Bocca Deli is just one of a handful of restaurants that's reinvigorating the sleepy Northside as the City of Houston finishes laying the tracks for a light rail line that will eventually run through this quiet area north of downtown.
A few blocks away on Fulton, Radical Eats is challenging carnivores to rethink Tex-Mex by offering vegan versions of old favorites like tacos and tamales. Taqueria La Macro is putting a bright, shiny new face on traditional taqueria fare over on North Main. And on Irvington at Cavalcade, Bocca Deli is serving the Lindale Park neighborhood freshly-made sandwiches, from-scratch soups, brownies a la mode and coffee to go with its free Wi-Fi.
It's the simple things -- the simple restaurants -- that are making an impact here.
Bocca Deli is a little more than a year-and-a-half old and the subject of this week's cafe review, which takes a look at the family-run business from longtime Lindale Park resident Mike Kriticos. Kriticos and his family saw the need for a cozy, casual cafe that offered the basics -- but not a franchise like Subway, nor another Tex-Mex spot in an area already saturated with them.
The result is a bistro that offers creature comforts such as coffee and free Wi-Fi along with straightforward yet creative deli favorites: a ham and Swiss sandwich that also features thinly sliced cucumbers and a mango-habanero salsa, for example, or a club sporting layers of turkey, ham, salami and provolone cheese along with roasted red bell peppers and a spicy mayonnaise.
What drew me to Bocca Deli -- and what keeps drawing me back -- is the allure of a simple, sturdy meal that's just clever enough to be interesting. The close proximity to downtown (good for a quick lunch break) doesn't hurt, nor does the warm service. If Kriticos himself isn't there to remember you, one of his friendly staff will.
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Bocca Deli's food is simple, homemade and consistently good, and sometimes this combination of factors is all you want or need in a restaurant -- especially in an area already on the cusp of so much change.