Pittsburgh needs more great delis. Seriously, every neighborhood should have at least one.
How is it possible that there’s no longer a deli on Squirrel Hill’s main drag? Greenfield also had a brush with deli greatness: Remember Szmidt’s Old World Deli, now gone?
But rather than mourn the lost delis of long ago, we’re here to point you toward the truly noteworthy ones you can find around town right now.
Here are 10 of our favorites. If we haven’t mentioned one that you love, tell us about it in the comments below or on our Facebook page. (We’re defining deli as a place that slices meat, sells sandwiches and is generally thought of as a deli — although that does eliminate one of our very favorites, the Pear and the Pickle, which calls itself a cafe but includes a great deli.)
Smallman Street Deli, Strip District
In the Strip, where you’re as likely to encounter a robot-operated car as a human-driven one, there’s a classic deli that’s as low-tech and old-school as it gets. Corned beef, pastrami and roast beef are all made on the spot, using recipes that haven’t changed since 1958. You can’t miss with the Pastrami Deli Burger or the Smallman Street Reuben. They also do a great (and giant) Grilled Chicken Sandwich. (The only drawback is figuring out how to get it in your mouth.) Their website makes the claim, “The Best Food in Pittsburgh” — I believe that’s called chutzpah. The food is actually great, though — fresh, hearty and filling. Their long-time Squirrel Hill location is now closed, unfortunately.
Rocchio’s Italian Deli, Dormont
Is Dormont the local deli capital? With Fredo’s (see below) and Rocchio’s across the street from each other, you can barely walk down Potomac Avenue without someone handing you a sandwich. Go to Rocchio’s on Fridays to get the Basile Hot Stuffed Banana Pepper sandwich, with hot sausage from Labriola’s Italian Market on a fresh Mancini’s sausage roll — a big, delicious mess of a sandwich. On Thursdays, there are hefty pasta and meatball bowls for the lunch rush. They’ve also got excellent gelato and sweet things from Kraina Pastries.
Fredo’s Deli, Dormont
Balkan specialties like cevapi sausages (made with beef and veal) are the main draw here. Try the sudjukice — four spicy sausage links on homemade bread. Fredo’s also has a full menu of hoagies, with all the classics represented. A favorite: the Sicilian with prosciutto, spicy capicola, hard salami, provolone and roasted red peppers. They also do panini, chicken wings and gyros, along with a wide selection of imported European snacks and groceries.
S&D Polish Deli, Strip District
First off, it’s a disgrace that Pittsburgh has so few Polish restaurants. Luckily, S&D doesn’t take their lack of competition as a reason to get lazy. This is the place to go for a fantastic smoked kielbasy sandwich with sauerkraut. They’ve also got expertly made pierogies in all the classic varieties. Go for the kraut and mushroom or the farmer’s cheese and potato pierogies, then stay for the Polish kitsch on sale in the adjacent store. Bonus: You can get all the Polish sausage your heart desires to go with it for an extremely satisfying meal.
Groceria Merante, Oakland
In the neighborhood where many students opt to live during college and after graduating, Groceria Merante remains a constant. Celebrating its 40th year, this charming time capsule from the pre-supermarket era is packed to the rafters with Italian everything, from prosciutto to pasta to homemade hot sausage. Their giant $5 Italian hoagies, piled high with pepperoni, mortadella and hot peppers, are a rite of passage for a semester in Oakland. You can also pick up fresh produce like peaches and watermelons, along with cooking staples like olive oil and balsamic vinegar.