261 3rd Ave, Manhattan, NY
Beside its groundbreaking high-end eateries, Asian restaurants, and burgers, New York excels at another type of nosh – artisanal sandwiches. Sure, you can find the foo foo organic, whole-grain variety, and some very good versions of it, but when you’re in the mood for an unapologetic fling with a white bread hero the size of a pontoon, either piled high with italian sausages and cheeses, or dripping with steak juice and melted cheese, you might want to consider Defonte’s.
Defonte’s of Brooklyn, despite its name, is located firmly in Manhattan, just East of Gramercy Park, around the corner from a precinct and police academy. If you suspect an authentic Italian sub shop steps away from a police station attracts a certain crowd, you won’t be disappointed, and when you experience the no-frills hospitality of the place and taste-bud-Stockholm-Syndrome a first bite is known to induce, you won’t be in any hurry to leave. (Which is lucky, because consuming a whole sub makes leaving a logistic challenge without the aid of a wheelbarrow.)
Topping the menu is Defonte’s version of the classic Italian sub, the Nicky Special, which includes “ham, capocollo, salami, fried eggplant, provolone, hot salad,marinated mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar.”
Personally, I gravitate to the Sinatra Special – melt-in-your-mouth (cliche but true) steak pizzaiola and fresh mozzarella, a savory explosion of flavor and great contrast of textures between steak and crunchy bread.
Like most tightly-run establishments, Defonte’s is well-equipped to handle a crowd, and runs like an assembly line at peak hours. Seats are hard to come-by in the compact store, so if you can visit just before, or just after official “lunch hour” (1-2 for office grunts), you’ll up your chances of scoring a table.