What’s on the menu at La Bella Sangweech, a new place for stacked Italian sandwiches in Little Italy
Mortadella for president!
Around this time last year, Jess Anelli, who works for Holt Renfrew’s marketing department, did not expect to be running a sandwich shop in her spare time. But her life partner, Bryan Nunez, owner of popular College Street club Hush Hush, had leased a large space in Little Italy for a new cocktail bar called Last Call, and he was looking for a food concept to occupy the storefront. “Owning a sandwich shop has always been on my bucket list, so Bryan suggested I go for it. Everything seemed to fit so neatly together that it felt right,” says Anelli, who now co-owns La Bella Sangweech with her friend Angie Russo.
Though Anelli had no experience in the food industry, sandwiches have always been a big part of her life. “I grew up with a single mother who had to work to support me and my brother,” she says. “So, my nonna provided comfort and care for us when my mother couldn’t.” Her nonna’s love language? Sandwiches. “My fondest childhood memories are of going to my nonna’s house for lunch during school days,” says Anelli. “That feeling of sitting at her table and biting into an Italian sandwich stuffed with meat was just the best.”
In order to recreate that culinary nostalgia through a modern lens, Anelli recruited Russo—a Toronto hospitality veteran who works for Nunez—to join in her Sangweech dream. “I grew up at St. Clair and Dufferin in a typical Italian family with a mother whose kitchen was open 24/7,” says Russo. “I love and respect food, and I adore the industry. So it was a no-brainer to partner up with Jess.”
La Bella Sangweech is a small sandwich shop with an intentionally restrained menu. Their sandwiches aren’t made to go viral—they aren’t deep-fried or dipped in Takis. Rather, Anelli and Russo simply put forth a comforting collection of refreshingly classic creations (mortadella for president!), with a little bada bing here and a little bada boom there, so that people who try them won’t soon—apologies in advance—fuhgeddaboudit.
A mostly carnivorous collection of oversized sandwiches, served on focaccia from neighbouring Riviera Bakery and stuffed with cured meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables and bright sauces. The house favourite is the Mortadella Di Fame, which comes stacked with imported mortadella, stretchy stracciatella and arugula for some peppery crunch, all dressed with a rich house-made truffle aioli.
While Anelli and Russo plan to roll out a selection of house-made Italian sodas, for now the drink selection is minimal. The fridge is packed with exclusively Italian sodas, featuring a range of flavoured Pellegrino and sparkling soda water from none other than San Benedetto.
The small shop has the vibe of an old-school Italian deli. Natural light from casement windows—which will open up to College Street in warmer weather—streams into the boldly pink-and-orange space. Taking centre stage of the takeout spot is the tiled lunch counter (hand-built by Anelli and Russo), where hungry patrons order from a menu board featuring the sassy little anthropomorphic logo designed by Anelli. Through a faux fridge door, thirsty patrons can access Last Call, where snacks from Bella’s are available.