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A soup and sandwich lunch at Vito’s

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A nifty new breakfast and lunch place has opened up on the Square in downtown Watertown.

Vito’s Gourmet is right next to the Paddock Arcade entrance. While breakfasts are limited right now to fresh muffins and breakfast sandwiches (bacon, ham or sausage with scrambled egg and cheese on English muffin or bagel), the lunch menu is definitely deli from start to finish.

The bright purple and dark green sign draws you into a neat, clean and quite spacious interior. Although we ordered takeout lunch, there’s plenty of seating to enjoy a midday meal right there.

The counter, to the right as you enter, was staffed by two women who seemed genuinely happy to be there. To the left of the counter is the homemade soup bar, offering three homemade soups daily.

There’s a refrigerator unit with Vito’s “fresh & ready” salads, packaged in clear clamshells, ready to eat there or take back to the office. Toward the back of the room there’s a small kitchen window where a gentleman appeared to be assembling sandwiches to order.

I wonder if that’s Vito?

We called in our order midmorning and it was all packaged and ready for pickup just before noon, as requested. We chose four sandwiches, two soups, an antipasto salad, two deli side salads and a scoop each of chicken salad and tuna salad.

Everything traveled nicely. It seemed obvious that whoever is behind this operation has done this before.

Let’s start with the sandwiches. While you can get “classic sandwiches” like roast beef, turkey or ham and cheese, we tried several “gourmet sandwiches.” They’ve got cutesy names and are made with classic meats augmented with interesting ingredients.

All sandwiches are available in whole or half portions, whole sandwiches averaging $8.50 and half sandwiches $4.50. We ordered whole sandwiches, and they were huge.

n Michelangelo (roast beef, bacon and cheddar, red onion relish, mustard and mayo, lettuce and tomato on pumpernickel): We enjoyed the crunch of the crisp bacon. It could have used more of the yummy red onion relish. The pumpernickel was too light for our liking, more like whole wheat bread. Next time we might try the Diablo, roast beef with pepper Jack cheese and horseradish sauce.

n Sophia Loren (turkey, provolone, cranberry relish, mayo, slivered almonds and lettuce on wheat): Turkey and cranberry, a predictable combination. Slivered almonds added texture, a nice touch. The other turkey sandwich offered is the Marlon Brando — turkey, Swiss, caper mayo, red onion, lettuce and tomato on rye.

n Venus de Milo (spicy hummus, smoked Gouda, cucumber, tomato, green pepper, black olives, red onions and sprouts on wheat): For a vegetarian sandwich, this had some interest to it. There was some kick from the spicy hummus and a touch of smoke from the Gouda. Not that I’d consider becoming a vegetarian, but I would consider going back for this sandwich next time.

n Vito’s Favorite (ham, salami, provolone, black olives, banana pepper rings, mayo, Italian dressing, lettuce and tomato on a ciabatta roll): Our favorite, too. The crusty roll, the salami and the provolone, the Italian dressing … close your eyes and you’re in a New York City deli. It’s like a mini-hero. The size of the roll dictated that this fell in the half sandwich price category.

The meat was of good quality, obviously not the cheap processed stuff. The oval-shaped bread was fresh from Mr. Rick’s bakery a few blocks away. Sliced sour pickles — less sharp than dill pickles — were great, thoughtfully packaged separately.

Vito’s offers scoops of chicken salad and tuna salad ($3.50 each), which are also available as sandwiches. We did the scoop deal, just to see what each tasted like.

The chicken salad was made with breast meat, mayo and celery and a little dill. The tuna salad was also made with mayo and celery. We would have preferred white albacore tuna rather than the light chunk tuna they used.

There are many salads available.

The deli side salads we tried (potato and macaroni) came in small containers, priced at $1.75 each. They both contained chopped carrots and green pepper and needed salt. Homemade, but a little on the blah side.

Full-fledged salads ($4.95 to $5.95) include barbecue chicken, chicken Caesar, chef, Greek and the one we tried, antipasto.

It was a typical north country antipasto, mostly iceberg lettuce with some romaine, pepperoncini and grape tomatoes with a modest topping of deli ham, salami and provolone. A small packet of Ken’s Golden Italian dressing was supplied. I like Ken’s dressings, but would rather have had Ken’s balsamic or regular Italian, even the Italian Lite.

The soups, touted as homemade, needed help.

Black bean soup was nothing more than beans in a watery broth. Do you think someone put out a container of soaked beans rather than the soup? I hope so.

Minestrone was a little better, an Italian classic with lots of veggies, cannellini beans and pasta. It really needed some salt and some herbs to wake it up. Grated cheese was thoughtfully packaged separately.

We were surprised with complimentary muffins and cookies. They wanted us to sample some new baked-in-house products that they were considering putting on the menu.

The lemon cookie was excellent, vibrant with lots of lemon flavor. A whoopie cookie was made with brownie mix with commercial white frosting between the two layers. A coconut muffin tasted like a boxed cake mix baked in muffin pans, as did the blueberry muffin we tried.

Takeout lunch for four (much more than we really needed) came to $56.03.

There’s lots of potential here. The sandwiches are great — worth a four-fork rating. The salads we had were just OK — three forks. The soups were disappointing — two forks, at best.

Hey, if you don’t know how to make soup, buy some premade ones from a restaurant supplier and doctor them up. Or give me a call. I make a pretty mean soup.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.



Vito’s Gourmet

3 Public Square

Watertown, N.Y.

779-VITO (8486)



A nifty new breakfast and lunch place on the Square in downtown Watertown.



HOURS: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday



OUR PICKS: Any of their gourmet sandwiches. We tried the Michelangelo, Venus de Milo, Sophia Loren and Vito’s Favorite.



RATING: 3 forks

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