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Take Two Take Two 

Deli Double Duty

"We're two guys from New York that couldn't find good pizza, so we started our own pizzeria called Paluso's." So says the menu at Paluso's Pizzeria located inside the Golf Village Complex in Pineville.These guys may not have been able to find good pizza in Charlotte, but now the trick is to have Charlotte diners find Paluso's. Here are a few hints: South Boulevard becomes Polk Street when you hit Pineville; and Paluso's, which is take-out or delivery only, is located in the back of the Golf Village building. But you can order at the front left counter. Confused? So were other people. In light of the confusion, owners Michael Paluso and Michael Pierce have decided to move. Embracing the adage "location, location, location," they have plans to relocate to a more visible spot this fall.

"We hope to have a full service, exposed restaurant. We're looking at a couple of different locations in Charlotte. We have got to be on a road," Paluso said emphatically.

I agree with that. But as a person who once drove, with friends, from Virginia to New York City for a bagel, I can honestly say that finding an out-of-the-way place that serves incredible food is fun.

Owners Paluso and Pierce both hail from Syracuse, New York. Pierce comes from a family of restaurateurs. Paluso moved to Charlotte in 1998 for the opportunities: first working the club scene, then in a pizzeria. But he wanted to make top quality pizzas, and opened Paluso's Pizzeria in October 2001.

An exploration of their brief menu must begin with their pliable crust, New York-styled pizza, laden with all the ubiquitous toppings, only all of these toppings taste better. Fresh tomatoes, seasoned Italian sausage, smoked ham, delightfully fresh onions, and bell peppers band together to create a superlative performance.

Next up are the sandwiches. What sounds like a potentially clunky offering, their Torpedoes (upstate speak for subs, hoagies, po' boys) are extraordinary. The hot meatball sandwich made from Pierce's sister's meatball recipe is a layering of marinara sauce, ground round showy with herbs meatballs, and melted provolone. Or try their take on the classic Philly Cheesesteak, possibly the best in town. "We never use frozen or pre-sliced meat," said Paluso. This sandwich is lush with sliced sirloin, sauteed peppers, and onions.

Also on the menu are gyros, including lamb; salads; calzones; and a few gratuitous fried items. Sandwiches range in price from $5 to $8.

If you're from the Northeast, Paluso's will seem like home: the wonderful pizza from the small grocery store, or the great tasting sandwich from the corner convenience/wine shop. I hope both Mikes find a more visible location soon. What lucky neighbors they'll have.

Precisely in the right location is Jason's Deli which swept onto the Charlotte sandwich scene with the force of a Texas hurricane. The latest of the stores to open is in ParkTowne Shopping Center, a vibrant retail area with a California ambience. Hunting for a parking space at lunch, however, is a challenge.Jason's is an ambitious chain. The first was opened by Joe Tortorice as a small 40-seat deli in 1976 in Beaumont, Texas. With partners, Tortorice incorporated in 1986 to form Deli Management, Inc. Currently, Jason's Deli has dozens of locations throughout 15 southern and southwestern states, including four locations in the Charlotte area. Noel Luna, General Manager of the Woodlawn location, said the company plans to open three more in Charlotte within the next few years.

The menu is filled with dozens of sandwiches from muffalettas to tuna melts, baked potatoes, salads, soups, and wraps. Most sandwiches are $5 or $6. What makes the line snake out the door at lunch is value. Sandwiches are piled high with meat. Luna commented, "Most of our sandwiches have a third or half pound of meat."

The Reuben is packed with a broad band of corned beef, sauerkraut, and not an overbearing amount of Russian dressing. My only quibble is the soft density and meek flavor of the rye bread. On the other hand, I'm not sure why the chicken salad is flecked with almonds and pineapple, but I'm not complaining. Besides, this salad comes with enough greens and fresh fruit for a second lunch.

Lunch lines move quickly. But if you don't have the time you can order online (www.jasonsdeli.com) and have that order delivered for a $5 charge. The delivery area is three to five miles, but they may go further depending on the order and time.

Eaters' Digest

Last Sunday I had brunch at Bistro 100, in Founders Hall, 100 North Tryon Street, and had the opportunity to say goodbye to Executive Chef Sean Minahan, who has been frequently quoted in this column. Levy Restaurants, headquartered in Chicago and owners of Bistro 100, offered him a position in Pittsburgh, the city where both he and his wife grew up and where they still have family. Minahan said he wanted his four kids to be around their extended family and he wanted a chance to do "stuff" with his dad. He also said that Levy had taken on the concessions from the new sports complexes in Pittsburgh and the opportunity was one he couldn't refuse. I also met new Executive Chef Michael Blais who had only just arrived in Charlotte from his native France. Chef Blais is busy tasting wines for the Georges Duboeuf dinner at Bistro 100, a dinner that Georges Duboeuf himself will attend on August 18.

Have a restaurant tip, compliment, complaint? Do you know of a restaurant that has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? Fax information to Eaters' Digest: 704-944-3605, or leave voice mail: 704-522-8334, ext. 136. Note: We need events at least 12 days in advance. To contact Tricia via email: TLChild@bellsouth.net.

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