On December 11, Rosenberg’s restaurant group — Bridge & Tunnel — is set to wow Coloradans yet again with their new Italian-American Deli, Lou’s Italian Specialties. Lou’s is the much-anticipated dream of Rosenberg’s owner Josh Pollack and his two friends from back home in Jersey — chefs Jason Somers and Nick Severino, both of whom boast extraordinary culinary resumes spanning decades. Offering an impressive variety of sandwiches, cured meats, homemade pasta and fresh cheese, Pollack jokes that Lou’s is the next step in his “New Yorking of Denver.”
Pollack and Severino’s love of Italian Delis grew from spending time at their childhood haunt, Casa del Sole, where Severino cut his teeth. Now the team wants to bring that East Coast Italian vibe to Denver.
“We want to recreate, not reinvent,” said Pollack. Lou’s serves Tri-State classics with old-world quality. For starters, Lou’s will serve “fresh” mozzarella and burrata. According to Lou’s team, fresh cheese is cheese that has never been refrigerated. Lou’s struck a deal with the Health Department, to keep everything above board, and have decided to make cheese fresh multiple times throughout the day. This means there’s a good chance that the mozzarella in your sandwich was made just moments before you ordered it — most Americans have never had cheese that fresh.
Lou’s is not in the business of letting things go to waste. A byproduct of cheese making is water full of whey and salt. Most cheese makers get rid of this water, but Lou’s uses it to marinate their chicken breasts. The chicken breasts come out of their mozzarella marinade profoundly tender and a bit salty. Then, in the case of chicken parmesan, they are coated in another zero-waste ingredient: breadcrumbs from day-old Rosenberg’s bagels. Not only is this a convenient use for old bagels, but it turns out dryness and low-fat content of bagel crumbs make them the perfect coating for frying. With its mozzarella marinade and crunchy bagel crumb coating, Lou’s might be the most satisfying chicken parmesan — sandwich or otherwise — out there; it’s like getting your back scratched right in that place you can’t reach.
Lou’s sandwiches are generously stuffed with house-roasted peppers, scrumptious cured meats from Il Porcelino Salumi and served on fresh bread from City Bakery. The sandwiches are so big you have to unhinge your jaw if you want to fit the whole thing in your mouth, but — in a display of sandwich architecture expertise — the ingredients’ individual flavors come through evenly in every bite. Pollack has a history of being passionate about things that seem inconsequential, but actually, make a huge difference — e.g. Rosenberg’s New York style water. Lou’s secret weapon is Pollack’s obsession with shaved lettuce, which provides more surface area to hold flavor than its leafy counterpart; it’s a subtle ingredient that shouldn’t matter, but shaved lettuce is the shot in the arm an Italian sandwich needs to be phenomenal.
Like most delis, Lou’s is about 50 percent grocery store. There is a refrigerator for people who want grab-and-go sandwiches, a freezer where customers can get homemade pasta — which is life changing if you’ve only had the dry stuff — and shelves stocked with canned, jarred and bottled goodies. Among the non-perishables are a divine collection high-end olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lou’s knows that the price of such items can turn people off, so, in keeping with their spirit of a friendly neighborhood deli, they offer tastings of almost everything.
“Price point,” recognized Pollack, “can scare people away from the best thing they ever had in their lives.” Scaring people away is not one of Pollack’s many talents. Lou’s is even inviting its neighbors in for a sneak peek before officially opening their doors on December 11.
Lou’s Italian Specialties is going to be a mecca for lovers of Italian-American food. Pollack, Somers and Severino bring gusto and chops to what will surely be a fan favorite just days after it opens.
Beginning December 11, Lou’s Italian will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed on Mondays. Lou’s Italian is located at 3357 Downing Street, Denver.
All photography by Brittni Bell Warshaw.