A restaurant under the same family ownership for more than three decades, in the same location, is worthy of a visit in itself. Add in some very solid homemade, traditional Italian American cuisine and a nice deli full of Italian staples and it should be put on your list of North County restaurants to try.
I became aware of Feliccia’s when I met with John Adams from the food truck Epic Eatz, who utilizes their kitchen as his commissary. He introduced me to his uncle, Sam Feliccia, who has been at the helm of this old school joint with his wife Nina since day one. When they told me they have been around for 33 years I needed to know more. I mean really, given all the competition in the Italian space, their longevity is truly amazing. Sam’s roots are in Detroit where his grandfather opened the first Feliccia’s in 1939.
I left that meeting with a simple sub sandwich made with their homemade roll, Capocola, olive oil, pepperoncini, and provolone cheese. He mentioned their subs were like “crack” in an addictive kind of way and I thought yeah right, as I’ve had my share of killer subs. I took a sample bite in the parking lot on the way out and that was the end of that. There was no way that sub was making it home as I devoured it on the spot.
The simplicity, textures, and quality of the Capocola were what did it. Capocola is similar to the more widely known cured prosciutto, because they are both pork-derived cold-cuts that are used in similar dishes. Prosciutto comes from the thigh or hind leg of the pig whereas Capocola is from the shoulder or neck. Feliccia’s has plenty of both in their deli. There is no doubt in my mind I will be making the drive from Encinitas to Vista on a regular basis for that sub. It’s called Sam’s Special by the way.
After Sam’s Special cracked my top five sub list, I quickly made plans to come back for dinner. Having had my share of traditional Italian feasts I made it a point to expend more calories than usual for the couple of days prior and brought along my No. 1 eater friend Chef Michael Zonfrilli. This was not an assignment for the casual eater.
Our evening started with a couple Peronis, an Italian lager that goes back to 1846. That went really well with the antipasto platter that included Genoa salami, hard salami, mortadlla, prosciutto, sharp provolone, olives, mushrooms and artichokes. It was a great primer.
Next up was an insalada caprese with fresh Roma tomatoes, basil, wet mozzarella and olive oil. Given the time of year, the tomatoes were surprisingly ripe. In the interest of tasting as much as possible, we did a sampler plate of veal parmigiana, Sicilian style chicken, and pasta Agli e Olio. These are all staples of Italian restaurants, yet there was a certain old-world style at Feliccia’s that really satisfied. The crispy, breaded crusts on the veal and chicken were perfect.
Of course, Feliccia’s makes most of what’s on the menu from scratch and the meatballs and Italian sausage that came out next were a prime example of that. Topped with meat sauce and Romano cheese, they were moist, flavorful, and held their own as a side dish but I was thinking about them on that sub roll that I had for lunch, there could be another lunch run in my near future to give those a try. There is also a nice selection of pizzas, salads and desserts including the tiramisu that we somehow managed to split after our feeding frenzy.
Our server Lupe suggested a nice Maddalena Merlot that drank well with everything we ate. Any good red table wine or Chianti works with this food and the merlot fit that bill.
I did not see anything on the menu more than $18 and most of the entrees were in the $12 to $16 range and for the most part you will be walking away with lunch for the next day. I’d suggest going for breakfast, lunch or dinner and plan to do some shopping on the way out in the fabulous deli. And please, go with an appetite and be prepared to eat food made with soul, from people who are passionate about what they do.
Feliccia’s is tucked away in a Vista strip mall at 1011 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Suite C, in Vista. Check them out online at feliccias.com.