If you plan to visit the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame next winter, I have a dining suggestion for you. Across the street from the winter-sports shrine and cattycorner from a Pizza Hut, you will find Ralph’s Italian Deli — an Upper Peninsula gem.
From the house bakery come sweet rye, cardamom loaves, and Italian breads as well as enormous frosted apple-cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The butchers in back make sausage of all kinds, including the local fave, cudighi. Pronounced cud-a-gee with a hard G, it is such a specialty of Ralph’s that there is a map posted on the back wall of the dining room where pushpins indicate all the places in the U.S. and beyond to which the butchers have shipped their sausage. The map is titled “Where has all the cudighi gone?”
A cudighi (sandwich) is available made with a grilled patty of mild, medium, or hot sausage on a house-made white or whole wheat roll. Standard dressing at Ralph’s is mozzarella, mustard, ketchup, and onion. It’s a strange combination of condiments, but somehow on this dense, crusty-edged sausage with perfumy seasoning, it works. For those interested in reducing their calorie intake, Ralph’s makes turkey cudighi.
Of course, the menu offers pasties. They are juicy enough that they need no gravy, although the waitress will supply some if you ask. Their savory crust, reminiscent of a sturdy pie shell, encloses shreds of beef and onion and little cubes of potato and rutabaga. It comes with a fork, but would be easy to eat out of hand like ore miners of long ago might have done on lunch breaks.