The Italian Store has been around for more than 30 years. It’s really the only evidence you need to know that you’re in for a treat when you grab take-away from this Lyon Village stalwart. Expansion is another sure sign of the restaurant’s strong reputation – another Italian Store will soon be moving into Westover, taking over a spot that once housed a 7-Eleven.
But if you need further convincing, stop by on a Friday night.
Watch as customers grab their number and wait 10-deep to have their order taken. See them stand nearly shoulder to shoulder at the deli counter, or mill about the store with shopping baskets filled with bottles of wine and Italian goodies for the pantry. Marvel at the frenzied activity behind the deli counter as many sandwich-makers navigate the narrow space, seeking out spots on the assembly line to toss shredded lettuce and pepper ringlets onto a sandwich.
If customers are standing around the deli, they could be scoping out the store’s assortment of cured meats – prosciutto, salami, and more – but chances are they’re waiting on a fresh-baked pizza or watching as their sandwiches are made.
The pizzas here have long been celebrated on local best-of lists, New York-style pies made with fresh dough, homemade sauce, and quality cheeses. They’re offered by the slice, from $2.75 to $3.99 depending on which pizza you’re getting, or in 16-inch large and 20-inch extra-large sizes. A large Pizza Tradizionale, the store’s take on the basic cheese pizza, will set you back $16.99 and won’t disappoint. The pizza has a chewy, yeasty crust with a thin, firm shell. Plenty of melty whole-milk mozzarella tops the pie, well accented by a light sprinkling of Italian herbs. The homemade tomato sauce is slightly sweet and, as it’s applied with a light hand, altogether mild. The box is lined with deli paper, and there’s a good reason why: This pizza is an unabashedly greasy and gooey delight. The store offers six signature pizzas, with an assortment of toppings to add on, and three calzone options.
The subs here are also crowd-pleasers. The Milano ($8.49 for a large and $7.49 for a small) is the store’s most popular. The sub combines two types of Italian ham, Genoa salami, and plenty of provolone cheese. On a recent visit, a handful of Milano subs with “everything” were made in advance and placed on the counter for grab-and-go convenience; they were quickly snatched up. “Everything” amounts to sweet and hot peppers; shredded lettuce; thin, nearly translucent onion slices; and some oregano and dressing, but toppings can be stacked on to the customer’s wishes. Additionally, each sub comes with the choice of soft or hard roll – the former a chewy loaf which sops up every bit of tangy dressing, and the latter a hard-shelled and dense bread that packs the sub toppings in tightly. Mortadella, capicola, pepperoni, and prosciutto are just a few of the meats found in the store’s six signature cold-cut subs. A bevy of sandwiches and some hot Italian subs are also offered, as are some specialty sandwiches like the The Muffuletta ($8.99) – a round Sicilian roll speckled with sesame seeds, topped with mortadella, prosciutto, salami, and the all-important chunky chopped olive condite.
Calling ahead speeds the process along, but some time should be saved to browse the aisles here and perhaps grab some of the store’s homemade pastas and imported delicacies. It is, after all, The Italian Store. It just happens to be a store that offers some phenomenal take-away dining.
The Italian Store is located at 3123 Lee Highway, Arlington. For more information, call 703-528-6266 or visit italianstore.com. Store hours are Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.