Off the Beaten Turf: A. Litteri

by Shilpi Paul

In our new feature Off the Beaten Turf, UrbanTurf will be highlighting some lesser known gems around the District. This week, we take a closer look at the Italian grocery store and deli, A. Litteri.

A. Litteri

Turn into Florida Avenue Market, and all of a sudden you are at the docks, dodging birds and 18-wheelers. The wholesale market (east of the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE and west of Gallaudet) is a frequent destination for restaurateurs, but if you weave your way through the meat and produce distributors to 517 Morse Street NE (map), you’ll find one of the best sandwich spots in town: A. Litteri.

The oldest Italian market in DC, A. Litteri has a feel familiar to anyone who ever visits the ethnic markets in the suburbs surrounding DC: packed and teetering shelves, wafting aromas and homemade dishes mixed with straight-from-the-old-country ingredients. The jam-packed store stocks hundreds of ingredients (olive oil, pickled peppers, and panettone) and has a labyrinthine wine section, a freezer full of freshly made lasagnas and raviolis, and a small corner of Italian beauty products, like olive oil soap.

Olive oil, anyone?

Ownership has stayed in the same family for three generations, and current owner Mike DeFrancisci, whose grandfather and great uncle opened the shop in 1926, was helping customers when UrbanTurf stopped by, while his wife Cherie manned the cash register.

For decades, A. Litteri was a wholesaler, which explains the location at Florida Avenue Market. In 1988, they made the switch to retail and began stocking Italian groceries. Saturdays apparently draw an Italian American crowd loading up for the week, and the shop has grown famous for their deli counter, which attracts a diverse lunch crowd with its sandwiches, soup, pizza and pasta dishes. A six-inch Italian sub sells for $3.99, and at least one customer hailed it as “the best Italian sub in town” while UrbanTurf was there.

Owners Mike and Cherie DeFrancisci

Accolades like this are how the store has made its name, a triumph of word-of-mouth advertising. It has garnered an average of 4.5 stars from 92 Yelp reviews without any traditional marketing.

“We try to give people good, fresh product and treat them well and hope that they tell their friends (or their whole neighborhood),” DeFrancisci told UrbanTurf.

See other articles related to: off the beaten turf, florida avenue market, dclofts, a. litteri

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/off_the_beaten_turf_a._litteri_italian_market/4917


  1. MP said at 12:27 pm on Friday January 13, 2012:

    I am always up for trying a new Italian sub place.  Without a DC vs VA bias, does anyone know how their subs compare to the Italian Store?

  1. Andi said at 3:39 pm on Friday January 13, 2012:

    I’m from PA and searched far and wide for a real sub/hoagie. This is the best in the city!!!

  1. illcommunication said at 5:49 pm on Friday January 13, 2012:

    MP: I’ve been to both and the subs are comparable, but there’s a bigger selection at The Italian Store.  Think of the Italian Store as the bigger, more expensive (slightly) Litteri’s.  I like Litteri’s better, as it’s similar to the Italian markets I’m used at home and in Pittsburgh, it’s cheaper, and it’s closer to my house.  It’s also more of a grocery/wine store that sells subs than a sub store that sells groceries.

  1. jen angotti said at 6:57 pm on Friday January 13, 2012:

    As an Italian American who grew up in a restaurant family, Litteri’s is a treat.  I love this place and anytime I pick up a sub, it’s a treat.  Plus they have a great selection of olive oil at great prices.

  1. josh said at 5:57 pm on Saturday January 14, 2012:

    agree with Andi…defs best hoagies vis-a-vis philly.

  1. PJC said at 3:51 pm on Thursday January 19, 2012:

    I agree Andi and Jen- and you can always find a good wine at a great price too!

  1. Q. said at 2:29 pm on Wednesday May 2, 2012:

    Litteri’s wins, hands down.  You can order off their grinder (aka: sub) mendu or invent your own from the deli cases.  And as far as grocery shopping goes, IMHO, Litteri’s is by far the better place to go.

  1. Dubz said at 4:58 pm on Friday December 13, 2013:

    Having tried both the Italian Store and Litteri, I can say without question A. Litteri makes a much better, traditional, Italian sub.  Great rolls!!

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