First look: Mile High Italian Deli opens in Highland

The concept behind Mile High Italian Deli, a small, 800-square-foot storefront in Highland, is sandwiches, panini, salads, and, on Saturday, pizzas, the latter of which is an extension of Mile High Pizza Pie, a pizza joint that rose -- and fell -- downtown, after the landlord threatened to raise the rent through the roof. That increase in dough resulted in owner Howard Ellis selling the spot in September of last year following a four-year run -- and inking a lease on the former In Season Local Market, which he operates with business partner Dino Marchig, whose grandmother owns the space, along with Cebiche next door.

See also: LYFE Kitchen -- where everything is under 600 calories -- opening in Park Meadows

"This a great, upcoming area, and it's a family property, plus we think it'll be an awesome addition to the neighborhood," says Marchig, who doubled the size of the existing space to include a dining area with counter seats and, eventually, six tables, a retail component (think dried pastas, olive oils and vinegars), deli case and patio.

Marchig and Ellis first met years ago at the Counter, a now-defunct burger joint in Park Meadows, and when that closed, they opened Mile High Pizza Pie, and then, after that came to an end, they snatched up the Highland plot, which Ellis, who's from Los Angeles, but has a thick East Coast accent from spending time in New York, where the majority of his family lives, calls an "East Coast-style Italian deli that doubles as a one-stop-shop with meats, cheeses and imported Italian specialty items."

All the meats are Boar's Head (and all-natural); the shredded mozzarella, fresh mozzarella and provolone are procured from Wisconsin-based Grande Cheese Company; the sweet, spicy and mild sausages are sourced locally from Carmine Lonardo's Italian Meat Deli; and the doughs and sauces, including the marinara and pizza sauce, are all made in-house. And the sandwiches, stombolis and panini are all named after family members, including Ari, Marchig's dog and "Bubba," Ellis's son, who also works at the deli.

There's a full liquor license, too, although Ellis and Marchig are waiting until they receive their patio furniture before they start pouring. "We'll have bottled local craft beers, rotating muddled fruit cocktails served in mason jars and a small wine list," says Ellis, who projects that the patio -- and the landscaping that will accompany it -- will be finished by early May.

And every Saturday, the duo will offer pizzas, but don't expect pepperoni. "These will be traditional Italian pizzas like a classic Margherita and specialty pizzas with ingredients like prosciutto and salami," says Marchig, adding that the goal is to eventually expand the kitchen, which would allow them to toss pies more frequently.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday though Sunday, and the deli also offers delivery service and an extensive catering program.

Here's a first glimpse of the space.

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