the meaty (no adjective better describes them) meatballs.  The meatballs are large orbs and each sub half is loaded with them.  They’re covered in a superbly seasoned sauce, the type of which East Coast Italian restaurants excel. 

18 August 2014: In New England the steak and cheese sub is practically a religion.  No doubt Bostonians were up in arms when Subway introduced their version, an ostensibly flavorless (speculation here) calorific overachiever.  Though there are similarities, steak and cheese subs should not be mistaken with Philly Cheesesteak subs.  At Alicea’s, the steak and cheese sub is crafted from good quality steak cut painfully thin, glistening sweet fried onions, soft melting cheese and a soft, chewy sub roll.  It’s an excellent sandwich sure to be loved by expatriate New Englanders.

Bread Pudding, my weakness

26 September 2014: On September 16, 2014, Alicea’s added a “Real Philly Cheese Steak & Cheese” to the daily menu with a Facebook announcement indicating “Don’t settle for any of the cheap fake wannabes in town get a real one!” That’s a rather audacious claim considering the metropolitan Duke City area has several purveyors of excellent Phillys.  Alicea’s rendition is the closest to the version invented in 1931 by Pat Oliveri in the City of Brotherly Love.  Thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef, slivers of fresh green pepper and lots of gooey melted cheese make it Philadelphia-like.  Green chile gives it that New Mexico touch. The ultra-rich molten cheese makes the sandwich so rich you may not be able to finish it in one sitting.

26 September 2014: It became a running joke among the Intel cafeteria staff when my friend Bill had his daily breakfast of a bagel and green chile schmear.  He may as well have used a trowel or shovel to pile on the schmear.  If you didn’t get to the schmear before he did, there may not be any left.  Bill will enjoy the green chile schmear, preferably on a green chile bagel, at Alicea’s.  The bagel is soft and chewy with flecks of nicely roasted green chile punctuating it throughout.  Similarly, the rich cream cheese is imbued with the piquant greatness of New Mexico green chile.  Can there be any better combination than a green chile bagel with green chile schmear?

Green Chile Bagel with Green Chile Schmear

As she transitioned L.A. Subs to Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs, Linda imparted her bread pudding recipe to Frenchy.  Great move!  The bread pudding is thick, buttery and delicious, topped with brown sugar and walnuts which provide a savory contrast to the rich, gooey, buttery sweetness. I don’t know if it would make Larry McGoldrick’s bread pudding hall of fame, but I’m betting he’d like it.  Make sure you ask Frenchy to heat it up for you and to top it with a pad of butter for a sweet-salty contrast you’ll enjoy. 

The bleak post-apocalyptic scenario I posed in which there are no independent mom-and-pop sub sandwich shops will hopefully never come to pass.  This can best be assured by supporting local gems such as Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs in Rio Rancho.

Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs
1009 Golf Course Road
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 896-4455
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 26 September 2014
1st VISIT:  4 August 2011
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 19
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:  Bread Pudding, Meatball Parm Sub, Steak and Cheese Sub, Italian Sub, Green Chile Bagel with Green Chile Schmear

L.A. Subs on Urbanspoon

Roma Bakery & Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque's downtown district.

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque’s downtown district.

Galdamez and Albertine.  If you saw those names on a building, you might expect to see them appended with “Attorneys at Law.”  That’s especially true if the building is in the area  immediately north of Albuquerque’s burgeoning downtown district, an area teeming with lawyers’ offices and bail bondsmen (is bondspeople the politically correct term?). Instead, the building in which Oscar Galdamez and Bruce Albertine ply their own noble trade houses a diminutive and charming dining establishment, Roma Bakery and Deli.  You won’t see their named displayed in any officious self-aggrandizement manner, but it’s a good bet you’ll get to know their names soon enough.

That’s because frequent return visits are imminent, especially for hungry patrons lucky enough to live or work close to the restaurant.  The Roma Bakery and Deli launched in the summer of 2006 and despite seating for only about 40 patrons, this comfy, cozy diner has established itself as a very popular dining destination.  Visit during the lunch hour and you’ll find yourself standing in a line that extends from the entrance to the counter at which you place your order.  There is no menu overhead, but most of the patrons don’t seem to need it.  That familiarity and the banter they exchange with Oscar and the genial staff means they’re regulars.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

While delicious, made-from-scratch food is the big draw, it doesn’t hurt any that Oscar and Bruce are as outgoing as any restaurateurs in town.  Oscar, who does the cooking and baking, is from El Salvador but don’t expect any pupusas on the menu any time soon.  He frequents  the Pupuseria Y Restaurante Salvadoreño for his pupuseria fix.  His restaurant launched four months after the popular pupuseria.

