On Gloucester’s narrow Main Street near the fishing piers, Virgilio’s Bakery & Deli is a small grocery store with exactly two tables for dining – outside, on the sidewalk. Like the neighborhood that surrounds it, Virgilio’s has a well-aged patina (it’s been here since 1961); and while tourists do stop in, this is a shop aimed primarily at people who live and work on the North Shore.
Pastas, sauces, condiments, and spices occupy the grocery shelves and there are cases full of Italian cookies and pastries, as well as fragrant made-on-premises giardinieras. The house motto is “Bread of the Fishermen,” and the ovens’ daily repertoire is a culinary portrait of local culture: semolina loaves, long Italians, Anadama bread, and Portuguese sweet breads. We stopped in one morning at 10 and the man behind the counter informed us that the semolina loaves were still too hot to handle, but that we could buy one in about 15 minutes.
Regular customers know Virgilio’s as a great source of take-out sandwiches made on fleecy submarine rolls. We are especially fond of the “St. Joseph” (named for the patron saint of working men), which is Italian cold cuts, oil and spices. Among the other popular configurations are “Northeaster,” a veggie sub that sparkles when garnished with olive salad; and the “West-Ender,” filled with proscuitto, provolone, and red peppers.