May 08, 2002


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cheap eats
by dan leone

Brothers should eat it

MY BIG- eating, hard-working brother Phenomenon and some of his hard-eating, big-working buddies all got ahold of Piccolo Pete's a couple weeks ago, lunch time. Then they couldn't stop talking about it. The size of the sandwiches – depending on who was telling it and how much they'd had to drink – ranged from "this big" (hold your hands about a foot, foot-and-a-half apart from each other) to "this big" (hold your hands even farther apart than that, google your eyes, and steady your head slightly sideways and stiff, as if trying to maintain your balance; wouldn't hurt to have those fingers tremble some, holding the pose, froth frosting the corners of your mouth).

I don't eat like I used to, it's a well-publicized fact. But like any washed-up has-been left behind by worldfuls of younger, stronger, faster, smarter upstarts – or, in my case, ones with better metabolisms – I still talk the talk. Especially in bars, after a few. Which works out great, because I drink better than ever.

In fact, I can't think of anything in the world I'd rather be doing (before falling off my bar stool and being dragged away by midgets) than boisterously reliving 10 hot dogs, or my big showdown with Mike Wolstat at Gilley's, or the rematch ... In bars, years later, of course, 10 hot dogs easily turn into 20, and famous rematches lead to famous rubber matches lead to famous grudge matches and so on ... Prison terms ...

But right now I'm home, at my desk; it's eight in the morning, and I'm as sober as four cups of coffee, not to mention "on the clock." So with all journalistic accuracy, let me tell you exactly how big a Piccolo Pete's sandwich really is: fucking huge!

For $3.50 for the special combination, you get three slices of turkey, three slices of ham, three slices of roast beef, nine (I think) slices of salami, choose-your-cheese (three slices), and enough lettuce, tomato, and onion to make a nice healthy salad for Mike Wolstat.

Notice I said you get three slices, three slices, blah, blah, blah. My little brother and his big hard, blah, blah friends get the special combination. Me, I'll have a lettuce sandwich on one slice of wheat, please, maybe a half-pint of broth soup, for later.

Hi, I'm Mike Wolstat.

Kidding. Kidding. Mike, I'm sure, wherever he is, can still pack it in (being twice my size and a couple years younger). I wouldn't want to get him riled up in case we square off again some day, old-timers day, during halftime of a real eating contest.

Well, what I got, for real, was a roast beef sandwich ($2.50), which was fucking huge (only without any exclamation marks), and three half-pints of soup. For later. Because I love my soups, and they had eight kinds. None of which, for the record, was wedding soup. So, I don't know, when Phenomenon said they had wedding soup maybe it was the Zima talking. Or maybe they have different soups on different days. I'll admit that that, in a world where anything is possible, is possible.

I got potato bacon soup ($1.75), gumbo ($1.75), and meatball vegetable ($1.75). I didn't get clam chowder, minestrone, chicken noodle, or chili con carne. And I can't remember what the other kind was, but I didn't get that either.

The potato bacon chowder, for the record, sucked. It was all glop, and salt city, with no discernable bacon (NDB). That's the bad news, and the rest is good: the gumbo, with okra and chicken and sliced hot links – but you can do better than that around the corner at Gravy's, assuming Gravy's still exists (I haven't been there in forever). The meatball vegetable was not wedding soup, but close, in that it had meatballs. Instead of escarole there was cabbage. And instead of chicken there was no chicken.

So both those soups were good, but it's the sandwiches take the cake. For three-fifty for all that stuff, are you kidding me? And they also have everything else in the world you might want to make a sandwich out of, including headcheese. Reubens and ribs and chicken. But the only problem is it isn't technically a restaurant. It's a big colorful deli-slash-liquor-store down on Bayshore, same block as Cliff's, my favorite S.F. barbecue – which is my excuse for not reviewing Piccolo Pete sooner. That and it isn't technically a restaurant. You have to get it to go, unless you want to eat on plastic lawn chairs in a cement-blocked-in little patio next to stacks of empty milk crates and garbage and stuff.

Piccolo Pete. 2155 Bayshore Blvd., S.F. (415) 468-6601. Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Takeout only. Credit cards not accepted. Beer and wine. Wheelchair accessible. Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).