A few months ago, I wrote about A. Litteri, a traditional Italian grocery store hidden among the warehouses of Northeast DC. I praised its sandwiches, its deli counter, and its wide variety of Italian packaged goods. Hopefully you've taken my advice and checked it out by now.
If you liked Litteri but found its hours inconvenient or its cluttered interior less than welcoming, then I would encourage you to check out The Italian Store, on Lee Highway in Arlington. For almost thirty years now, The Italian Store has been bringing the same old-school vibe to Virginia in a brighter, more open space - one of the shops in a strip mall that also houses a Giant, a Starbucks and Wasabi-Sito.
The Italian Store was opened by the Tramonte family in 1980, and they have been serving up delicious Italian subs as well as New York style pizza by the pie and the slice ever since. To order a sandwich, guests take a number at the deli counter (which also offers a range of traditional deli meats and cheeses available by the pound). When your number is called, you place your order from a list of eight "Philly style" sandwiches named after Italian destinations (the exceptions are the Muffuletta, which is a faithful recreation of the New Orleans delicacy, and the Philly). Sandwiches come on hard or soft rolls with peppers, lettuce, tomato, onions, oregano and Italian dressing as standard condiments. Prices for halves run either $6.69 or $6.99, and whole sandwiches are only a dollar more.
If you want to skip the line, you can fax your order in ahead of time. Or, if you'd simply prefer a slice, you can move to the back of the store and place an order at the pizza counter. There you can choose from seven options that are available by the slice at all times, including a white pizza, a suprema, and even a pizza topped with chopped chicken breast. Prices are a bit steep for a slice, ranging from $2.75 for plain to $3.99 for the suprema, but the portions they offer are enough to satisfy most appetites at lunch time. If you want to satisfy multiple appetites, whole pies run $14.99 to $20.99 for a 16" large.
Like Litteri, The Italian Store also serves as a terrific source for Italian specialty products, though their selection is more limited. Chalk it up to editing or a desire to avoid overwhelming its customers, but The Italian Store limits itself to a handful of choices in each category, from pastas to cookies to Italian wines. They still have the sorts of products that you are less likely to find in the typical grocery store (like the nearby Giant), but they may not have exactly the brand that your Grandma swore by. Prices are competitive, with decent wines as low as $9.99.
Along the back wall, you'll find a row of refrigerator and freezer cases stocking some true standouts - a wide range of fresh and filled pastas from some of the best producers on the east coast, sauces made in-house, and even some traditional Italian entrees for those evenings when cooking just doesn't appeal.
When it comes to authentic Italian in Arlington, there aren't a lot of options. Thankfully, this is one. The Italian Store provides a great selection in a store that is at once traditional and up-to-date. They may not boast seventy years in the same location yet, but their approach to their customers and their heritage is such that it's only a matter of time.
The Italian Store
3123 Lee Highway (in the
Arlington, VA 22201
Monday-Friday 10 AM - 9 PM
Saturday 10 AM - 8 PM
Sunday 11 AM - 6 PM