Italian pop music, warm staff and generous portions make Hampden's newest restaurant an experience

Luigi’s Italian Deli and Market

846 W. 36th St., (410) 814-0652,

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Just walking into Luigi’s Italian Deli, Hampden’s newest restaurant, is an experience: Italian pop music, flowers in San Pellegrino bottles, shelves upon shelves of olive oil, tomato sauce, amaretti cookies-you name it. There’s a slapdash quality to the whole place, but that’s what makes it so endearing. Luigi’s offers simple, solid lunch fare using classic flavor combinations. The Apollonia panino ($8) is served on soft, warm bread, the sweetness of the honey mustard and maple turkey balanced nicely against fresh tomatoes and field greens. The Gabriella sandwich ($8), drawing from signature Italian flavors, comes with large slices of pesto-marinated chicken and a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. Luigi’s also offers a variety of desserts made in-house daily, and they are well worth the price: The cannoli (two for $3.25) has a crunchy shell, brimming with thick creamy filling. The menu is limited, but portions are beyond generous, and the staff is as warm as the deli’s rustic gold-painted walls.

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