By Glen Macnow

CUGINI ITALIAN MARKET AND DELI, 795 E. Route 70, Marlton, N.J.

One of the fun parts of my annual food hunt is discovering the little guy whose product is as good as big restaurants or long-established vendors. And we sure found that at this little takeout Italian deli along Route 70 in Marlton.

Cousins Frank Faragasso and Tom Callahan open Cugini Market just a year ago. It’s stocked with store-made olive oils, their own take-out sauces and mind-blowing pastries. They also roll their own meatballs with care and love.

It’s your standard mix of beef-pork-veal, with the fresh seasonings we’ve been enjoying throughout the food hunt. What’s different here is that Faragasso doesn’t fry or bake the meatballs, but rather drops them uncooked into his marinara, where they get cooked for three-to-four hours. The results is a tender, succulent meatball.

The Meatball Sub ($9.95) is a huge sandwich, big enough to be shared by two, with five pinky-ball-sized meatballs loaded onto bread supplied by Del Buono’s Bakery in Bellmawr. In a nice touch, Cugini uses a seeded garlic roll, which adds to the fun.

The meat is covered with sharp provolone and then a layer of mozzarella – and then, for more fun, sprinkled with Reggiano parmesan. It’s a cheese lovers delight.

We’ll rank this among the top sandwiches we’ve had along the way during this hunt, right behind Stogie Joe’s in South Philly and Soprano’s in Broomall. Definitely worth going out of your way for.

Score: 82/100

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