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,

Tired of reheating last night's dinner for lunch? Every Monday, food writer Andrew Mark Veety guides you to some of the best midday meals in the St. Louis region, with great places to bring clients or enjoy an outing with your co-workers. Missed one of his columns? Check them out here.

Catch Andrew on the air every Tuesday at 1:25pm on the Big 550 KTRS' Martin Kilcoyne Show, where he continues the conversation on his weekly lunch picks!


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