128 W Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382
Carlino's started as a DiBruno's-style shop in Ardmore, but has since branched out to West Chester. The West Chester iteration is much larger, though just as claustrophobic as the original. They offer a wide variety of pre-made Italian food, as well as cheeses, meats, coffee drinks, and two sandwich counters.
When you look at the layout below, it seems like there is plenty of space. But when you are actually there, the mere presence of five people in the below area causes chaos. In my half hour of shopping and eating, I was in the way, or annoyed at someone in the way at least a dozen times. One of the issues is the islands displaying additional goods for sale scattered around the store. It broke up the flow of traffic, and led to bottlenecks at every turn.
There is no question they offer quality goods, the cured meats alone could occupy me for hours. Plus they offer illustrations by Hawk Krall himself, one of my favorite local artists/food experts. See illustrations below.
One of the best things they offer is the tomato pie. It is thick, chewy, has great acidity from the tomatoes, and is just simple perfection. I am a big fan. It was the best thing I ate on this trip by far.
The "Ultimate Italian" was not so ultimate. It came on a decent roll, though it was no Liscio's, and held prosciutto, mortadella, Calabrese hot salami, hot capicola, rosemary ham,and aged sharp provolone. While the meat was definitely all high quality, the cheese was lost, and it was pretty dry overall. In a different geographic location, this would be a fantastic hoagie. Around here, it was good, not great.
The bread left a LOT to be desired...
The mortadella had beautiful pistachios studding it, and the hot salami was a nice touch. The cohesive package was just nothing special.
The beef meatballs "Sicilian Style" held fried eggplant, ricotta, and grated locatelli. This was the most disappointing of the bunch. The meatballs were under-seasoned, the locatelli was sparse, the eggplant soggy, and the bread fell apart in the three minutes from receiving to eating. Would not recommend this one.
I felt there should have been more salt and a bit of spice to really make this sandwich worthwhile. In addition, the bread was not hearty enough to contain the ingredients without ripping.
It was like they got their rolls backwards here: the Italian was dense and stiff, almost stale and the meatballs were in a spongy, seeded roll. So maybe if they were swapped, I'd be writing with a different opinion. But alas, my one experience at Carlino's will likely remain my only.