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Dining out: Benvenuti Italian Deli

When a friend of mine recently started a new job in Cottonwood Heights (hope you're loving it, Laura!), I heard several people telling her that she was lucky to have a great deli nearby for lunch.

Naturally, I pricked up my ears. What was this deli, I asked, and why had it never been mentioned to me?

Turns out it was Benvenuti Italian Deli, and it's run by the same folks who run the nearby Primo restaurant.

Turns out, too, that whoever said it's a great place to eat had it exactly right. You won't believe (at least, I didn't) the pains taken with this food for the price you pay.

Benvenuti occupies a comfortable space in a Cottonwood Heights strip mall. There's a nice little tabled courtyard out front where, in fair weather, patrons can eat and watch dogs trot into a nearby vet's office.

The menu has a full listing of sandwiches — on delicious yeasty bread baked daily on the premises — from ham and cheese to mortadella, but on the windy and chilly day that my husband and I arrived for lunch, we were both craving pasta. There's lots of that, too, every bit of it made authentically from scratch.

My husband was delighted to find one of his favorites, chicken parmigiana, on the daily specials board, served up with marinara noodles and salad. It arrived covered in cheese that had been given a few seconds under the broiler to transform its top into crisp-browned deliciousness.

Underneath was more deliciousness, thanks to a delicately hand-breaded and super-moist chicken breast. After giving me a couple of bites for critical purposes, it took him about five minutes to polish it off.

The marinara was super-fresh, house-made and chunky, and the salad was a simple Caesar of romaine and good-quality dressing.

I had the pasta matriciana, a wonderfully rich concoction of sun-dried and halved grape tomatoes, sliced olives, capers, garlic and bacon over linguine (guests can choose their own pasta with every dish). I usually think of the creamy sauces as being the most satisfying, but this one was filling without making me feel sinful — a good feeling!

Our son had a kid-size portion of spaghetti carbonara, one of my favorite Italian dishes IF it's done right. At Benvenuti, it is: not Alfredo, just an eggy, creamy but moderately portioned sauce full of chewy, salty pancetta (Italian bacon). My husband and I had a good time snitching off his plate when he wasn't looking.

With all of our meals, we received wonderful little knotted rolls, crusty outside and tender-chewy inside.

For dessert, I was looking forward to some tiramisu, but we'd arrived at an awkward time between lunch and dinner. A freshly made chocolate cake was reposing in the dessert display, but the tiramisu, made fresh from scratch, was still half an hour from arrival in the dining room.

So I saved it for another day, bought a few European chocolates and shared a piece of chocolate cake with my husband and son. As an avowed tiramisu lover, I am surprised to write that the chocolate cake almost made me forget my favorite dessert, so appealing was its balance of lightly sweet, moist and firm-textured chocolate sponge cake and silky, creamy filling.

Appetizers, soup and salad $3.99-$8.95, sandwiches $5.95-$7.95, entrees $7.45-$11.95, desserts $3-$4.45.

Benvenuti Italian Deli & Restaurant

Rating: ★★★1/2

Where: 2354 E. 7000 South, Cottonwood Heights

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 801-944-2466

Wheelchair access: Easy

Web: www.primoslc.com

Also: Takeout, catering available

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.

e-mail: skratz@desnews.com