Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats

The sense of smell, more than any of our other senses, influences our ability to recall past events and experience. From among the five senses, fragrance is considered the most potent medium for conjuring up memories. True enough, some of the most enduring sensory memories of my years in the Boston area are reawakened thanks to the amazing aromas that greet me each time I visit Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats on San Mateo. It is with increased rarity that you find an authentic Italian deli which greets you at the door with the incomparable aroma of pastas, meatballs or sausages simmering in a perfect marriage of tomato sauce, garlic, basil and oregano.  It’s also rare to find an Italian kitchen equally practiced at preparing outstanding pasta dishes and Italian meats.

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats is then indeed an anachronism because it does capture you before the door with wafting odoriferous emanations that bid you welcome and which have a Pavlovian effect on your taste buds.  The Camuglia family–John, Jerry and Johnny–has owned and operated this memory triggering deli since 1970, in the process creating new and wonderful memories for the legions of patrons who frequent their deli.

Tully’s “dining room”

Tully’s is ensconced in a time-worn strip mall on San Mateo, but could easily pass for an Italian deli in Soprano country, upstate New Jersey or my former home outside of Boston.  Shelves are stocked with large and small cans and jars of various Italian groceries as well as domestic and imported olive oils and specialty pastas.  Prominent on those shelves are jars of Tully’s house-made marinara sauces, source of those oh-so-enticing memory enticing aromas.

A freezer showcases some of Tully’s frozen entrees such as meatballs, chicken marsala, chicken parmesan, chicken picatta and some of the city’s very best lasagna. The freezer also displays such tantalizing treasures as veal, lamb and even rabbit. It’s hard to believe that when the Camuglias assumed ownership of Tully’s, it was solely a meat market.  In its annual food and wine issue for 2011, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded Tully’s a “Hot Plate Award” as the “Hot Take Home” deli Albuquerque can’t live without.

The Italian Sausage Sub

The Italian Sausage Sub

In the spirit and tradition of many East Coast Italian delis, Tully’s also features imported and domestic meats and cheeses, showcasing Boar’s Head brand products.  Boar’s Head prides itself in artisanal meats and cheeses produced in time-honored old-world methods.  Tully’s honors those methods by making their own hot and sweet Italian sausages, all ground from 100-percent pork enhanced with traditional spices and herbs.  Sausages range from the simple to the sublime–real gourmet sausages that will enhance any meal.

Tully’s take-out business is robust and the heart of the operation, but many savvy patrons also have a filling and delicious lunch at their favorite deli before heading home with their treasures.  At the counter, they encounter a menu which just might be the envy of every sandwich shop in town, a menu featuring an array of sensational sandwiches, some named for glitterati of Italian heritage.  Who can refuse an Al Pacino (capocollo ham, Genoa salami, provolone and Italian dressing) or a Sinatra, sure to hit the right note with imported Parma prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, lettuce and tomato on a homemade roll?

Meat Ball Subs

There are eighteen sandwiches on the menu, more than half of which are available at half-sub size.  The subs which require heating are generally not available at half-sub size.  Available toppers include sliced black olives, sliced pickles, sliced banana peppers, tapenade, guacamole and bacon.  Sandwiches are about a dollar south of ten dollars and are accompanied by a cup of potato salad or a bag of potato chips.

31 December 2008: While the cold meat sandwiches entice with a siren-like call, my Boston-based beckoning is often for sub sandwiches engorged with tomato sauce and seasoning adorned meatballs or sausage, the type of sub of which I consumed by the boatload in Boston. The Italian Sausage Sub and the Meat Ball Sub call loudest.  The Sausage Sub features homemade Italian sausage “cooked in mom’s marinara sauce with melted mozzarella on a homemade roll.”  This is a humongous sandwich, easily big enough for two to share (not that you’d want to).  It’s also a messy sandwich which will redden your fingers and drip onto your clothing if you’re not careful.  Ditto for the Meat Ball Sub, six homemade meatballs nestled in a homemade sandwich roll and slathered with marinara sauce with melted mozzarella.  The meat balls are an amalgam of beef and pork with just enough filler to bind them.  They’re seasoned with garlic and oregano in just the right amount.

The Sicilian (For All You Good Sicilian Boys): Mortadella, Capocolla Ham, Domestic Prosciutto, Provolone and Italian Dressing on a homemade roll

31 December 2008: When the menu at an Italian deli reads “sausage,” you don’t always know what to expect.  In some cases, a sausage sandwich features sliced links and in others, the sausage is ground almost like hamburger.  At Tully’s, the sausage (at least on the sub) is reminiscent of breaded chicken Parmesan.  It’s semi-flat and lightly breaded, but beneath that breading and under that marinara is a well-seasoned sausage that’s flavorful, filling and fabulous.  The potato salad is flecked with red peppers and pickles and isn’t dripping in salad cream as some potato salad seems to be.  Alas, cup-size amounts to about three or four spoons full.  You’ll want more.

