Sometimes the most fundamental things are what deliver the most satisfaction. Sure, anyone can make a sandwich — or can they?
At Cara’s Deli grab-and-go — like prepared subs made fresh daily — is one option, but it really is the bespoke that brings the crowds. There is often a line up outside Cara’s.
Sandwich artisans at Cara’s Deli build beautiful stacks of savoury delight that John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, would pronounce inconceivably outstanding. Yes, the eponymous inventor of the sandwich — If he could rise from his grave — would see his concept of using “two slices of bread to enclose meat” taken to levels he could not imagine.
In the mists of time, Hillel the Elder wrapped cuts of meat from the Paschal lamb with bitter herbs in a soft matzah during Passover. Elizabethan England saw thick slabs of coarse bread called "trenchers” topped with victuals, viands and gravy.
By 1850, the Dutch had street-food vendors offering the “open-face” sandwich with liver, salted beef, cheese or fish. The sandwich's popularity is partially because it can be made fast, is portable, and your fingers don’t get greasy.
You see the evolution.
Sandwich's biographer suggests obligations to the navy, and the card games, meant the first sandwich was likely consumed at Sandwich’s desk. Sounds a lot like the world of the cubicle worker today.
While "bread and meat" or "bread and cheese" were known, no one thought of adding a top slice. His club friends would soon order "the same as Sandwich,” as it made sense. Ta da! No fork required!
Cara isn’t just a name. Her grandparents — Tom and Irene — started making sandwiches from their home. Her mother, Paula, was amazing, working at Sudbury Hydro during the day then doing the accounting and cooking the meatballs and porketta and sauces. She was a very hard working lovely woman. Luigi – Cara’s father – grew up in the family convenience store, Tarini’s Variety, in Gatchell.
Cara’s husband, Julien Marleau, recounts the family history.
“I come in on weekends and any time I can. I started here making porketta and sausages. My in-laws opened in 1988 naming the place after Cara, their first-born. Then came Kyle.
“We open the store at 4:30 in in the morning and the deli at 5:30. Coffee is on for anyone who has to get up before daylight.”
Marleau admires and recounts the hard work, and long hours, father-in-law Luigi has put in to make this a success.
“Now Cara is here full time, seven days of the week. She worked here during high school and university. Some of our staff have been here since opening. We work together with Tarini Meats (they are distant relations) on many projects. It’s a family-run business,” Marleau said.
Cara’s is a destination, and on the way for so many, he added.
“Hydro One, Bell, hospital workers … it’s blue collar early in the morning and office workers at lunch. All sorts of people come for our Italian deli. We are also a fully stocked convenience store. We have adapted to COVID-19 with a dedicated and in and an out route. We stay positive and have butter tarts single or by the dozen to lift your spirits. No judgement!”
With Ingredients like pasta and sauces or prepared lasagnas “It’s a one stop shop” for those en-route. “Specialty waters, competitively priced soft drinks, it’s all here. You even can order pasta … or have one of our many sandwiches.”
Trust me, come with an appetite. Truly, one sandwich could feed many.
“We start with in-house baked bread. To start your day, we have breakfast sandwiches. My namesake ‘The Julien’ is a monster of a sandwich. Fried egg and a BLT all-together between grilled cheese. It’s a flour-sliced, two-handed meal. For people just discovering us and asking for recommendations, I always ask ‘How hungry are you?’ and they recognize then that this will be an experience.
“There is always a side like homemade macaroni salad, chips, pickle. The ‘Paul Bunyan’ is massive. Don’t order it if you aren’t hungry — it’s a lot of meat.”
Saying the words roast beef, pastrami, salami, capicola, mortadella, ham and turkey (topped with lettuce, onion, cheese) does not convey the size of this creation. Engage with the sandwich construction team. They may ask about mayo, mustard or whatever you want.
“I could tell you about all of our choices and the family connections. Cara loves a “Chipwich,” which is a grilled salami panini sandwich with potato chips pressed into melting cheese. The added crunch is a super idea. Our steamed pastrami, called ‘the Uncle John.’ is in honour of John Antonioni. Following tradition, the Rueben is on marbled rye. We slice per order, not before. You don’t have to go to Montreal to have this classic. It is one of our flagship sandwiches. The meatball sub is one of our top sellers.”
Six years ago, Cara’s started a food truck. The “Rocket Luncher” is being transformed in 2021 from deli on wheels to burgers, featuring meat from Tarini’s.
“It will be located right outside the doors. Food trucks are a gig that is not for the faint of heart. During the height of summer, it is 15-18 hour days. We open June 1,” Marleau said.
Going to camp, heading out for hunting or fishing, going to work, or just hungry, Cara’s is a Sudbury landmark.
Location: 1055 Lorne St.
Check out Cara’s on Facebook
Deli Hours: 5:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday-Friday
Deli Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Store Hours: Monday-Friday 4:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.- 9 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. -9 p.m.
Hugh Kruzel is a committed foodie and a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat is made possible by our Community Leaders Program. Are you an advertiser? Learn more about our Community Leaders Program here.