Wholly good at Half Italian

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TIF money has finally been applied to a good cause: Nancy Kamp, who opened grocery and deli Half Italian in March just across from the Logan Theatre, did so with the help of funding from the much-criticized tax increment financing system. It's a charming place, full of staples like olive oil and vinegar, fancy salt, canned tomatoes, tuna, organic bulk dry goods, olives, and fresh pasta, with a small produce section and a well-curated selection of wine and beer. On a blustery evening last week, the store felt like a cozy refuge from the cold, wet weather. Kamp has kept things simple, right down to a cash-only policy that outraged Logan Square Yelpers, whose credit cards you'll pry from their cold dead hands (she recently backed down and began accepting plastic, applying a $15 minimum).

The deli counter, in addition to (mostly Italian) meats and cheeses, offers about ten sandwiches and a few grain salads and other sides, averaging $6-$7 per sandwich or per pound—which makes it entirely possible to pick up a couple sandwiches and sides for under $20. There are a few small tables for those who want to dine in, but the sandwiches didn't suffer from traveling before being eaten.

Like the store overall, they're simple but good, with high-quality fillings on lightly crusty D'Amato's bread. It's a good thing the bread is tasty, though, because its mass had a tendency to overwhelm the ingredients on the All Italian (ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, red onion, lettuce, tomato, dressing) and Bella (roasted portabello mushroom, caramelized onion, grilled artichoke, basil mayonnaise). The Italian dressing on the former tasted more like straight olive oil—but it was good olive oil. The only sandwich on the menu not served on D'Amato's bread is the Lagano, a generous mound of smoked turkey with prosciutto "bacon," Swiss cheese, tomato, and arugula on multigrain. It was also one of the best, elevated by the crispy prosciutto, which I've never tried before but should probably be used on all sandwiches. Another favorite was a side of sweet potatoes with brown butter and pecans, a well-executed classic.

I didn't try the cannoli, but I should have. Still, there's always next time—and there will be a next time.

Half Italian, 2643 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-5600, Mon-Fri 8 AM-7 PM, Sat 9 AM-7 PM

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