As Munch drove up to Wexford on a sunny Monday, Munch's paper-bag adorned head was filled with delusions of discovering an out-of-the-way Italian deli and spreading the word to the masses.
Well, it seems Munch is no Marco Polo. If the crowds streaming in the door were any indication, Zuppa's Delicatessen had been discovered quite nicely with no help from Munch whatsoever.
Hoping a table would open up, the party of Munch stood in a modest line and gazed at a blackboard menu written in colorful script. Everyone ordering ahead of Munch seemed to be a regular, engaged in pleasant banter with one of the owners.
As the party of Munch debated what to order, a woman ahead of Munch in line turned around to say, "Everything's good here."
Zuppa's opened earlier this year, taking space vacated by a Subway sandwich shop along Perry Highway. The longtime dream of three friends who opened it together, Zuppa's is heavy on paninis and salads, like a more-imaginative Panera. There also were a few surprises on the menu, like Mom's deviled eggs ($1), a signature slaw with jicama, apples, carrots and cabbage ($1.49) and two flavored cannolis of the day (pumpkin and banana, $2.99).
The party of Munch all ordered the combo special in some way, shape or form (half a sandwich, plus either a soup, side or side salad, $7.29), with Munch choosing the half tomato basil panini and cup of spicy corn and shrimp chowder.
Amid the cream-colored walls and exposed brick, the party of Munch found a table and waited for a server to bring the food, while Wexford (technically Ingomar) Local Yokel Co-worker of Munch marveled at how much better the place looked than in its Subway days. The crowd was nice, too -- a mix of office workers and Real Housewives of Wexford-esque women and their children.
Munch's food looked lovely as it arrived, with a healthy portion of soup and beautifully toasted panini and -- horrors! -- a pickle.
A word, if Munch may, on pickles. Munch has it on reputable authority that there are reasonable people, of sound mind and tastebuds, who enjoy pickles. Munch is not one of those people. In fact, if Munch were teaching culinary school (and yes, Munch does take side jobs, for the right price), Munch would tell our chefs of tomorrow to always ask customers if they want a pickle, lest the pickle poison juice runneth over and corrupt a perfectly good panini.
Pickle removed, Munch and friends settled in to enjoy the food. Overall, Munch was quite pleased. The tomatoes in Munch's sandwich were deliciously slow roasted, WLYCOM's macaroni and cheese (with brie and white cheddar, free with combo or $2.99 a la carte) was fantastic, as was Co-worker Who Needed to be Cajoled to Come Along for a Free Lunch's Tuscano side salad (field greens with grapes, bacon, tomatoes and gorgonzola, free with combo or $4.59) and Co-worker Who Never Needs to be Cajoled to Come Along for a Free Lunch's cup of tomato bisque soup (free with combo or $2.99).
The deviled eggs were a thing of beauty, the filling wonderfully vinegary and sweet. And Munch has nary a bad thing to say about the subtle pumpkin flavor of the not-too-sweet cannoli.
That said, it wasn't perfect. Munch's soup was a bit heavy on the cream and light on the spice, shrimp and corn, and WLYCOM found his meatloaf panini somewhat uninspiring.
But if Munch is in the neighborhood, Munch would quite surely go back. And one thing is for super sure: It sure as heck beats a Subway.
Zuppa's Delicatessen is at 10580 Perry Highway in Wexford. Call 724-934-4700 or visit www.zuppasdeli.com . Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays thru Saturdays.