Hailing from Oklahoma, I had never been to DiBella’s Subs. It is a chain restaurant found in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, and it just arrived in Ithaca. After browsing through the DiBella’s website, I expected the place to be similar to the chain Subway restaurants, with run-of-the-mill made-to-order sandwiches. The menu consisted of a variety of cold cut sandwiches with quaint names like “The Godfather,” “The Cowboy” and “Uncle Louie’s.” I wasn’t expecting much based on the online menu.
Luckily the TCAT stops in front of Five Guy’s, right around the corner from DiBella’s, so my friends and I didn’t have much difficulty getting there. Stepping off of the bus, we came to DiBella’s Subs, a brick building standing alone on South Meadow Street with a new, promising exterior. Walking into DiBella’s was a pleasant surprise. The restaurant was quite large and had a nice forest green retro-themed interior, featuring a black-and-white tiled floor and bright red neon signs flashing “A Family Tradition Since 1918.”
As my friends and I entered the restaurant, we were promptly greeted by an employee and handed paper menus. DiBella’s is casual in their ordering system — rather than speaking with a waiter, we placed our order and paid at a counter. The sandwiches could be personalized with a variety of veggies, cheese and condiments. The ordering process felt familiar, even though I had never visited the restaurant before, because of its similarity to Subway and similar sandwich shops. I ordered the classic turkey sub while my friends opted for the chicken philly and albacore tuna salad subs. Along with the sandwiches, we ordered a pasta salad and chocolate chip cookie to share. The meals were reasonably priced, coming to about $10 per person. As we left the cash register and headed toward a shiny vinyl booth, the restaurant started filling up more with the weekday lunch rush, attesting to an employee’s claim that the restaurant had been quite busy since its opening on February 16th.
We all selected sesame bread for our sandwiches. The bread had a good consistency — not too hard and not too flaky. However, the tuna salad was bland and the grilled onions in the chicken philly were too salty and soggy, though the chicken itself was well-cooked. My turkey sandwich had a good mixture of veggies and cheese that wasn’t overpowered by the meat. The pasta salad had an uneven ratio of dressing and pasta, and the dressing left a vinegar aftertaste. The chocolate chip cookie was a sweet but crumbly ending to the meal, but it wasn’t really worth the calories. Despite the faults, the subs served as a filling lunch, and I ended up with leftovers for the next day.
Overall, the dining experience at DiBella’s Subs was an enjoyable one — the welcoming atmosphere slightly made up for the meal. I haven’t been to many sandwich shops in the Ithaca area (other than CTB) but it is similar to the delis back home — nothing really special but nothing very terrible. The best word to sum up the meal was average. If you are in the area, DiBella’s Subs would be a great place to grab a quick bite to eat in friendly surroundings, but if you aren’t nearby, I wouldn’t go out of my way to make the trek there. All in all, it might just be better to stop by CTB for a slightly more expensive sandwich.