Know before you go: John Viviano & Sons' sandwich counter is cash only.
Survey a handful of friends and coworkers about their favorite sandwich shop on The Hill, and you'll get a roster of delis, grocers and shops specializing in tasty and satisfying Italian classics. However, I would be surprised if anyone mentioned the small sandwich counter tucked away in the back of John Vivano & Sons that opened with little fanfare last summer. This is a shame, because in a neighborhood seemingly awash in salsiccia and crusty bread loaves of Italian bread, Vivano's is offering up their own take on the sandwich; and they're building it around halves of golden-toasted muffaletta roll.
Make your way past a lineup of Mob-themed sandwiches (Wise Guy’s dig The Soprano – pan-fried eggplant, mozzarella, Roma tomato and basil), pause to give a long appreciative look at a stacked Sophia Loren (cracked black pepper turkey, Swiss and a spicy chipotle mayo) and then settle on the appropriately titled Meatball Sandwich, a payload of Vivano's signature meatballs and meat sauce, sliced in half, topped with gooey Provel and loaded into a round muffaletta roll.
True to its name, this is meatball sandwich, not a meatball hero. The difference may seem trivial, but there is a difference. Instead of lining up meatballs along the length of a hero roll, the muffaletta allows slices of meatball to be layered and stacked before being sandwiched together. The chewy nature of the roll makes this a perfect choice for a to-go meal (actually, every order here is to-go), because it slowly absorbs tomato sauce without completely disintegrating as you make your way back to the office for lunch, ensuring a meal that may require some extra napkins but won’t let you down.
John Viviano & Sons, 5139 Shaw Ave., The Hill, 314.771.5476, shopviviano.com
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