Get a taste of Italy at Originale

Carly Horton Stuart
The Favorito sandwich -- proscuitto, cheese, tomato and oregano on toasted focaccia bread -- served at Originale in Midtown.
MATT SULLIVAN / Anchorage Daily News
The antipasto platter comes with an assortment of meats, including prosciutto, salami and sopressata as well as aged cheeses, caprese skewers, nuts and olives.

Tasty food, cozy atmosphere and prompt, friendly service make for an ideal lunch spot, and Originale is one of the best in Anchorage.

Sergio and Roseli Anzilotti, former owners of Anzilotti's Tuscan Market in South Anchorage, recently opened this Midtown eatery. Serving an assortment of sandwiches, antipasti, coffee and desserts, it's the perfect place for a quick bite or to linger over a cup of coffee with friends.

I popped in for a to-go lunch on a recent Tuesday. The menu consisted primarily of hot and cold sandwiches. Prices were a reasonable $7 to $12 per sandwich with the exception of the house special ($16) -- a carnivore's dream with two kinds of prosciutto ham, salami, coppa (heat-cured pork sausage), mortadella (dry-cured pork shoulder) and fresh mozzarella. Other tempting options included the pollo panini (shredded chicken, lettuce and mayo, $9), Le Donne (pecorino cheese, provolone, tomato and oregano, $10) and Bambini (dry salami and cheese, $7). Originale's bread is baked daily in-house, and all the cold cuts and cheeses are imported from Italy.

Thanks to a pasta dinner the night before, I wasn't really feeling the sandwiches. I inquired about my non-sandwich options, and the gentleman behind the counter offered to make me an antipasto platter ($10).

A plastic container was delivered to my table in short order. It held an assortment of meats, including prosciutto, salami and sopressata (dry-cured pork salami), aged cheeses, caprese skewers, nuts and olives.

If you're on a sodium-restricted or cholesterol-lowering diet, I wouldn't recommend this platter. Otherwise, it's an indulgence that's worth the money. The meats were rich and decadent, particularly the prosciutto, which had a sweet, delicate flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. The cheeses were a hit as well, with top honors going to the pecorino for its crumbly, buttery nuttiness.

I went back to Originale a couple of days later with a co-worker. It was a rainy, gray day, and with its terra cotta-colored walls and cheerful track lighting, the cozy café provided a welcome respite.

My friend selected the Favorito sandwich with prosciutto, cheese, tomato and oregano ($10), while I opted for a caprese salad ($8). We both ordered lemonades as well ($4).

The sandwich was grilled to perfection on focaccia bread -- warmed through without being too hot or gooey. Simply prepared and tasty, it boasted a good balance of ingredients. While the overall execution didn't knock my socks off, it was something I'd probably order next time. The rose-shaped prosciutto atop the sandwich was a nice touch.

My plate held thick-sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and carrot curl lightly tossed in an herb-oil dressing. The fresh flavors and amalgam of textures hit the spot -- simple and flavorful. I especially appreciated that the creamy cheese, crisp lettuce and tender tomatoes were complemented rather than overpowered by the dressing. My one complaint was the portion size, which seemed more akin to an appetizer than a lunch-size salad. With perhaps a little meat and bread on the side, it would have been perfect.

The lemonade was a little tart for my taste, though I could taste the sugar closer to the bottom of the drink. I'm curious as to how they made it (real lemons?) and if it was intended to be that tart. Next time I'll forgo the lemonade and order a cappuccino instead.

Otherwise, with authentic Italian flavors, excellent service by a knowledgeable wait staff and a pleasant atmosphere, Originale is poised to become a Midtown lunchtime hot spot.


*** 1/2 $$

Location: 530 E. Benson Blvd., Suite 9A

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday

Phone: 868-7900

Options: Dine-in, takeout

By Carly Horton Stuart
Daily News correspondent