13 October 2012: From among the cold subs listed on both the “house specialties” and “traditional favorites” sections of the menu, one of the best is The Sicilian (for all you good Sicilian Boys).  That, by the way, is a Tully’s caption.  All sandwiches have clever captions.  The Sicilian is made with mortadella (an Italian cured sausage seasoned with pepper and garlic), capacolla ham (a pork-derived cured ham), domestic prosciutto, provolone and Italian dressing on a homemade roll.  The Italian dressing is applied generously, rendering the sandwich moist on a bread roll which absorbs it well.

The “Joe DiMaggio”

23 September 2015: In Simon & Garfunkle’s 1968 number one hit Mrs Robinson, the American folk rock duo asked the puissant question “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?”  The lyrics both perplexed and bothered The Yankee Clipper until a chance meeting with Paul Simon.  Simon explained the lyrics were sincerely intended as flattery and essentially were intended to ask “where have all the heroes gone.”  A better answer to the question might be “Joe DiMaggio is alive, well and delicious at Tully’s.” 

The Joe DiMaggio is an Italian sub described by my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, as “the absolute best Italian Sub I have ever had.”  A spry septuagenarian with the youthful vigor of a twenty-something, Larry knows a thing or a million about subs.  So do I.  This is an outstanding mountain of a sandwich (pastrami, ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, black olives, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and Italian dressing stacked on a whole or half sub roll).  The designer of this delicious deli sandwich deserves a raise.  It’s not enough that the Joe DiMaggio is packed with ingredients.  Those ingredients go together as well as milk and cookies or chocolate and…chocolate.

31 December 2008: On lazy days when you don’t want to cook or perhaps when you want to spoil yourself, let pasta pamper you.  Pick up a lasagna from Tully’s freezer.  It’s layers and layers of pasta sandwiching pork and beef all slathered with marinara sauce and topped with two melted cheeses and several complementary spices.  This is lasagna the way it’s made in some Boston area restaurants, those specializing in red meat sauces.  It’s lasagna which imbues your kitchen with those memory inducing aromas you’ll treasure. 

There are few things in life more satisfying than a sandwich at Tully’s, but it’s possible to improve on your Tully’s experience by walking a few feet south to Saratori’s Di Tully, an Italian pastry shop that will remind East Coast transplants of Italian pastry shops in New York.

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats
1425-A San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 255-5370
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 23 September 2015
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Lasagna, Sausage Sub, Potato Salad, The Sicilian, Meat Ball Sub, The Joe DiMaggio

Tully's Italian Deli & Meats on Urbanspoon

Times Square Deli Mart – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Times Square Deli Mart on Yale and Central

Father Mark Schultz, the charismatic priest at the San Antonio De Padua church in Penasco, jokes that the reason Catholics are required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays is not because there’s a shortage of cows. That’s certainly true. There is more beef on the (cloven) hoof in America than there are tax-paying citizens.  That’s why it’s always puzzled me that sandwich restaurants in New Mexico are so chintzy with their meat (beef, lamb or pork) portions. You’d think there really was a meat shortage (and an excess of bread and lettuce) considering the the typical Albuquerque restaurant sandwich is comprised of thin shards of meat buried under half a head of lettuce and enough bread to choke a mule.

In the American megalopolises of Chicago and New York, sandwiches are piled skyscraper high with meat and it’s not a figment of your imagination when you actually experience the flavor of bovine, porcine or ovine amidst the constituent parts of a sandwich. You’d think Chicago and New York were closer to cattle ranches than New Mexico is, but I digress. This is a review of the Times Square Deli Mart right here in Albuquerque. <

The menu at Times Square Deli Mart

That’s Times Square as in the crossroads of the world, as in Midtown Manhattan, as in the iconic landmark area that has become synonymous with the neon-spangled glitz and glamor of advertising to its Disneyesque excess.  Several of New York City’s very best and most famous delis, including the Carnegie Deli, are situated at the north end of  Times Square.   One commonality among those delis is the profound portions of meat.  Massive mounds of meat are piled high into each and every sandwich. The sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli, for example, are gargantuan, most topping the scales at one and a half pounds–and they don’t look like a salad burying a measly piece of meat.

