31 L.A. sandwiches that are better than ‘the best sandwich in the world’
I’m not going to name the sandwich shop I’m referencing in this article, because I don’t believe in throwing shade that eclipses the sun. But the locations in Italy are world-famous, and the restaurant has since opened shops in Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas.
Never underestimate the allure of stuff between bread. Videos of the sandwiches have racked up millions of views on social media. Visitors wait in line for upwards of an hour. It is widely reputed to be the most famous sandwich shop in the world. Maybe it’s the trifecta of the Italian sunshine, romance in the air and the general aura of vacation vibes that imbues the sandwiches with a bit of magic.
That magic never made its way to Venice, California. After waiting in line during a recent lunch rush and scrolling through countless raving TikTok reviews, when I finally got my hands on “the best sandwich in the world,” it was meh.
There’s a perpetual line at the shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and it’s a slow-moving process. No fewer than three people behind the counter assembled my sandwiches. One person slid a serrated knife through the restaurant’s signature schiacciata bread (imagine the love child of focaccia and ciabatta). Another person plucked meats out of a deli case and sliced them for each sandwich while someone else slathered a slice of bread with pistachio cream and assembled the various toppings.
I tried three sandwiches, all served on bread shiny with olive oil and large enough to serve two. One was filled with thinly sliced mortadella, thick pistachio cream and stracciatella. Another was a tangle of salty bresaola and arugula. And if you blinked, you might miss the filling in the third, with a gaunt layer of salame, some Pecorino and what tasted like a glug of truffle honey.
The bread felt heavy but not exactly chewy, soft or crisp. It was trapped in bread purgatory with a curious in-between texture that toughened as it cooled. Where was that bread I’d seen in all the videos? The one with an audible crunch when someone took a bite?
To be fair, I spent about three minutes taking pictures of my sandwiches for this article. It was less than the time it might take to find a table during a lunch rush or walk back to your car. But the bread was still warm when I took my first bite.
The fillings and spreads were of the excellent sort you might find at a specialty market or the finest Italian restaurant. And the meats were sliced impossibly thin. But the bread was like a gray cloud that swallowed the lush stracciatella and blurred the meaty smack of the mortadella and salame. It killed any chance at sandwich greatness, and any chance of me driving west of the 405 to stand in line for a sandwich again.
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But I’d sit in traffic for any of the 12 sandwiches on the menu at Lorenzo California, the tiny sandwich shop I highlighted last summer. There, the crust cracks and the Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce is hard to resist. I’d cross the 405 freeway for the 18 sandwiches on our list of the best Italian subs in the city. And I’d drive across town for the Sasto, a new sandwich with slightly dubious origins from Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis at Saffy’s.
Sasto from Saffy’s coffee and tea shop
The sandwich is named for Saffy’s manager Nick Sasto, who told a tiny white lie that ensured his name would be forever known in the realm of great L.A. sandwiches. Menashe remembers Sasto telling him one day that his name meant sexy. A few days later, someone remarked that Menashe’s new Italian sandwich, introduced to the Saffy’s Coffee and Tea Shop bakery case in mid-December, looked sexy.
“So we called it the Sasto,” Menashe said with a laugh. “He lied to me, though. It doesn’t mean sexy. But we kept calling it the Sasto.”
It is a sexy sandwich, or as enticing as layers of cured meat and cheese can be. The attraction starts with the bread, a square of focaccia mottled with voluptuous, deep brown bubbles. The crust is super thin and crisp like glass. The middle is pillowy soft with a noticeable bounce. Menashe credits the texture to his use of two starters, milk, a touch of honey and three kinds of flour.
As your gaze travels down the sandwich, you notice the rounds of plump tomato, the mound of baby romaine lettuce and slivers of red onion, the pale pink striations of prosciutto, soppressata and coppa and a layer of house-made ricotta that hugs the bottom piece of bread.
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Not visible are the pickled and confited Serrano chiles that zip though each layer with a pleasant sting.
The sandwiches sit preassembled in the bakery case, but before each square is served, it’s properly lubricated with a drizzle of oregano vinaigrette.
OK, fine, I’ll call it sexy.
The Sasto is available from 11 a.m. until sold out. Please note that the sandwich is from Saffy’s coffee and tea shop, the daytime restaurant attached to Saffy’s. If you show up for dinner and request a Sasto, prepare for heartbreak.
Where to find your new favorite sandwich
Saffy’s Coffee & Tea Shop, 4845 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, (424) 699-4845, saffysla.com
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