Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kenosha's Italian Deli's

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-The Italian Influence on Kenosha, WI

It's time to check out the Italian-American deli's found in an old town favorite of mine. I'm already quoted as being a big fan of Kenosha and its old school not much has changed bars and restaurants. Its got quite a few good eating spots for your typical lunch fare and other fun stuff too. Kenosha had a big Italian presence that can still be found and that's obvious with three local Italian delis that have been around to serve the residents of Kenosha with some great supplies for their refrigerator and belly. Here are three spots you should most definitely check out if in the area or headed thru. These are your go to grocers. With football season coming keep these spots in mind. The first stop is Tenuta's.

a locals favorite in Kenosha, WI

I'm a big fan of Tenuta's which is a Kenosha tradition. It you are in the area consider it is a must stop. Where else in the world can you get some olive oil from Sardinia, a Dominican hand rolled cigar, some fresh homemade sausage, Imported cheese from Italy, olives from Greece and a a keg of Spotted Cow all in one swoop? They have everything here. I could spend the day filling up cart after cart with goods that are stacked to the wall in what is a small warehouse inside. I like to buy various six packs of micro brews from Wisconsin you cant find in Chicago as well as Italian groceries and all sorts of goodies from their deli counter and ready to eat hot food sections. Its the Italian version of Wal-Mart with some Wisconsin roots (alcohol, all sorts and lots of it) mixed in. Lets take a virtual tour around, but please do note, this aint half of it.

Goodie Bags of Liquor nips...nice

Tenuta's has a great selection of beer incl. all WI microbrews

There are aisles of Wine from all over the world, amazing selection

Cigars have their own wall as first walk in

If it's a specific type of Italian dried pasta...they got it

I'm a big fan of their giardinera spread, which is finely diced

Olive lovers beware...

Bins like these fill up every available space

The Deli counter extends into an aisle of its own

Dried sausage Kings

Cheese shouldn't be hard to find...'s all over the store in various forms

Salami selection is overwhelming

Non Italian Deli meats are available as well

The hot foods are great...

...there's always a team of people making food in back

Deserts too, they make it all

Housemade Italian cookies

Tenuta's isn't all groceries and liquors for your fridge however. Many people stop in for lunch or dinner without ever cooking anything themselves. That's because Tenuta's does it all. Of course their sausage is made in house with their own age old family recipe. You can get sausage sandwiches, grilled to order as well as made in house pastas. I'm a big fan of the homemade meat lasagna which sold by the piece to go from the deli counter and their popular Muffaletta's. I still haven't gotten around to trying their beef bombers but the meatball bomber is very good and one of my favorite sandwiches there. If it's summertime or nice enough outside to where they have the grill going, then you gotta get a sausage sandwich from there. make sure to get the hot pepper spread which is like a relish of giardinera. Tenuta's, a Kenosha tradition, happy to show y'all some of the reasons why.

Tenuta's meatball bomber

Muffaletta piece from Tenuta's

Meat lasagna from the Deli


Grilled Sausage Sandwich with Hot pepper spread

Tenuta's might be the biggest Italian grocer out that way but that doesn't mean there arent a few more around town. There are a couple of other old school Italian corner delis that have been doing it up in Kenosha for some time. I really like both of them and continue to explore their menus but I couldn't hold on this story any longer. Expect too see more stuff to eat from these next two Italian deli's soon in the "Five more..." series. The first one we'll visit is Lenci's.

Siting on the corner it has all the looks of an old school neighborhood favorite

Lenci's isnt nearly as big as Tenuta's but as the sign says its been around since 1965 and on the day's I have visited they had a steady amount of traffic from neighborhood people walking and ordering food from the back. Upon entry there's the cash register and some fresh fruits and veggies with some grocery items. Then along the walk back there's some refrigerated cases, dry goods and a deli counter with a kitchen in back. The menu for food prepared there is large. Another thing all these delis have in common is young kids most likely in high school working at them. I'm fine with that as its like that way throughout America.

