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Cape Fear Foodie: A Taste for Italian

Wilmington's A Taste of Italy has been serving up deli and pasta favorites for nearly three...
Wilmington's A Taste of Italy has been serving up deli and pasta favorites for nearly three decades.(WECT)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 11:44 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - To be a supposed “foodie,” I often find myself wondering what to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Admittedly I will settle for some fast food here and there, if for no other reason than to return to the favorites of yesteryear...which then serves as a reminder as to why I don’t eat that anymore.

Then there are times you want a sandwich, or could go for pasta, or want to take it easy with a salad...luckily there are some places that serve all of those options. Though none does it better (in my estimation) than Wilmington’s famed A Taste of Italy.

The menu options are endless at A Taste of Italy, from cold cuts to hot sandwiches, homemade...
The menu options are endless at A Taste of Italy, from cold cuts to hot sandwiches, homemade desserts and cookies or exceptional pastas.(WECT)

Sure there are plenty of fine New York-based delis and great Italian restaurants sprinkled around the Port City, but there’s a reason why this shop along South College Road has been bringing people in for nearly three decades.

The family-ran business boasts a wide variety of Italian meats and cheeses, along with freshly prepared deli salads (try the antipasto, it’s a meal in itself).

The deli salads are not to be overlooked, unlike some offerings at other places, nothing here...
The deli salads are not to be overlooked, unlike some offerings at other places, nothing here comes out of a tub...and you can taste the difference.(WECT)

I have several friends from New York and New Jersey who swear by their hot and cold sandwiches on fresh bread (the Italian is the size of your head and the Philly Cheesesteak might be the best around).

New Jersey's beloved "Pork Roll," minus the egg.
New Jersey's beloved "Pork Roll," minus the egg.(WECT)

But it’s one sandwich in particular that caught my eye on the last visit, New Jersey’s beloved “Pork Roll” (or “Taylor Ham”) is such a simple sandwich for breakfast or lunch...but packs on big flavor. Thin cuts of grilled Taylor Ham, with cheese and egg, served on a poppy seed bun...excellent. This version subbed the egg for grilled onions and spicy brown mustard but I’m sure it’s just as good as the classic.

Of course, no Italian eatery would be complete without a spattering of pasta selections, and A Taste of Italy masters its offerings.

From classic spaghetti and meatballs, to lasagna and even blackened shrimp and broccoli over oil & garlic pasta...but the star of the show is eggplant parmesan.

The Eggplant Parmesan is the definition of mouthwatering...each bite makes you yearn for another.
The Eggplant Parmesan is the definition of mouthwatering...each bite makes you yearn for another.(WECT)

Layers of thin, breaded eggplant make up the dish, covered in tastebud-tingling sauce and cheese, and a piece of bread to sop up the sauce. I’ve had it three or four times and it’s perfect every time. Speaking of which, I’ve never ate here and had anything less than a great meal...probably why people keep coming back for more after all these years (plus you can get a number of pastas to go and bake at home).

If that isn’t enough to make you want to take a nap after eating...A Taste of Italy has some of the best homemade cheesecake I’ve ever had.

Rich, decadent, lovely...all words that describe this homemade cheesecake from A Taste of Italy.
Rich, decadent, lovely...all words that describe this homemade cheesecake from A Taste of Italy.(WECT)

This thing is thiccc, and each bite is decadent. After recently eating a slice, I mentioned I needed windshield wipers to get the cake off my teeth...it’s so rich but worth trying (or taking home for later).

If cake isn’t your thing, there are plenty of cookies and other baked sweets to tickle your fancy...and I’ve had many of them before, and they’re all tasty (a perfect treat for coworkers when returning from a lunch break).

While this restaurant isn’t a well-kept secret by any means, I’ve met enough people that say they’ve always passed by but never stopped in...well do so. It’s not often you get this high quality of salads, sandwiches, pastas, and desserts all in one location...and you don’t even have to travel to NYC to find it.

PRO TIPS:

1) Looking for a unique item to complete a wonderful Italian meal at home? A Taste of Italy probably has you covered. The deli also boasts a market, which has a wide variety of authentic items to make pasta or sauce at home (plus a decent selection of wine). When I was there a man bought five, 101 oz. cans of olive oil for his family gathering...I’m not sure what he was doing with that much olive oil but it spoke volumes to the quality of goods on the shelf.

2) Expect a wait. This place is busy during lunch hours, there may be upwards of 10 people in line waiting on food. So get a drink, and peruse the shop. Check out what’s waiting to be devoured in the deli cases, or meander through the dry goods section, it’s an easy way to pass the time while you wait on what is sure to be an exceptional meal.

IF YOU GO:

A Taste of Italy is located at 1101 South College Road, WIlmington, NC 28403.

Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at corey.preece@gray.tv and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!

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