Review: Bocco Deli
Rating: Three forks out of four
Where: 3010 E. Central, 316-558-8412
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Type of food: Sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, special Italian dinners
The Toubia tradition continues in Wichita with the opening of Bocco Deli, a new venture by Nathan Toubia.
Toubia is the middle son of the late Antoine Toubia, who famously founded Latour, the restaurant group behind the Olive Tree and Piccadilly.
The deli opened in November in the space at 3010 E. Central left vacant when Zoomdweebie's Tea Bar closed.
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ON THE MENU: The menu consists of sandwiches, salads, soups, homemade ice cream and daily specials. On the third Saturday of every month, Toubia, who has culinary school training and experience in the kitchen of Lidia’s in Kansas City, cooks up a by-reservation-only Italian meal and charges $30 a person. The one scheduled for February is already booked.
DON’T MISS DISHES: Bocco Deli is a sunny, cozy sort of mismatched cafe with a relatively small menu. The food is simple but delicious, imaginative but not fussy. Homemade flat bread and focaccia set it apart from other sandwich shops.
We visited during lunch and were impressed by the daily special, a lentil and spinach soup served in a large china coffee mug with a side of herbed, fried polenta. The soup had a rich, robust flavor, and its not-very-attractive boggy color was helped by a lemon wedge garnish. The polenta, a rare find at a Wichita lunch spot, was amazing, with a crispy exterior and a warm, delightfully mushy center.
The bacon lover at my table was wowed by his Bocco BLT ($5.45), which was so memorable, he referenced it several times during the day. Served on the restaurant's flavorful homemade focaccia, the sandwich was piled high with sweet pepper bacon, tomato, romaine lettuce and an herbed mayo. A Caesar salad on the side had a mild dressing and was topped with wedges of fresh tomato.
Our ham and cheese panini ($4.25) showcased Bocco Deli’s delicious homemade flat bread, which had a nice chewy texture. Inside the sandwich was a generous serving of black forest ham and melty provolone, but the sandwich was too plain. It would have been helped by some type of dressing or a bit of lettuce and tomato.
Our least favorite sandwich was the Italian hoagie ($5.45), served on a wheat bun and piled with turkey, salami, pepperoncini, lettuce and tomato. It was dressed with a red pepper vinaigrette that was a little overpowering and made the sandwich taste more Mediterranean than Italian. Though the sandwich was tasty enough and certainly unique, I would have preferred an oily Italian dressing.
Dessert was a highlight of the meal. Bocco Deili specializes in homemade ice creams, and during our visit, Toubia was offering a banana chocolate ice cream. It hadn't frozen up yet, he said, so he'd let us sample it for free. Though a little runny, the ice cream was full of fresh banana flavor. It was served in a coffee cup and wonderful when scooped up with some accompanying wafer cookies. We also tried a square of homemade tiramisu ($2.25), a creamy treat that had us scraping the plate for every last bit.
PRICE RANGE: Affordable. Most sandwiches were between $4 and $6. Side items, such as coleslaw, potato salad or pasta salad, are ordered separately but cost $1, $2 for soup or $2.25 for a green salad.
AMBIENCE: The dining room is full of mismatched chairs and tables for small parties. A picnic table is set up in a little nook that’s lined with shelves featuring magazines and a framed portrait of Antoine Toubia. The overall feel is sunny and comfortable.
SERVICE: Our server was friendly, and Nathan himself brought us several dishes. The service and food delivery were a little slow, though.