Best of 2000: Best Spitinis

Pete's Quality Meats
17421/2 India Street, Little Italy
(619) 234-1684

Sicily used to be known as the "Breadbasket of Europe." They exported grains all over the Mediterranean. Then came countless invasions, poverty, until their only export was people. And interesting food ideas. Hidden in its repertoire was spitini. What's spitini? "It's a Sunday hot dish back in Sicily," says Pete di Salvo, son-in-law of Pete, the owner of Pete's. Basically it's stuffed veal turned on a spit over a fire. According to Filippo, who cooks for Pete, it's "veal rolled around two cheeses, onions, tomatoes, pinenuts, currants, parsley, prosciutto, bread crumbs, onions, and green peppers," all in a nine-inch Italian bun. When you chomp in, it tastes cheesy, herby, swimming in the sauce and onions. You'll get onion lash on your cheek and peppers and marinara all over your face. But that's part of the messy pleasure.

From the modest front of this expanded butcher's shop in Little Italy, you'd never guess that people come from afar for spitini and other homemade specialties like Italian sausage sandwich. Customers swear the sausage meat is herby and without gristle or fat. "Pete still grinds his sausage meat by hand," says Pete di Salvo. A spitini sandwich costs $5.25. Italian sausage sandwich, $3.85.

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