My favorite eateries are the kind you never see much trace of on the Internet. You learn about it only through word of mouth, so that once you discover it, you feel like you're one of the select few in the know. Suddenly, you're a true local.
I'd heard about Vocatura's Bakery, at 695 Boswell Ave. in Norwich, here and there over the years. There were whisperings of their amazing bread baked on premises. But then I'd forget what it was called, and then I'd have trouble finding it online, and, well, you know how it is.
I finally dragged my butt over there other day. There's no going back to chain sandwich shops. At Vocatura's, you're in for a true Italian grinder, and a large really is a solid foot long, as long as my forearm.
We went on a Sunday, but there was a line, which meant this wasn't just a throwaway lunch joint you go to just because you're hungry and you need something quick. These people had made the trek past old mills and worn houses to get there, and they knew what they wanted, didn't even have to glance at the menu.
I'm sure they could smell the novice on us. We gawked at the menu, unable to decide what we wanted. Should we get a hot grinder, guaranteed to satisfy with its warmth alone? Or should we go for the true Italian grinder experience, complete with salt, pepper and oil?
The girl behind the counter, clearly used to moving the line quickly, took our order and assembled our salami, capicola, ham and cheese grinder, large, in the blink of an eye. She piled on tomato slices and a handful of lettuce, barely reacting to my dining companion's "It's so fluffy!" commentary on the lettuce.
This is a cash-only eatery, so have your cash on hand or you'll tie up the line. You don't want to do that. Our grinder was $7 - not bad for lunch for two - but some are even more affordable, as low as $5.75.
This is mostly a takeout place. You could sit by the lone picnic table right outside the bakery, but we chose to take our grinder, wrapped tightly in white bakery paper and cradled under my arm like a baby, home.
This is what a grinder is supposed to taste like. Salty, fresh, juicy, with bread that's dense and crusty and chewy all at the same time. Even two hearty eaters couldn't finish the grinder in one sitting, so, you know, pregame for this event by starving yourself for a few days.