Finding a place to sit during the weekday lunch hour is a challenge so a lot of people call in to-go orders, sometimes for dozens of sandwiches.  An early lunch (or late breakfast), say at about 10 o’clock might be your best bet and if you’re not in a hurry, make sure to imbibe the ambiance.  The first thing you see when you walk in is a pastry case under glass in which colorful, delicious looking Central American pastries and cookies are put on display.  If you do succumb to the tasty temptations, you’ll be heartened to learn that these pastries don’t derive all their flavor from sugar as do many of their American counterparts.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

Instead, these goodies showcase other distinct tastes.  The prominent flavors on the orange raisin scones, for example, are the citrusy freshness of oranges and the sunny sweetness of sultana (golden raisins).  The coconut butter cookies are indeed buttery and studded with smoked coconut flakes (not unlike coconut macaroons which bear a surprising similarity in appearance), but I digress…

The walls are festooned with giclee prints of original Julie Maas pastels, all very reasonably priced.  Interspersed among the colorful giclees are paintings of automotive designed concepts from the 1960s, all painted by Miller Johnson, a retired automobile designer.   The building which houses restaurant still has old-fashioned windows which open and close with a crank handle.  It’s one of the deli’s charms, along with the worldly eclectic music which plays mostly upbeat and concordant tunes continuously.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

The menu features five deli-style sandwiches and two croissant sandwiches made on all-butter croissants made in-house.  Four salad options, a soup of the day (on Tuesdays, it’s Baja Lobster Bisque, a bisque spiced up with sauteed jalapeno and tomatoes with fresh cilantro tossed in) and two breakfast entrees (breakfast burrito and breakfast croissant) are also available, albeit served only until 10:30AM.  A chocolate chip cookie is served with every sandwich.  When you bite down on this cookie, you might forever swear off anything baked by an elf.  The chocolate practically oozes out with each heavenly bite. 

15 March 2007: Perhaps the most popular sandwich on the menu is the 5th Street Grilled Cubano, a slight departure from the traditional Cuban sandwich Duke City diners have embraced with a passion. This Cubano is crafted from tender marinated pork loin and Swiss cheese with fresh spinach, pickle and a Citrus dressing (a marinade of lime and orange juices, onion and garlic) all grilled on an in-house baked Roma baguette.  It is served warm and is as comforting and delicious a sandwich as you’ll find anywhere in the Duke City.  The freshly baked, just out-of-the-oven baguette (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside) is a perfect canvas for any sandwich, especially panini.  The citrus dressing, a tangy elixir may just transport you to Miami.

The Cubano

15 March 2007: Perhaps even better (if possible) is a sandwich called The Rostisado.  This beauty is crafted with slow-roasted beef, pepper Jack cheese, marinated Italian red peppers, lettuce and a proprietary Bistro sauce.  The roast beef is roasted on the premises (as are the pork and turkey) and it is piled high on a fresh-baked Roma French roll.  It’s a very tender roast beef which might just rekindle memories of mom’s pot roast.  The Italian peppers (roasted and marinated in oil and oregano) are so good, you might want to order a separate Italian red pepper salad (for a mere pittance more).

19 August 2014: Having an office within easy walking distance of the Roma Bakery & Deli is one of the very few perquisites of my Kim’s job.  Over the years she’s sampled virtually everything on the menu several times over.  She raves so much about the croissants that not having one was not an option for me.  The Southwest Tuna Croissant is the very best tuna-based sandwich I’ve had in New Mexico (and as my readers know, one of my life’s quests is to find a tuna sandwich equal to those in Massachusetts).  This one is close!  The tuna is as fresh as is possible and it’s not overwhelmed by mayo or salad cream.  Instead, it’s ameliorated with just enough finely chopped jalapeño peppers to earn its sobriquet and give the tuna a discernible punch without detracting from the freshness of the tuna.  Onion, cilantro and tomatoes are the only other ameliorants.  The croissant is buttery, soft and flaky (though not overly so).

The Southwest Tuna Croissant with Pasta Salad

A separate deli case displays the deli’s various salads, all of which appear as fresh and inviting as possible.  The Southwest Tuna Salad, a cool mound of the aforementioned tuna on a bed of fresh mixed greens, will forever be my choice after having experienced that tuna on a croissant.  The pasta salad, however, is no bride’s maid.  In a city where it may be impossible to find a good pasta salad, this is a great one.  Salads are available in small or regular sizes.  The soup-of-the-day is made daily from fresh ingredients.  Monday is green chile stew day, a cause for celebration in Albuquerque.

The name “Roma,” by the way, has nothing to do with the Italian city by that name or with the wine which once sponsored Championship Wrestling on Channel 7 (does anybody remember Cyclone Negro panning Duke City drunks?).  It has everything to do with being located on Roma Avenue.  The Roma Bakery & Deli is open on weekdays from 7AM to 2PM.  It’s closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Coconut Butter Cookies

This tiny gem has been called one of downtown’s best kept secrets.  Frankly, it’s far too good to be a secret.  This is the type of treasure the downtown revitalization folks and Albuquerque tourism should trumpet with pride.  Residents and tourists can’t live on chile alone.

Roma Bakery & Deli
501 Roma, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 843-9418
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 19 August 2014
1st VISIT: 15 March 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: The 5th Street Grilled Cubano, The Rostisado, Southwest Tuna Croissant, Pasta Salad, Red Pepper Deli Salad, Coconut Butter Cookies, Orange Raisin Scone, Pumpkin Empanaditas, Raspberry Margaritas,

Roma Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon