You would be forgiven if your initial response to another sub shop opening in Rochester was an eye roll and a groan. Stand anywhere with your eyes closed, spin around and point, and chances are you'd hit some iteration of a restaurant selling subs, often along with pizza and/or chicken wings. But after visiting Calabresella's on Park, you might leave believing in the sandwich as gustatory pinnacle, and your response might be something like, "What took them so long?!"
Calabresella's does not make pizza. Calabresella's does not make wings. Calabresella's does, however, focus keenly on making some of the freshest, most interesting, bursting-with-flavor sandwiches you'll find anywhere. Calabresella's elevates the humble sub into something sublime.
Will Mammoliti, who runs Calabresella's on Park, explained that the deli's origins go back to his grandfather's business, International Imports, which occupied Bull's Head Plaza in the mid-1960s. That business moved to Gates in 1974, where the original Calabresella's (an homage to family roots in Calabria, Italy) was born and has since anchored space -- owned by Will's father, Dominic, since 1992 -- on Buffalo Road. As the Mammolitis sought a return to the city, Will grew enamored with the Park Avenue building that formerly housed Great Harvest Bread. After purchasing and renovating it, Calabresella's on Park opened in May.
To be sure, Calabresella's does prepare traditional -- yet uncommonly delicious -- cold subs, with fresh, often local, high-quality ingredients. The roast beef comes from local purveyor Red Osier, and the sopressata is an authentic Calabrian-style salami. Other deli meats come from Boar's Head, and all of them can be sliced into cold cuts and taken home. For those who don't want to eat meat, the Super Veggie sub includes fresh vegetables, marinated artichokes, marinated mushrooms, and roasted red peppers.
Calabresella's sources its rolls from Gaetano's Bakery, and subs are available in three sizes: large (13-inch), small (8-inch), and mini (6-inch), and in wraps, which include spinach, tomato-basil, and wheat. Homemade egg salad, tuna salad, olive salad, antipasto salad, and tortellini are made daily.
Few things trigger involuntary drooling for me like anticipating a well-crafted sub of Italian meats. Local icon DiBella's has cornered that market for me for years. To see how Calabresella's measured up, eating an Italian assorted sub ($11 large, $9 small, $7 mini, and $7.95 for a wrap) was essential research. Crammed with ham, salami, capicola, and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, banana peppers, pepper jack cheese, and drizzled with seasoned oil, this sub was every bit the worthy competitor of DiBella's.
But the stars of the show here are the signature hot subs, which are elegant in simplicity, robust in coalescence of flavors. One of Calabresella's best-selling subs is one of the tastiest (and messiest) hot subs I've had: The Colon Kicker ($13.50 large, $11 small, $8 mini, and $7.95 for a wrap). Thinly-sliced, lean, grilled steak traded punches in my mouth with thinly-sliced, spicy capicola. I savored mine with imported Provolone, grilled onions, and Frank's Red Hot sauce, all plentifully stuffed inside the flattop-grilled roll that serves as the envelope for all hot subs, which are also all finished with sprinkled Parmesan. The resulting synergy a taste explosion of drippy deliciousness -- a multiple-napkin affair.
Thankfully, Calabresella's strategically places stacks of napkins across the curved counter in front of the large windows that allow diners to gaze out onto the Park/Goodman intersection. Napkins also appear on each of the nine tables, as well as the few outdoor tables. Calabresella's also employs a simple but clever customer- and environmentally-friendly innovation: for wrapping leftovers, a stack of large aluminum foil squares (not Styrofoam boxes) sits on a table near the center of the deli.
Popular and prevalent in the Buffalo area, the fried bologna sandwich ($12 large, $10 small, $7 mini, and $7.95 for a wrap) most often holds a thick slab of the lunchmeat. Not at Calabresella's, where delicate slices, charred from the grill, are folded neatly into the rolls. I chose to order it in its simplest form, with only spicy mustard (traditional yellow and honey mustard are also available) as an accoutrement, along with the sprinkled Parmesan. There's also a fried bologna and egg sandwich, along with a host of other breakfast sandwich options and coffee, for the morning crowd.
Another sub on the menu has a backstory. Dominic grew up with four siblings, so eating could be competitive. One time too few meatballs were left over to make the meatball sub he was craving, so he complemented the remaining meatballs with leftover Italian sausage. Thus was born the tongue-in-cheek "Italian Stallion" ($12 large, $10 small, $7 mini, and $7.95 for a wrap), which includes custom-made Italian sausage, Nonna's meatballs, homemade red sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
The Royale ($12 large, $10 small, $7 mini, and $7.95 for a wrap) includes that same sausage, along with grilled capicola; I had mine with grilled onions, pepper jack, and spicy mustard. This combination of distinct flavors melded marvelously: salty, spicy, and scrumptious.
Calabresella's pays attention to detail and pampers sandwiches -- the attractive presentation of all subs speaks to that -- and people. Dominic and Will have made friendliness and familiarity with customers a staple. Other staples, among many Italian specialties, are such local delicacies as hot dogs and dog treats from Zweigles; Country Sweet sauces; Fiz soda; Frank's Lemon Italian Ice; baked goods from Leo's, Cheesy Eddies, and Special Touch Bakery; arancini from Mama Napoli, and Will's own creation, Will's Dills pickles.