Take a look at the long line of cops, firefighters and workers from the Bronx Zoo ordering sandwiches everyday at Joe's Italian Deli. Sandwiches can be a quick and easy way to get something in the gullet when we are in a rush. They aren’t exactly haute cuisine, but as a sommelier and restaurant manager, I know all about formality so I can think of no more fun and refreshing topic for me to write about than sandwiches. A good sangweesh fits perfectly with my philosophy of substance over style in the culinary world. It is at once a transcendent experience and a guilty pleasure. Sandwiches are also my art form, according to my dear wife Danielle. Walking around on our Bronx Little Italy food tours and sampling the local treasures always gets my creativity flowing.
Here are my top 5 greatest sandwich inventions, from basic to slightly more complex, all made with speciality items procured from my favorite shops on Arthur Avenue and 187th Street. I also included wine pairing suggestions for each of them.
Porchetta and Prima Donna Cheese on A Pretzel Roll
Calabria Pork Store sells a beautiful herb-laden spit roasted porchetta made from Pennsylvania organic heritage pork. They slice it razor thin and make one heck of a sandwich for you right there in the store. (This is the one I always recommend to guests who are attending a Yankees game after one of our food tours.) Here's how I make my own at home.
Thick sliced porchetta from Calabria Pork Store
Primadonna Cheese, sliced thick from Joe’s Italian Deli
Teitel Bros’ Don Luigi Sicilian Olive Oil
Pretzel rolls from Madonia Bakery
(Optional) Rosemary from Boiano's inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market
Slice pretzel, brush lightly with olive oil and add a few chopped rosemary leaves.
Add 2 thick slices of porchetta to one side of the pretzel and and two thick slices of Prima Donna cheese to the other. Place in the toaster oven (or conventional oven) and warm until the cheese is melted but not burned. Put your two sides together and enjoy.
Any Sudtirol Pinot Bianco from La Cantina Wines
Grilled Mozzarella and Tomato on Olive Bread
The signature product of 100-year old Madonia Bakery is their olive bread. It's a light white bread with a crispy crust that has a heavy ribbon of pitted black olives inside. Because the olives are so deliciously salty, this pairs well with fresh mozzarella for what is pretty much the best grilled cheese sandwich ever.
Mozzarella from Joe’s Deli
Plum tomatoes and basil from Boiano's
Olive bread from Madonia Bakery, sliced.
Edda Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Teitel Bros
Add a thin layer of olive oil to a pan (cast iron is ideal but not necessary) and heat over a low flame.
Slice the fresh mozzarella to your desired thickness (I prefer around ¼ inch for grilling)
Slice tomatoes lengthwise
Assemble the sandwich and place it gently into the hot oil. When the cheese begins to melt, flip it over. The bread should be lightly browned and crispy. Cook on the other side and don't worry if the cheese oozes out a bit. It will just crisp in the pan.
When the mozzarella is totally melted, remove the sandwich from the pan to a clean paper towel. Pat each side gently to remove any excess oil or water from the cheese, slice in half and dig in.
DeConciliis Donnaluna Aglianico from La Cantina Wines
Egg and Cheese on Ciccioli Bread
This is my Arthur Avenue twist on the classic New York City breakfast, our beloved bacon, egg and cheese. Recently DeCicco's grocery store in Westchester took our suggestion and made a bacon, egg and cheese on ciccioli bread in-house. I couldn't have been more proud!
Ring of ciccioli bread from Addeo Bakers
Asiago or Prima Donna cheese from Joe’s Deli
Edda Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Teitel Bros
Slice the ring of ciccioli bread in four equal pieces then slice each of the pieces in half. Put them in the toaster or toaster oven for no more than two minutes. You just want to slighly warm the bread and the lard will burn if you live it in too long.
Warm a tablespoon of EVOO in a pan on low heat. Beat eggs (one per person you are serving), pour slowly into the hot pan and scramble them slowly with a fork. Stop when the eggs are just set.
Tuck the eggs into the toasted ciccioli bread. You may add chopped chives if you like.
Les Cris Pouilly Fume 2016 from La Cantina Wines
Chicken Cutlet Supreme
A good chicken cutlet sandwich is a staple of Italian-American cuisine. While I also love a good chicken parm, this offers a different twist.
Organic chicken breast from Vincent’s Meat Market
Breadcrumbs ALWAYS from Addeo Bakers as well as a sesame seeded loaf
Grated Rocca Parmigiano Reggiano
Guanciale from Vincent’s Meat Market
Havarti Cheese with dill from Calandra's Cheese
Your favorite mayonnaise
Edda EVOO from Teitel Bros
Beat eggs in a bowl and add a dash of pepper and salt.
Pound chicken cutlets until relatively flat but not paper-thin. (You can also ask the butchers to do this when you order the cutlets. They always slice them to order.)
Spread a layer of breadcrumbs on plate. Sprinkle Parmigiano liberally on breadcrumbs, add salt and pepper. Mix well.
Dip the chicken in the egg wash and saturate well.
Cover completely and pat with breadcrumbs. REPEAT process twice. (Double breading)
Slice guanciale into strips. Heat in saucepan on medium heat to desired firmness and crispness. Remove and blot dry with paper towel.
Fry cutlets in EVOO on medium heat until golden brown. Remove from oil and blot dry with paper towel.
Slice loaf of bread open. On one side dab with mayo, and place Havarti on opposite side. Place cutlet on mayo side. Place guanciale on Havarti side.
Librandi Gravello IGT from La Cantina Wines
White Chocolate Bread and Nutella French Toast Sandwich
The white chocolate bread is always a favorite on our Shopping & Tasting Tour. It's only available Fridays and Saturdays and if you see it in the case, but it immediately. Too many times guests have waited until the end of the tour to purchase a loaf and they're all gone. We'll often sample it as is with a cup of cappuccino made by Ralph Esposito at Cafe al Mercato, but you can also transform it into the most dreamy French toast sandwich.
White chocolate bread from Madonia Bakery, sliced
Nutella from Italy only! Look for the glass jar. The other stuff made in Canada for the American market is mostly palm oil. You can find it at Calabria Pork Store, Cerini Coffee & Gifts or at Mount Carmel Foods inside the Retail Market.
Strawberries from Boiano's
Organic Unsalted butter
Beat 4 eggs thoroughly and add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and a half-teaspoon of powdered sugar to eggs. Beat again thoroughly.
Wash, de-stem, and slice strawberries in half.
Heat up saucepan on low to medium heat and melt a half of stick of butter
Dip slices of white chocolate bread in egg wash, and place in pan.
Cook until golden brown, then flip.
When they're done, remove them from pan, let cool slightly and spread nutella on French toast. Put strawberries on nutella side, press together with other slice.
Sprinkle powdered sugar to taste on top. Slice in half, eat both halves. Repeat.
Briccotondo Moscato D’Asti 2016 from La Cantina Wines