Mit Arya's recipes start out as hypotheses.
He got a degree in microbiology and thought about pursuing medical school before entering the restaurant industry.
Arya, 28, general manager of Deli of Italy in Springettsbury Township, said he uses scientific and culinary knowledge in all of his creations.
"Learning how the human body works and having an interest in food - these two can combine, and they can be very invigorating," he said.
For example, he said, the deli's house dressing will trigger all five tastes - sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami. It's oil-and-vinegar based with secret spices.
"You immediately feel your glands start to secrete," Arya said. "You feel it in your jaw. It tightens up because it's that intense."
Walking into the deli during a recent lunch, I took note of the front set up like a small Italian grocer, shelves stocked with Little Pepi's Pizzelle Waffle Cookies, Lavazza, anchovies and polenta.
The order line resembled that of a sandwich chain until I saw the deli case filled with unsliced meats, cheeses and homemade tiramisu and cannoli.
I ordered an 8-inch chicken prima vera sub and a diet Coke. The sub was grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers and mixed greens, topped with pesto Italian dressing and toasted. The edges of the bun were slightly browned, a nice touch.
I didn't learn about Arya's scientific creations until later that day, but I was intrigued by the sub. It had many textures and flavors - sweetness from basil and roasted red pepper, sourness from the dressing. I thought about and really tasted the variations.
The deli opened in 2005 as part of a family corporation operating since 1965 in New York and Virginia. Arya said his family chose York County based on statistics showing population growth. So he moved from northern Virginia to run the business.
He said he switched from the science track to food because the restaurant industry is always a challenge. He also likes how food can change a person's mood. He works with customers to customize their orders to be more interactive.
"I don't want to be just like any other place when you come in, and you're just a number," Arya said. "I want them to know me. I want them to know what we do. We're here because we enjoy doing this."
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, email@example.com.
If you go
LOCATION: The Deli of Italy, 2809 Concord Road in Springettsbury Township
LEIGH'S PICK: 8-inch chicken prima vera sub, Diet Coke ($9.20 with tax)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
PRICE RANGE: $2 to $12.99
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Visit www.deliofitaly.com or call 718-0178