Luigi’s Deli, in Bakersfield is "the spot" to head to and it's only open for lunch. I've been in several times over a six month period and eaten a wide variety of foods. Here's the rundown:
On my first visit, I went with a couple of my cousins and ordered nothing but sandwiches. The pastrami sandwich was off the hook and massive, by West Coast standards. The meatball sandwich, also massive. My prosciutto sandwich, of which I’m a lover, seemed cute in comparison to the other Italian American deli sandwiches.
Yes, it’s true. I just called prosciutto “cute” in comparison to the Italian American meatball sandwich and the Massive pastrami sandwich. Normally, it’s not my style to criticize prosciutto sandwiches, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.
The real evaluation to the pastrami sandwich is, how does it compare to other deli style sandwiches I’ve eaten? As I’m a bigger fan of Reuben sandwiches, rather than straight pastrami, Luigi’s sandwich wouldn’t get ranked with Reuben’s, rather simply as a deli pastrami sandwich. I’d say plenty of meat, good roll, a hint of mustard all add up to a solid sandwich. As you can see from the pics, lots of lettuce. I did happen to like the meatball sandwich better than the pastrami. The meatball sandwich tastes something like I'd eat at home, which obviously makes the meatball rank higher than pastrami. No offense Pastrami.
I did a follow up visit about a week later with another cousin. As many know, I’m always hesitant to order pasta. However, the purses of pasta with ricotta and truffles were wonderfully prepared. The pasta was cooked properly, seasoning inside was lovely, and yes, there was a lot of butter used to sauce the dish. Lots of butter. I know they don’t make the pasta on-site, they have it brought in. I also had a follow-up pastrami sandwich ordered that same day, it tasted and looked consistent with my first visit. Another dish I sampled of Green lip mussels were also fresh and flavorful.
My last trip to Bako included a quick stop into Luigi’s for their signature sandwich, seen just above. Fresno diners would have to think back to Piemonte’s 20 years ago, as the Signature sandwich is a mix of different Italian coldcuts put in a roll and slathered with a little tomato sauce. Once again, lettuce is flying everywhere (I will probably ask for no lettuce next time). But it's the roll that really makes this sandwich tick. I have an expectation that the cold cuts are going to be good, but if the roll was mooshy (like Subway), I wouldn't give the sandwich a high score. The Luigi's roll has texture, flavor, and a "tear" factor that other rolls don't.
Luigi's is holding to the classic Italian American principals of a deli on the West Coast. The only close equivalent in Fresno is Sam's Deli. There aren't many of these classic places left in the San Joaquin Valley, UNLESS, they're controlled by a direct decendant of the founders, which both Sam's and Luigi's are. Thank heaven for Italian families holding to tradition.
Oh, and they still make and marinate beef tongue in-house!