When Carey Smoot, the erstwhile proprietor of the fabulous Downtown Gourmet and one of my most trusted foodie friends told me about the Times Square Deli Mart, the “Doubting Thomas” in me wondered if the name was as much, if not more, audacity than authenticity.  Was this really be a Meaty Mecca or another pastrami pretender?  Still, Carey has never steered me wrong, not when recommending the right cheese for a gourmet meal and not when recommending a restaurant.

The Times Square Deli Mart certainly has the pedigree to deliver where other delis have fallen short and not just in terms of quantity.  That pedigree includes familial ownership of six delis in New York, one in Florida and since May 21st, 2007, in a strip shopping center on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Yale in Albuquerque.

Manny, the man behind the counter

The man behind the counter at the Times Square Deli Mart is Manny Neshewat, the family patriarch.  An avuncular Jordanian who greets everyone like a long-time friend, Manny has found a home, a place he loves in Albuquerque.  He tried his hand at retirement in Florida then in Arizona, but after decades of working at a breakneck pace, he couldn’t make himself sleep in past six or so.

Three years after moving to Albuquerque, he and Helen, his better half, returned to the business they love–managing a combination deli and convenience store, the likes of which are commonplace in New York, but rare in New Mexico.  Within a year, they also launched the Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery about a mile east of the Times Square Deli Mart.  The reason it took that long is because the landlord was hesitant about yet another food business opening in an area replete with restaurants.

Despite prominent signage and an abbreviated menu posted by the entrance, you might not even recognize that the deli is open because there are bars on all windows and even on the door.  Step past that door and what stands out immediately are aisles of convenience goods, refrigerators stocked with assorted libations and behind a long counter, racks of cigarettes.

A black and white cookie

On that counter, you’ll also find fruits and pastries including baklava and the oh, so New York black and white cookie.  At least it’s a cookie in name.  Texture-wise, it’s more cake-like than it is a cookie.  It’s soft like a sponge shortbread cake, but it’s shaped like a cookie which is iced on one half with vanilla fondant and on the other hand by dark chocolate fondant.

The black and white cookie became a pop culture icon during an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry Seinfeld utters the sagacious phrase “look to the cookie” in his analogy of race relations.  A New York City transplant bakes these cookies and others specially for the Times Square Deli Mart.  You’ve got to try one.

The deli portion of the complex is on the southwest corner of the capacious store, but the aroma emanating from that corner permeates its every square inch…and it’s a great aroma, the melding of spices, meats and cheeses.  It’s an aroma familiar to anyone who’s lived on the east coast. It’s the aroma of a New York City deli.

The Italian Combo

The reason the aroma is so New York-like is the Neshewats have many of their products flown in from New York City.  One exception is the bread which is baked for them by the TLC Bakery on Osuna.  It’s an excellent sandwich bread.  The crust is hard-crusted, but not overly so.  The inside of the bread is soft, but not pillowy.  It’s chewy without being gummy.  Best of all, it’s delicious and it holds up well against sauces and meats without turning soggy.  It’s got the New York sandwich bread texture and taste.  It’s the perfect canvas for an excellent sandwich.

The Italian Combo is a good Litmus test for any bread and for me, a test of the Times Square Deli Mart’s “New Yorkness.”  The Italian combo includes Genoa salami, Capicola ham, pepperoni, Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, oregano and Italian dressing on a ten or six inch sub roll.

The Italian Combo isn’t skyscraper high as I’ve had in some New York City delis, but contrary to a Bowflex commercial spouting “size matters,” the real size of this sandwich is in its flavor.  This sandwich has big flavor.  Much of that comes from the balance of flavors in the meats, particularly the Capicola and its light, delicate flavor and the more intensely seasoned (garlic, peppercorns, fennel, red wine) Genoa Salami, but the Italian dressing and thinly sliced onions contribute, too.  The hot peppers turn out to be jalapenos.

The Coney Island

Since leaving Boston in 1979, it’s been my one of life’s quests to find a pastrami sandwich and a tuna sub to compare with those with which I fell in love in the east coast.  Pastrami in New York City and Boston tends to be fairly well marbled (translation: fatty as preferred by lifelong pastrami devotees such as Ed Koch, the former mayor of Metropolis), steamed to softness and piled high.  The pastrami is piled into a medium cut grilled rye with a crisp crust and soft insides.

The Times Square Deli Mart doesn’t serve a pastrami sandwich per se, but pastrami is an integral component in two sandwich offerings, the “Made in Heaven” Ruben Grill and the “Coney Island.” The Coney Island starts off with pastrami (or corned beef) to which is added melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and hot mustard on grilled rye bread.  It’s an excellent sandwich with pastrami piled high, but not quite as fatty as Mayor Koch (or I) would have liked.  Pastrami is actually piled above and below the sauerkraut, a nice touch.

