On the eve of national bakery-cafe titan Panera Bread's , we went on a , searching for the finest deli sandwich in town.
was , an italian speciality shop on Waltham Street that moved into town in 2006. Stop two was tough-guy sandwich shop on Mass. Ave, where
Next we stopped by , a 23-year-old Lexington institution, where
was ., a national chain that could end up being Panera's biggest competitor.
Now, with exhausted gums and a full stomach, we present: The Verdict.
Best sandwich in the Center: The "Lexington", Tutto Italiano
Naming this Italian sub the best in Lexington Center was no contest. Tutto and Via Lago were the only places to slice all of their ingredients on the spot, and Tutto's offering surpassed Via Lago's in its complexity and depth of flavor.
From the cayenne-dusted capicola to the house-made mozzarella to the sharp provolone and banana peppers, every ingredient in this sandwich was top notch. And because every ingredient was thinly sliced, and because of its sturdy, crusty bread, the "Lexington" never threatened to fall apart.
The attention to detail here was also impressive. Owner Claudio Sierra placed down each tomato, onion, pepper and basil leaf, applied each dash of oregano with an unmatched level of precision.
This is the kind of sub worth traveling from a few towns over to grab.
2nd place: Two-way tie between Via Lago's "tomato, basil mozzarella," and the "New York Deli Double Decker" from Avenue Deli.
Comparing these two polar opposites was difficult. Via Lago's offering was a minimalist take on a classic Italian caprese. It was executed extremely well and tasted great, both toasted and not-toasted.
Avenue's massive club, though it didn't have the same quality of ingredients, scored points because of its bravado. This double decker was one heck of a meal, and I especially enjoyed the in-house made coleslaw, which added a much needed element of moisture and crunch to the meaty, cheesy bite.
Both of these sandwiches are worth picking up, even if they aren't as tasty as the "Lexington" from Tutto.
4th place: "The Turkado," Great Harvest Bread Co.
I liked specific ingredients in this sandwich more so than I liked the sandwich as a whole. The bread, as expected, was great, and the veggies were freshly sliced and added a nice crunch.
But the bottom line here was that the turkey was average, and the avocado was diluted with mayo to a point that it served more as a moist condiment than as an element of avocado flavor.
I might still pick this one up again, but I'd probably try one of Great Harvest's other selections first, or just buy a loaf of their bread, which is all baked in-house.
Bottom line: Panera Bread better step its game up. The sandwiches already in Lexington Center are pretty dang tasty.
(Special thanks to Scott Gardner, Hilary Ludlow and Ian MacLellan for taking video footage of me devouring these 'wiches.)