Start of the menu

Middle of it

End of the menu with the party packages missing

Lenci's bottled giardineria

So my first plan was to get a burger but then I asked the kids working what was their most popular sandwich? He said "oh we easily sell more beef bombers than anything else by far" Then I thought was maybe the kid is lazy and doesn't wanna make me anything that takes time and a beef bomber is the easiest thing to prepare. I also wasn't sure about this whole Italian beef bomber thing I see at all these Italian delis in Kenosha. I've been everywhere for an Italian beef in Chi and I wasn't expecting much from these places. But I ordered it anyway b/c I was curious what the history is with the bomber sandwich in Kenosha, seems to be their own little signature regional sandwich. At first glance it wasn't really appealing to me. I much prefer my Italian beef sliced extra thin. But this isn't a Chi style beef, its a Kenosha beef bomber. So I dug in and was greatly surprised. The beef was about as tender as it can get and it fell apart upon contact while the bread stood up to the aus jus and held it all together. It was a nice treat and for someone who loves beef's as much as I do.

Lenci's beef bomber with hot giardineria

Then there's Mac's Deli which has been around as an ice cream stand on the corner in 1937. It was in 1946 that the original founder, Lino, opened an ice cream parlor where the deli is today. Eventually hot food was added to the menu and today they are still going strong with a third generation of the family taking over the helm. Take another look at why Kenosha has some real eating treats.

Another local Italian Deli favorite in Kenosha

On my 1st trip to Mac's I stopped in having just ate a bunch of food. I wanted to scope it out and grab a water for the ride home. The foot traffic was flowing and it looked like a great neighborhood spot and I knew I'd be back. Spending some time in WI isn't something I don't do, so I was back there quickly. I started off with a meatball bomber with cheese and hot peppers and brought it outside to their nice little dining area. I first noticed that the meatballs were done in patty like form and she (the owner) later explained we do that so they aren't popping out in each bite and it makes sense. Sandwiches are available in 6 and 9 inch portions. This was an excellent meatball, one of the best I have had anywhere. The bread comes from an old Italian bakery just across the street. I left knowing I'd be back for another one of them soon.

Mac's meatball bomber

A sign I saw as I left, so I headed back in

So I went back in and the wonderful owner asked me what the deal was, why was I still hungry? I told her that I just saw the sign and now I have to try another one of their famous sandwiches. She laughed as I ordered up a roast beef bomber from her workers at the deli counter. When she came outside to see how I liked it, she explaining to me the cooking process of the beef. It takes them two days to cook theirs and they basically shred it and or pull it apart as thinly as you can. It has a great gravy flavor to it and would be a regular on my menu if I was in the area. I thought about going on a hunt for best beef bomber in Kenosha but I think I ended up finding it before the search even began.

Mac's Kenosha style beef bomber

The ultra friendly owner then told me that they also make the corned beef the same way as always and insisted she bring one out for me to try. I couldn't say no to free food. She explained some people don't like that we use they use the bakery across the streets bread and not rye for these so they are turned off. Others have been going there and ordering a 'pastrami' for their whole lives a few times a week. It's dipped in an au jus and I thought it was awesome. She just brought it out so it didn't have any toppings but they weren't needed although next time Ill get it with mustard and Swiss. Its served hot and the dipping part makes the bread a little soggy at the bottom ala an Italian beef.

Mac's Pastrami sandwich

As I mentioned in the beginning Mac's started off as a small stand that sold just ice cream bars they made there on site. They're called "Mac Nut Bars" and they still make them there today. There were quite a few kids coming in and out who were ordering themselves one so I went with a strawberry and it too like everything else was excellent. What a great little corner spot this is. You just don't got these type of joints in Chicago anymore.

Where Mac's got it roots

Strawberry was tasty

Mac's is just across the street from the Italian-American club. Does anybody in the Wi area have any other delis in that region that are must trys? What about the history of these bomber sandwichs? any other great bombers that need to be had? I'm all ears.

Italian-American Club of Kenosha

Tenuta's Deli
3203 52nd St
Kenosha, WI 53144
(262) 657-9001

Lenci's Food & Deli
2121 45th St
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 658-2080

Mac's Deli & Sandwich Shop
2302 52nd St
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 654-2065


carrie said...

Best Italian Beef in Kenosha can be found at Hungry Head sub shop. Mac's is good, too - Hungry Head is better.

Anonymous said...

Alot of great food in Kenosha..but the best can be found at Sal's Pizza on Sheridan Road & 76th Street


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