By Larry Dietz –

Bay Cities is an “international” deli in Santa Monica: a 20-foot long row of shelves devoted to olive oils and vinegars, another devoted to pasta, other shelves to sauces, canned fish – who buys those jumbo tins of anchovies – as well as ones filled with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties. Bay Cities carries renowned Sant’ Eustachio coffee from Rome, and features a large wine section.

But Bay Cities is famous for its sandwiches. The huge crowds milling around the sandwich and cold pasta counter – weekends and lunchtimes are jammed – are waiting for their sandwiches to be made. Most notable is the Godmother, a combination of Genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, prosciutto and provolone, on a house-baked roll filled with the works – lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, pickle, an extremely flavorful house-made Italian dressing and mild or hot pepper salad.

The Godmother has been blessed on a Food Channel show and by two noted chefs – Susan Feiniger and Mary Sue Millikan of Border Grill and Feiniger’s Street. The Godmother is a stunningly good sandwich that stands up to any submarine, hero, or hoagie I’ve ever had in New York, Boston or Philadelphia. Two sizes are offered: $6.35 and $8.40 with the works.

However, the “secret” glory of Bay Cities is nearer the front door/cash registers than the scrum waiting for Godmothers. Nearest the front is a section with prepared foods: a few more-than-decent soups, hot vegetables, and proteins of one sort of another.

Sitting between that section and the cold meats/cold pasta display is a four-foot display of specials dreamed up daily and cooked by Victorio, who also answers to Greg. He’s often dressed in black; sometimes he remembers his mother’s Sicilian meat loaf, with egg, and that will be in his section that day. More often than not there’s mac and cheese because of the demand. If you show up on a day with crab cakes, don’t miss them. They’re large and meaty, with a hint of heat. Victorio is not shy about spices.

Some days he cooks tri-tip sirloins. The ahi tuna and the salmon just to his right in the deli case are his daily creations. Oh, and he has an already-made sandwich staple: the Spanish, with Spanish ham, Manchego cheese, roasted tomatoes, red peppers and seasoning. It’s $10, and worth every penny.

Once you’ve loaded up with Victorio’s daily specials, and a Godmother, and perhaps some Mexican Coca-Cola, with real sugar, where are you going to eat? Bay Cities has eight four-top concrete tables in front, overlooking Lincoln Blvd. and a Von’s Market across the street, and six four-tops on its side, facing the parking lot (credit erik). Not attractive, and always crowded. However, you’re seven blocks from Palisades Park, overlooking the ocean, beach and Santa Monica Pier. Bring your picnic utensils and a blanket.

Bay Cities is located at 1517 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica. Phone number is (310) 395-8279. Web site is

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