It seems like every town has that one deli or sub shop that has been there for as long as most people can remember. In Stoneham, that shop is Anthony’s Italian Specialties.
Anthony Piccoli was making a four-foot-long Italian sub when I came in to talk about his famous deli. He has four loaves of bread cut open and is slicing mortadella on top of the salami. “This’ll make you the life of any backyard barbecue or party,” he says with a big grin. “You just have to lay it across the back seat of your car or the bed of your truck.”
He talked to Stoneham Patch while building this massive sandwich for an office party order.
How long have you guys been here?
Opened July 4, 1971.
Where you a part of that opening?
I was six.
Who was the owner at that point?
So you grew up in this store?
Sure did. Went to Stoneham High and all of my grades schooling here. I started working here full time when I was 13.
When did you take over?
I bought this business from my dad seven years ago. About 2007.
How has the area around here changed since you’ve been here?
It really hasn’t changed much. All the businesses have come and gone. Not many businesses have been here this long. We’re the only one that has been able to stay in the same location.
How were you able to survive this long?
We make awesome food. (He points to the four-foot sub, which is about half-way finished.) We sell a boatload of these four-footers for the Super Bowl. For $65, you could feed 20 people. Nothing is ever pulled out of a bin and put on a sandwich. We cut everything to order. We don’t have anything premade. You order an Italian, I pull out the salami, mortadella, capicola, and the provolone and slice it to the making. Seeing is believing. People eat with their eyes first. It’s as simple as that.
Economic times are tough. People don’t spend like they used to, so you have to adapt. I do so many different things than my dad did. He didn’t make pizzas, calzones, salads, or anything else but the basics. We do a lot of hot subs. But I refuse to use a frialator. There’s a lot of profit in fried foods, but the cost of the equipment and maintenance is something I don’t want to get caught up in. Once you start slinging grease, that’s what you’re known for. I’d rather stick to the original. We carry top notched cold cuts, all preservative, MSG free. You buy a pound of roast beef here, it’s no good in a few days because there’s no preservatives.
Is that what you’re known for?
Probably one of the things people know us by. We kind of became a landmark. People say, “Oh, Stoneham. There’s that deli in the square.” That’s us. That’s how long we’ve been here. It’s pretty cool being a marker. It’s a lot to live up to. We make the best the world’s best Italian sub.
Is that true?
Oh yeah. You see our sign that says “Home of the Large Italian”? No one disputes that claim. We make the best lobster salads on Fridays. Kill it. We use real lobster meat, a tiny bit of mayo and that’s it. You can’t go wrong there. Never hand anyone complain.