Ottawa loves its sandwiches; they’re a convenient grab-and-go option during a busy work day and the city’s fine eateries offer a wide variety of tasty stacked flavour combinations. These local sandwich spots offer a myriad of fresh-baked breads and endless permutations of meat and vegetable fillings slathered in saucy condiments.
Luciano's is a cornerstone institution in Ottawa's Little Italy neighbourhood. The international grocery store is known for its in-house butcher shop (their sausages are the stuff of legend) and its primo selection of imported foodstuffs, including pasta, pickles and Old World cheeses. From their deli counter, you can expect the usual sliced cold cut and cheese sandwiches on crusty rolls, assembled to order for takeout.
Bread By Us is a locally owned and operated bakery, situated in the Hintonburg neighbourhood. They are known for their pastries made from croissant dough (nicknamed snails), foccacia, baguettes, sourdough and buttery milk bread. The on-site espresso bar doubles as a lunch counter with grilled-to-order sandwiches, both vegetarian and otherwise. Supporting local producers, sandwiches feature meat from Kingston-based Seed to Sausage, vegetables from nearby farms and local farmstead cheeses. The capicola – made with roasted garlic mayo, Swiss and greens – is a favourite.
This pioneering spot has transformed from a simple wholesale operation into a wildly popular artisanal bakery. Founder and French-trained pastry chef Kevin Mathieson has brought on a team of talented cooks and bakers to work with him at his enormous New York-style café and retail space, which serves hundreds of happy customers a day. Breakfast and lunch service are elbow-room only with everyone clamouring for gourmet sandwiches, such as the butter milk-brined pulled chicken Caesar on cheddar, jalapeño and chive bread and the house-brined roast beef with provolone, horseradish mayo, and caramelized onion on 12-grain and fennel bread.
Best known for its fresh pasta, Parma Ravioli has an express lunch counter that serves affordable sandwich combos in Ottawa’s trendy Wellington West Village. Loyal customers swear by the classic meatball sandwich, breaded chicken parmigiana and the savoury sausage in a bun. Hot sandwich combos come with your choice of either made-from-scratch soup or a generous salad, all for under a tenner. The menu also features cold-cut sandwiches and warm grilled paninis. There are only a few tables here so it’s best to get your order to go.
A longstanding neighbourhood eatery with worn tables and wooden chairs, Wellington Sandwiches is a bit of a comfort-food institution. Owner Philomena has a remarkable memory and is often on a first-name basis with her customers. Simple hot and cold sandwiches (egg salad, chicken salad and roast beef, just to name a few) are paired with house-made soups and salads. The standout sandwich option is the made-to-order hamburger. If you’re looking for a sweet finish, try the home-style raisin butter tarts.
A fine specialty food store located in the ByWard Market, La Bottega Nicastro prides itself on serving great food at every price point. The Nicastro family has operated a number of Italian grocery stores in Ottawa for two generations. The stores, however, are known for the generously filled takeout sandwiches and the line-up for the takeout counter often winds around the store at lunchtime. A favourite classic is prosciutto on focaccia with provolone, lettuce and hot peppers.
This warm and welcoming one-man operation in Little Italy is a distinctly Italian sandwich shop that’s all about ritual. Owner Genio hails from Parma and is always there to greet customers with a rundown of the day's specials. The sandwiches menu features meaty hot sandwiches, cold cuts (everything sliced to order), vegetarian options and breakfast sammies. During the warmer months, the rotation includes meatball, porchetta, smoked meat and grilled pork with rapini and pecorino, chicken, sausage cacciatore and more. In the winter, Genio serves a very special beef spezzatino (stew) sandwich that cuts through the cold.
Di Rienzo's is one of Ottawa's oldest Italian sandwich shops, having been in operation for more than four decades. A favourite among nearby office workers, cabbies and local police officers, line-ups often go out the door. This cash-only spot offers great value, with most sandwiches coming in at around $6. Grab a crusty bun from the breadbox and have it filled as a set sandwich or customize your order with toppings that range from herbed Havarti to spicy eggplant. If you go early enough, fresh Italian pastries are available as well.
Pastry chef Michael Holland serves up pure whimsy in both sweet and savoury varieties at his eponymous pastry shop. Cake and Shake’s sweet desserts incorporate off-the-wall ingredients but it’s the decadent sandwiches that take the cake, so to speak. Inspired by childhood classics, hot and cold sandwiches are served on fresh-baked bread and topped with nostalgic ingredients. Try the house roast beef, which features sautéed onions and mushrooms, a fried egg, Swiss cheese, HP mayo and potato chips for an unexpected crunch. Sandwich combos come with a choice of dessert and a drink.