11 businesses serving sensational sammies

Grab the king of all lunch options ­— a gourmet sandwich.
stacked sandwichg with meats, cheeses, greens and tomatoes
Photo by Todd Maughan/Styled by Fromagination

Nothing says summer like chowing down on your favorite sandwich and chips at a picnic with friends or family. These local spots all specialize in the handheld staple and are finding ways to combine meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables and spreads to add extra layers to Madison’s lunch scene. Next time you hike to Picnic Point, visit a local park or change up your lunch break routine, keep these sammies in mind for your midday meal.


two sandwich halves

Photo by Nicole Peaslee

Named after the Italian word for food and groceries, Alimentari is an Italian grocer specializing in sandwiches, fresh meats and handmade pasta. Alimentari is owned by Bonnie Arent and Daniel Bonanno — who both own Pig in a Fur Coat — along with Enrico Bonanno. Of the 10 sandwiches on the menu, spicy soppressata is a favorite of those who work at Alimentari and is also a top choice for customers. A classic take on an Italian American sandwich, it features capicola, soppressata, smoked Muenster cheese, nduja mayo, greens and a hot giardiniera spread. Despite the spicy soppressata’s popularity, the mortadella — crafted with house-made eggplant salad and complemented by aged provolone, greens and Italian dressing — might be the most underrated sandwich on the menu. As Alimentari is also a deli and market, the sandwiches are a way for people to try the cured meat selections before purchasing a pound or two, along with gourmet garnishes, to make their own creations at home. 306 S. Brearly St., 608-665-3650, alimentarimadison.com

Casetta Kitchen and Counter

stacked italian sandwiches from Casetta kitchen

Photo by Stephanie Hasker

A love for sandwiches drove Tommy Gering to open Casetta Kitchen and Counter in 2017. “I am lucky to have a really great staff, which makes this all possible,” Gering says. “I’m pretty proud that we have made it this far.” The menu features seven classic subs or an option to build your own with “endless possibilities.” Gering says the create-your-own sandwich option allows the main menu to stay small and simple, while giving people the ability to craft their perfect combination. The most popular sub on the menu is the classic Italian — there’s saltiness from the meats (capicola, ham, salami and pepperoni), heat from the hot peppers, crunch from the lettuce and onions, and a little oil, vinegar and mayo to bring it all together. Vegetarians can go for the Vegetalian, which uses the same ingredients, but swaps the meat for roasted butternut squash. 222 W. Washington Ave., 608-467-8108, casettakitchen.com

Crostini Sandwiches
When Crostini Sandwiches opened on the east side in June 2013, owner John Kokkines wanted to bring the taste of Chicago to Madison. The restaurant boasts a lengthy menu of pizzas, sandwiches, paninis, pitas, subs, wraps and authentic Chicago dogs. (We won’t get into whether a hot dog is technically a sandwich; that’s a can of worms we’re not prepared to open right now.) The offerings we know for sure fall under the sandwich category include classic combinations like ham and Swiss or roast beef and cheddar, but also Crostini’s own creations such as the farmers’ market panini which includes sauteed bell peppers, grilled potatoes, artichoke hearts and spinach spread. Another favorite option is the Chicago-style Italian beef, boasting thinly sliced beef in homemade au jus with sweet bell peppers or hot giardiniera peppers. For a sweet complement to your sandwich, opt for a milkshake, root beer float or slice of chocolate cake. 231 North St., 608-241-4284, crostinisandwiches.com

Fraboni’s Italian Specialties & Delicatessen

three stacked sandwiches

Courtesy of Fraboni’s

A family-owned and -operated shop since opening in 1971, Fraboni’s offers a wide selection of sandwiches, hot dinners, deli salads and Italian, American and Mediterranean ingredients. General Manager Bennett Fraboni says they spend a lot of time making sure the meats and cheeses sold in the shop are high quality. Fraboni’s offers two sub and sandwich menus — one for classics and one for premium options. The Italian sub, complete with a signature sauce, is the bestselling of the classics. Fraboni says his favorite sandwich is The Gondola, the Monday special with a seeded Clasen’s roll, fresh mozzarella, smoked porchetta roast, peppadew peppers, shaved onion, lettuce, mustard-mayo dressing and Aleppo chile. 108 Owen Road, 608-222-6632, frabonisdeli.com

