Today’s sandwich is the “Ham Italian” from Colucci’s Hilltop Superette. In usual Italian fashion, it combines ham, American cheese, raw onion, green peppers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, pickles, salt, pepper, and oil on a soft hero roll.
Location: 135 Congress Street
Price: $4.35 (Large)
Notes: Step into Colucci’s, on Congress Street at the top of Munjoy Hill across from the Portland Observatory, and it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Colucci’s is Maine as it existed in 1985, when every roadside convenience store was independently owned and operated, where you were just as likely to find homemade No-Bake cookies and Cream Horns that someone’s grandmother had made, as you were the usual array of Slim Jim and candy suspects, before every gas station and variety store became a Cumberland Farms or an Irving, or was bought and “improved” by Linda Bean.
Colucci’s carries the staples of any self-respecting convenience store in Maine, with a wide array of pizza, calzones, and Italian sandwiches. Where Colucci’s does most stores one two better, though, is in their array of homemade sausages, and in their long cooler of wholesome, homemade dinners and lunches, all bargain priced and ready to take home to the microwave. Giant, dinner-sized portions of American Chop Suey, meatloaf or pot roast with tons of mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables, and pulled-pork platters, all packaged in plastic to-go containers with individual compartments, all hover in the $5 – $7 dollar range, and all have the mark of being made by an actual human being.
Their version of Maine’s staple Italian sandwich is one of the best we have tried so far, combining the usual roundup of vegetables, ham, and white American cheese on the softest, chewiest hero roll I have yet to sample. The bread is almost like a giant, New England-style hot dog bun, and the chewy, creamy area where bread meets cheese is addictive. Colucci’s layers on slightly more ham than some other places, but it doesn’t overpower the long slices of pickle, onion, and green pepper, who all do their part to lend crunch and freshness to the sandwich, with the olives kicking in a slight bitterness, right when you need them. The tomatoes could have been better, but that may just be the time of year. Best of all, Colucci’s isn’t shy with the salt and pepper shaker, which goes even further to amp up the habit-forming qualities of this sandwich.
Colucci’s is the kind of neighborhood market you wish you had in your neighborhood, with friendly service, and ample trays of inexpensive, homemade comfort food. Munjoy Hill residents have it made with this family-run shop, and even those who live in other neighborhoods should put it in their lunchtime rotation.