I have been called a sandwich snob. That accusation is false. However, I do believe in something called sandwich theory. This is my quest to find the greatest sandwiches in Madison. Send me your sandwich recommendations by email or on Twitter or Instagram.
Crostini Sandwiches, located on Madison’s east side across the street from Dexter’s Pub, was a completely new adventure for me. It opened in 2013 during my Western travels, so I had no familiarity with the shop at all. What caught my eye is their claim to bring the taste of Chicago to Madison. My sister accompanied me on this quest, and we both took a shot at the Chicago-style hot Italian beef.
Now here was a real bread test, as an Italian beef can put some serious stresses on bread. We got our sandwiches wet, which is to say the beef was dipped in au jus before going into the French bread roll, and the bread held its own just fine. It’s going to get a little soggy no matter what, but this bread held its form. The sandwich didn’t crumble or become a soggy mess, even with additional dipping in the provided au jus. Bonus points that the bread itself was seasoned with some Italian spices that added a little pop.
We both were left wanting a little more in the flavor department. The roast beef was of good quality with very little to no fat, but it didn’t really have much flavor. The extra dipping au jus was needed to added a little more fat and meatiness. We tried both the sweet and hot peppers, and added mozzarella. The flavors, though, all just kind of blended together with nothing standing out. The hot peppers didn’t add much of a punch, while the grilled taste of the sweet peppers dissipated quickly. Both peppers did provide a little sweetness, some acidity and crunch, at least.
Similar to the bread test, the architecture of this sandwich held up well. Some of the cheese and peppers squeezed out the top after dipping in the au jus, but it was nothing a small adjustment couldn’t fix.
Another test I save for hot beef sandwiches of this style: At what point are you required to take a bite out of the bottom of the sandwich to avoid structural breakdown as the bread gets wetter and ingredient squish out? It wasn’t until the second-to-last bite.
The mozzarella was extra, but at about $8 is was still average value for a hot sandwich. It came out hot and quickly (we did go during off-lunch hours). I wolfed it down, but still felt a little hungry. Five minutes later? It settled in and I was all good.
I found Crostini just doing a general Google search, and they bill themselves as a blend of Italian, Greek and American food. It’s the type of sandwich shop I love. The counter is right inside the door, with a larger dining area off through a little doorway. It’s one of those spots where you walk in and can smell the sandwiches coming off the grill. It’s off the beaten path, with homestyle food for a reasonable price, making it a wonderful little surprise tucked away on the east side.