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Photo by Rob Bartlett

Get your fill of Old Country staples and first-rate sandwiches at Stasio's Italian Market & Deli in the Milk District 

Little Eataly

You gotta hand it to Giovanni Fernandez and Elise Sabatino of National Real Estate. The husband-and-wife tandem have followed through with their plans to redevelop and revitalize – tastefully at that – an untended strip in the "Hourglass District." And those slick new digs aren't being occupied by Subways and T-Mobile stores, either, but rather homegrown businesses like Foxtail Coffee, Claddagh Cottage, Leguminati and F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen, with more (Le Ky Patisserie, Hourglass Brewing) on the way.

The pair are doing the same, albeit on a much smaller scale, with a parcel of land in the heart of the Milk District and, no doubt, rehab addicts will positively drool over what they've done with the once-ugly-ass building on the southwest corner of North Bumby Avenue and East Robinson Street. Of note: The dreamy Deco-ish facade of Stasio's Italian Market & Deli. Just one look and I fell hard – the curves, the lines, the fonts, the grapevines. Yes, grapevines. They run the length of Stasio's exterior, which came to our notice only after we took a seat inside on one of the stools lining the deli's perimeter. Through floor-to-ceiling windows we peeped plump grapes a-blooming, duly prompting a casual perusal of the market's vino offerings – limited yet expectedly Italian. The sundry items on Stasio's racks had me making a mental grocery list – Caputo flour, Calabrian chilies, caciocavallo cheese, Sanbitter, dried pastas – but the hot case had me thinking mangiamo!

Lasagna is always available, but on any given day you may see eggplant rollatini and baked ziti, or other cooked items like stuffed pork chops and chicken San Remo. On one visit, vegetarian strombolis ($6.99) lay in wait, which I and my trusted comrade pleasurably devoured. That we alternated bites of the baked wonder with sliced porchetta ($9.99 per pound) took nothing away from the stuffed square of veg heaven.

Sandwiches, however, are Stasio's star attraction. The rolls are baked in house and comprise an ideal crusty-to-doughy ratio. And the fillings! Pork sausage and broccoli rabe ($10) with its subtly bitter notes; or tender ribeye, onions, hot cherry peppers and fresh mozz in the "REAL Steak Sandwich" ($13) – I won't call it a cheesesteak, but it comprises enough Philly flavors that Gritty would love it.

Then there's the pastry case. I stood in front of it in silence, only half hearing the owner's daughter go through each of the sweet goods – pasticciotto, chocolate wafer cheesecake, rum truffles, cornetti and – sweet Silvio Berlusconi! – fresh-baked sfogliatelle. The tubular shape of the cream-filled "lobster tails" was reminiscent of ... well ... let's just say they made me cackle and snort like a 13-year-old boy. They're also what lure me back here time and again. Oh sure, a lovely tiramisu ($4.95) will cater to the less puerile, but what can I say? I've got a lot of growing up to do, and I don't mind doing it at Stasio's.

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