It's Not a Deli (986 Queen West, at Ossington, 416-532-4748) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a cold drink. Open daily 11 am to 9 pm (hours may change; call for details). Licence pending. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Not a Deli is a funky four-month-old addition to ever-more-gentrified Queen West. It seems chef and co-owner Eddy Dellaforesta was driven to proprietorship after being put through the creative-spirit-crushing grinder of hotel kitchens. The kind-of art gallery's grand opening specials include a panini sandwich, a huge side soup or salad and beverage for $7.50. These combos need to remain as permanent options.
The Canadian (all sandwiches are $5 á la carte) is a quirky, tasty mix of smoked turkey, roast beef, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, honey mustard and the cultural marker: maple-syrup mayo.
The Sicilian is equally hearty and satisfying, with mortadella, capicollo, provolone, roma tomatoes and Not a Deli's pesto mayo, which we couldn't taste.
The Greek is the classic salad served on bread with ham but no lettuce, and the Three Cheese Tuna Melt is a high-fat delight made juicy with mayo, provolone, Swiss and bocconcini.
Potato Salad Americana (all salads small $4, large $7) is comfort food at its best. Tiny, firm potato pieces plus pickles, celery and red pepper give texture to this creamy deli standard.
Mixed Bean Medley should use dried beans instead of canned so the salad could be dressed while still warm. Then it wouldn't have to be so drowned in vinaigrette.
At 7 pm, Dellaforesta wasn't comfortable serving us a soup that had been on the stove all day, because it would be too concentrated the mark of a chef who is proud of his food.
And he makes a finer tiramisu ($4.75) than can be had at most places a few streets north!