Sandwiches are accompanied by your choice of coleslaw, macaroni salad or potato salad.  Most sandwiches are just slightly more than the five dollar sandwiches offered by Subway but they’re infinitely better.

Baklava from the Times Square Deli Mart

The shelves are stocked with dessert options, but you should renounce your membership in the foodie club if you don’t try both the aforementioned black and white cookie and baklava. The baklava is replete with finely chopped pistachios which balance well with the sweetness of the honey amidst layers of phyllo dough.

The Times Square Deli Mart may be as close to New York City as most of us get a chance to frequent. We’re grateful for that opportunity.

Times Square Deli Mart
2132 Central Avenue, S.E., Suite C
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-0809
LATEST VISIT:8 November 2008
BEST BET: Coney Island, Italian Combo, Baklava, Black and White Cookie

Times Square Deli on Urbanspoon

Deli Mart West – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The Deli Mart, a feast for the senses!

The Deli Mart, a feast for the senses is much missed!

The human capacity for developing attachments can be a bit of a conundrum. Although my very being is eternally rooted in New Mexico, returning to America in 1987 after three years in England made me feel as if I had left my home behind.

Similarly after two years in Massachusetts, I returned in 1979 to my beloved New Mexico with a huge hole in my heart, pining for so many things about my first home as an adult.

Shelves stocked with wonderful products at Deli Mart

Shelves stocked with delightful treasures at Deli Mart

One of the things I missed most about the Bay State was the tremendously creative things that could be generously crammed inside a sub (make that “grinder”) roll. The polished art of crafting a sensational stuffed sandwich had not made its way to the Land of Enchantment.

I commiserated frequently with my great friend, New York native Adelchi Parisella who also longed for the incomparable sandwiches uniquely fashioned in the East Coast. Fortunately in 1980, we discovered Deli Mart, a New York style deli and market on Juan Tabo just north of Menaul.

The lingering aroma of fine deli meats and cheeses was so familiar, our olfactory senses went into overdrive trying to ingest them all. The well-stocked shelves offered culinary treasures to please chefs of all skill levels and the menu was replete with sandwiches with which we had both been intimate.

Muffalatta sans bread

A classic Italian sandwich with housemade mozzarella

Best of all, Deli Mart served a more than passable pastrami sandwich, albeit not as generously endowed as those I came to love on the East Coast and (gasp) served with lettuce and mayo.

The Juan Tabo store closed in the early 1990s, but Kim and I were fortunate enough to build a home in Albuquerque’s West side, a scant mile or so from the Alameda West Shopping Center home of the city’s second Deli Mart.

Italian wedding soup

Italian wedding soup

The menu features than 20 appetite sating sandwiches as well as several hot entrees such as lasagna, pasta fazool, baked ziti and manicotti. Fromage fanatics can feast on more than 60 cheeses from all over the world as well as on a fine selection of imported meats, olives, pastas, olive oils and such domestic favorites as potato salad and macaroni salad. If you’re craving cannolis or Italian pastries, Deli Mart has those, too.

I have both words of praise and condemnation for the lasagna–praise because it has all the elements shared by the best lasagna: wide strips of Barilla pasta layered with rich, creamy ricotta; savory homemade marinara and, since you can’t have enough cheese, a velvety mozzarella and Romano cheese.

Baked ziti

Baked ziti

My complaint is that the first time we had it, we were told to heat a take-out order of lasagna for six minutes when four minutes would have been enough. Remarkably even though the pasta and sauce desiccated on the edges, it was still some of the best lasagna we’ve had in the Land of Enchantment (as much a compliment to Deli Mart as an indictment of Italian food in New Mexico).

Deli Mart also serves hearty, wholesome soup, the type you might see a picture of if you look up the term “comfort food.” One of the most popular is wedding soup replete with hand-rolled meatballs, orzo and spinach in a chicken broth. Maybe even better is the cream of broccoli soup which will warm the cockles of your heart and goes down oh so smoothly.

Eight- and twelve-inch sandwiches are probably the most popular take-out or dine-in items. New Orleans transplants might consider it sacrilege to see a muffaletta prepared on a sub roll instead of the traditional round muffaletta bread and would probably have a coronary to see Deli Mart substitute the olive spread with relish and Italian dressing, but I’ve had a couple of them and certify them as more than passable. Adkins Diet proponents can even have their muffaletta sans bread (pictured above).

More than 25 years have now elapsed since I lived in Massachusetts, but frequent visits to Deli Mart trigger memory inducing experiences that take me back to my youth and my introduction to sandwich nirvana.

Deli Mart West
10131 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 13 August 2007
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pasta Fazool, Muffaletta, Pastrami Sub, Cannoli