It's the real thing. Risa Paonessa has New York-style deli in her blood, after all. Her father was the renowned Stumpy who operated a legendary deli by that name on Hertel Avenue for years.
The Hertel deli is closed, and now here she is in sleek new digs right off the lobby of the handsome new M&T Building between Tupper and Chippewa that has been open less than a year. Her place is full of light, and orchids center the tables, but the drill is the same: You go up to the counter to place your order; it comes to you in a plastic basket. Risa's is homey, not fancy.
"Homey" is the word for the food as well. Risa boils off the garlicky, slightly oily corned beef herself, then it's sliced thin to order (the way it's supposed to be) and piled layer on layer on utterly fresh New York rye. The pastrami sandwich is just as succulent. Other sandwiches on the menu are equally generous and equally fresh -- egg salad, chicken salad, whitefish salad. Even peanut butter and jelly.
But we began our meal with soup because it's the thing to do. Chicken Noodle with Matzo Ball ($4 a cup, $4.75 a bowl). It was rich and yellow, loaded with curly noodles and a large matzo ball that could have floated right out of there. That, too, is how it's supposed to be.
Then we enjoyed the Corned Beef and Pastrami sandwiches. And Potato Salad ($2.25) that tasted like it came from my mother's kitchen.
We tried a Chopped Liver Sandwich, too ($6.75). You know what I'm going to say, right? The sandwich was just what it was supposed to be. Smooth chicken liver pate with a slice of red onion, lettuce and tomato. With all of that, we still managed to have room for dessert.
The Brownie ($1.95) was wrapped in plastic but had been baked by Risa's niece. Plenty moist on its own, it was loaded with chocolate chips. Just to add a little interest, I guess.
The restaurant specializes in sandwich combinations from around $8 and they all have punny names. Examples: Al Pachino consists of turkey, kosher beef salami and corned beef on rye. Burnadebt Peters has turkey and roast beef on a roll with coleslaw and Russian dressing. Liz Tailor is chicken salad on a roll with lettuce, tomato and coleslaw.
Wraps are on offer (choice of spinach tomato or white wrap). So are salads. Risa's Mandarin Orange Salad ($7.75) includes mixed greens with sliced red onion and candied almonds.
And there's always a soup of the day beside the quintessential chicken, although the Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup, normally delicious, was much too vinegary on our last try. Other desserts include cheesecake, topped or nude, and Apple Strudel with Raisins.
Risa's breakfast is a little more generic than her lunch. Cinnamon buns, Bagel Burrito, that sort of thing. Although you can get an Egg Sandwich on a Bagel, if you wish.
Even better -- and more in keeping with Risa's theme -- a Bagel with Cream Cheese, Lox, Tomato, Onions and Capers ($7.25).
3 stars* (out of 4)
WHERE: 285 Delaware Ave. (842-6860, www.risa-restaurant.com). This New York-style deli restaurant is the real thing. But in its new location, Risa's also offers more salads, wraps and an expanded list of sandwiches. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Corned Beef Sandwich
NEEDS WORK: Food is of good quality.
PRICE RANGE: Cafeteria-style, efficient.
HOURS: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: On the street.
RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food. * indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.