Di Rienzo’s – Little Italy’s Not-So-Hidden Gem
In the heart of Little Italy, on Beech street off of Preston, there is this little unassuming white house just over the bridge. Inside is a world of Italian delights, a wonderland that any Nonna or Nonno would surely give their stamp of approval to. To the general public, this is called Di Rienzo’s!
Di Rienzo’s is a small Italian grocer that supplies Ottawa with everything from pasta, to deli meats, to Italian desserts, but that’s not what we at OLM are here for. No, Di Rienzo’s claim to fame comes in the form of these massive sandwiches, and fresh-made cannolis that have become infamous among Ottawans.
When you walk inside and hop into line (because there will be a line), you’re given the opportunity to browse the contents of the store. As you round the bend, the case of desserts will catch your eye, and if there is one thing you must not deprive yourself of, it’s the cannolis. For just $3, you will experience the crispy, flaky exterior, and creamy sweet interior that is Di Rienzo’s cannoli.
After securing dessert, you’re greeted with a large array of meats, cheeses, and bread to choose from, enclosed in a case that boasts the multitude of yearly awards earned over the years. The menu hangs behind the welcoming and knowledgeable sandwich makers; however, these are just suggestions, as Di Rienzo’s really is a choose-your-own-adventure.
I ordered two sandwiches with sopressata, spicy Calabrese salami, and prosciutto cotto. The sandwich is then piled high with an array of cheeses, veggies, and sauces, none of which outshine the spicy pickled eggplant. If you go to Di Rienzo’s and you don’t get the eggplant, you’re not experiencing the sandwich to its full potential.
Di Rienzo’s is a CASH ONLY establishment and has run this way for years, so make sure to hit the bank before coming unless you want to pay those nasty ATM fees.
As this is still a grocery store, there is nowhere to sit and eat in the building, but you are welcome to take your sandwich home or to one of the many picnic tables in the park across the street.
When I arrived home, the fun began! You begin to unravel your sandwich and are greeted with the smells of all its contents melding together. You’ll notice the impeccably packed structure with everything neatly folded together between the bread, and you’ll be sure to grab a few extra napkins as it can tend to get messy. When you take your first bite, you’re greeted with the quality of the shaved-to-order meat, the freshly cut veggies, and, of course, that spicy and briny pickled eggplant.
As you continue attempting to finish this monster of a sandwich, you’ll revel in awe as you remember you only spent $8.50 (taxes included) to feed yourself. Somehow, with the rising prices of everything, Di Rienzo’s has managed to keep what I’m calling the city’s best sandwich under $10!
Di Rienzo’s is not just an Italian grocer or a sandwich shop; it’s an Ottawa institution. When this city has its name written in the culinary history books, this unassuming little family-run business will be at the forefront of those efforts.
Tell your friends, neighbours, colleagues, and any stranger on the street who will listen to head down to 111 Beech Street as soon as they can!
It’s time everyone experiences the “Not-So-Hidden Gem” in Ottawa’s Little Italy, Di Rienzo’s.