Owner and General Manager Ken Monteleone, who opened Fromagination in 2007, believes that Wisconsin cheese deserves a showcase. Cheese is typically a foundational part of a sandwich, so Fromagination makes sure award-winning cheese is the star. The cheese is complemented by ingredients sourced from local vendors like Quince & Apple Co., as well as by one of five types of bread that are baked daily in-store. Monteleone says the Great Wisconsin is his favorite sandwich on the menu. It’s a triple-decker offering with salami, prosciutto and provolone cheese combined with Fromagination’s special sauce on three-cheese bread. Eight sandwiches fill out the menu. While only available in the cold months, watch out for the Raclette Lunch, a slab of Wisconsin Raclette melted directly from a large wheel of cheese over ham or potatoes. 12 S. Carroll St., 608-255-2430, fromagination.com

Madison Sourdough

two sandwiches from Madison Sourdough

Photo by Emily Hutchinson

Madison Sourdough is well known for its freshly baked bread, but its sandwiches deserve just as much praise. Executive Chef and General Manager Molly Maciejewski says country sourdough bread, croissants and Italian-style loaves are used for all the sandwiches. “I love cutting open the first Italian loaf of the morning, running over to the kitchen straight from the oven,” Maciejewski says. “The steam that comes out of that first cut is one of the best smells in the world.” Her current top pick is The Kat’s Meow, which she says is a filling but not heavy option. Sunflower seed butter adds richness, garam-masala-marinated beets add a flavorful spice, mint-raisin vinaigrette adds sweetness and freshness, and a topping of cucumber and greens provides an extra crunch. If you want a traditional lunch, try the turkey sandwich that comes with a little cranberry jam to make it reminiscent of a holiday meal. 916 Williamson St., 608-442-8009, madisonsourdough.com

Milio’s started out in Madison in 1989 as Big Mike’s Super Subs. It has expanded from a single store on West Johnson Street to 21 locations in three states. Despite the brand’s growth, Milio’s seeks out small Midwest towns in which to open locations, and all franchise owners have been with Milio’s for more than 10 years. The company president, Gerard Helminski, started as a food vendor for the 1989 store. The French and wheat sub rolls are freshly baked every four hours. You can also order a sliced wheat sandwich bread or choose from four wrap options: a garlic herb tortilla, jalapeño cheddar tortilla, a low-carb tortilla or an iceberg lettuce wrap. “Our bread might be our claim to fame, but our real mission is to serve and support the local communities that we’re lucky to call home,” says co-owner Brian Bergen. Milio’s offers 17 sub options that include classic proteins like turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, roast beef, bacon and salami. Multiple locations, 608-284-7638, milios.com

Sandwiches On the Go

person holding a grilled cheese

Courtesy of Melted

Caracas Arepas
This Latin American food truck specializes in, you guessed it, arepas. While not officially sandwiches, these hand-held cornmeal cakes are stuffed with shredded meats, cheeses and vegetables. Hailing from Venezuela, co-owner Luis Dompablo uses his mom’s recipes in order to share his culture with friends and family. Dompablo and his husband David Piovanetti run both Caracas Arepas and Caracas Empanadas. Both carts are usually located on Library Mall throughout the week.

Typically parked on Madison’s east side, the hot sandwich-centered food truck Melted claims to be the home of “The Cadillac of grilled cheese.” The grilled cheese is one of the most popular items at Melted, but specialty foods like pepperoni pizza quesadillas pop up from time to time. You can find the Melted truck at music festivals or other events around Madison.

Saigon Sandwich
Especially popular on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, Saigon Sandwich sets up right outside the chemistry and zoology buildings without much competition. If you’re willing to wait in line, Saigon specializes in Vietnamese banh mi. Fill out a ticket with protein choices including barbecue pork, chicken and meatballs, then choose from toppings such as cilantro, carrots and daikon slaw.

Toast – Gili’s Paninis
Founded in fall 2013, Toast – Gili’s Paninis brings unique flavors to the Madison food cart scene. The entire menu is filled with paninis, plus five different special homemade sauces to enhance the flavor and add uniqueness to each sandwich. Toast attends local events and is stationed at the top of State Street during the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Nathan Denzin is a Madison Magazine editorial intern.

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