Although it’s changed hands since it opened in 1974, Zarri’s Delicatessen is still the old-fashioned deli that it’s been for years, the kind of no-nonsense sandwich place that every neighborhood needs. Open every day but Sunday, it’s a dependable spot to grab a fairly inexpensive sandwich and all the sides for a nice picnic. West of the BART tracks on the south side of Solano Ave. (1244), Zarri’s is mostly geared for take-out, but they do have one small table inside and one outside.
The building is looking pretty spiffy, and they recently replaced their old faded awning with a new sign. I recall that a 90-year-old man had driven a van into the front window a year ago, but I don’t know if that is necessarily connected to any of the remodeling that took place.*
Since it was a beautiful day, we were glad to snatch the outside table for three. Our timing was good too. Arriving just after noon, we beat the onslaught of Albany High kids who are clearly regulars there.
They have a wonderful selection of soft drinks and chips to accompany just about any kind of sandwich you can think of, as well as quite a few sweets to tempt you as you line up to pay at the cash register. They also have hot dogs, which is new since the last time I’d visited.
George is fond of the Po’ Boys, so he got one of those on a hard roll, which prompted a discussion on the impracticality of sandwiches on hard rolls. We agreed that all the goodies tend to slip right out the back unless you’re careful and hold on tight. I had an easier time eating my salami and pepper jack on light rye. (Light rye is one of those breads that I’d never buy a whole loaf of, but it’s perfect for a salami sandwich.) George commented on his potato salad: “It’s either worse than I remember, or my tolerance for potato salad is lower.”
My vocal disdain for potato salad in general emboldened George to ask me if I’d always hated mayonnaise or if there was some traumatic experience that explained my aversion. I had to admit that as a child my favorite lunch was a slice of bologna with Miracle Whip (that was my family’s version of mayo) on Wonder bread. But after eating bologna sandwiches for years, I suddenly realized at around age ten that all three of its components were vile, and I never had one again. Of course George makes his own mayo, which is probably light-years away from the Miracle Whip I ate in Oklahoma, but I see no good reason to start liking mayonnaise now. It’s probably the only really fattening thing I don’t like, so why risk a new habit that has the unwanted side effect of extra calories? Besides I love mustard, and with mustard around, who needs anything else?
Dave did not order wisely. Everyone knows that at a deli, you’re supposed to order something with cold cuts and pile on the cheese and veggies. Dave went for the BBQ tri-tip, which was just some beef on bread that had been slathered with BBQ sauce. It wasn’t bad, but Zarri’s is no barbecue joint. Poor Dave.
The beverage case was cool but not cold, so Dave’s bottle of root beer was not as frosty as he’d hoped. In an effort to lower its temperature, he asked for a cup of ice, but they don’t have any ice. I guess since they don’t have a soda fountain, they don’t need ice, but it still seemed a bit odd.
Despite the heat, Dave made do with his less-than-frosty root beer.
Zarri’s has friendly service, lots of options, and that nice small-town Albany feel.
*For more on that story, see http://patch.com/california/albany/van-smashes-into-zarris-deli–misses-customer-by-seconds#.VBOKyfldWSo