Local Spotlight

Bocca Deli: Your North Downtown Destination for Sandwiches and More

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.

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.

Read more about Bocca Deli in this week's cafe review or take a tour in our slideshow.

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Katharine Shilcutt