Defonte's of Brooklyn | 261 Third Ave. (at 21st St.) | 212.614.1500 |
AS STATED IN MANY OF of my previous posts, I am a New York City native. Not only that, but I have also lived for some significant amount of times in all of the city's boroughs, save Staten Island. Which means I grew up modestly appreciative of niche cuisine in a lot of little "cultural" neighborhoods.

Now, as the city has been exponentially enjoying a "Food Renassaince", two culinary trends have seemed to emerge. One, the present large-scale reinterpretations of simple comfort foods (i.e., burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, etc.), ever-testing the palates and loyalties of strong friendships and opinions. And Two, the consequential downscaling of food expectations—and over-pricing of said comfort foods!—that force people to believe, or concede, that a place like Taco Bell is as true to real Mexican food as they are ever going to submit to.

Or that the Subway chain of ubiquitous shops is the epitome of the of the sandwich store. Not so, I protest, as I am extremely happy to have read about—and now have tried—the real, old-school style, sandwiches at a new outpost of Defonte's of Brooklyn, located right here in Manhattan's Gramercy section.

Doing this blog impels me to seek out good reviews and word-of-mouth about up-and-coming, and sometimes tried-and-true, food places. I have a Sticky note on my Mac with the names of all the places I'd like to try out, and since it as early enough in the day, I figured some nice Defonte's sandwiches—favorably profiled, reviewed, and featured in New York Magazine (probably my main source for foodie info)—for lunch was the better idea.

So a quick 6 train ride downtown to the 23rd street stop and a leisurely 8-minute walk later, I came upon this homey but neat awning on the corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue.



Walking in you immediately as you walk in that these folks take their business very seriously with no sacrifice to ambience. It is very very clean and tidy, while remaining remarkably cozy and inviting.



You can even see into the kitchen, necessarily spacious as this is and will be where they prepare and cook not just the meats that eventually stuff their sandwiches, but the most of the accouterments and many of the sides as well.


And it as all displayed in appetizing fashion to, I believe, make you salivate with anticipation once you get to the menu board where you will no doubt be ready to order...anything!!!





No pimply-faced, faux slacker "sandwich artists" here; the real art obviously happens in the kitchen, and the proof is in the ingredients' presentation, and in the exquisite smell of the place: more like a kitchen and less like a store. They were even baking cookies from scratch during my visit!

At this point, I am shamelessly wishing that more of my friends were unemployed, since I would have loved to have someone else help me order a great variety of sandwiches. I chose on New York Magazine's highly recommended Pork Hero (hot roast pork, swiss, fried eggplant, and hot salad, which is a heady mix of pickled vegetables, which I've stated makes any sandwich better!), and go with the server-recommended Sinatra (steak pizziola, fresh mozzarella, and au jus).

I become overwhelmed as well as distracted, wanting to watch the "magic" happen as I fumple to get my camera to snap someone else's sandwich meat get sliced...


...while trying to capture my own sandwich being put together....


From kitchen to display to slicer to customer, you can easily tell that this is the kind of place that has been making sandwiches and making them well for years and years. Having never been to the original Defonte's in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, I can already tell that the didn't skip a step at all in their migration to Manhattan. Not even in the size, as get get handed to heavy torpedoes on handy goodness that, at around $10 a sandwich, is four times the amount of food you get in someone else's "$5 footlong".



I take the professionally executed wrapping off of each sandwich and take a deep breath. Each half is not just longer, of course, than the can of San Pellegrino Lemonata I'd use to help wash all this happiness down, but also thicker!



And that's when I realized that I'm back in my youth, at the old school sandwich shops I had gone to with my friends and their parents on birthdays and and after softball games. The types of sandwich shop that didn't add slices of meat to your sandwich by count, but by weight. This wold be the first time in a looong time that I knew for certain that I would not—regardless of my best efforts, and there have been some doozies!—be able to finish both sandwiches.

I enjoyed a half of each, and they were splendid. The bread is always half the battle in any sandwich, and the rolls on these were not just airy-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside near perfection, but they were yummy as well.

The "hot salad" added some very nice textural counter balance tender and flavorful slices of roast pork on the Pork Hero, the eggplant adding some savory to the pork's inherent sweetness. The Sinatra Special felt more like a dinner; chucnky, juicy, tender, stringy beef, classically seasoned, and nicely tempered by the fresh mozzarella and made all the more tasty and fun to swallow by spoonfuls of additional au jus.



Having then finished a half of each sandwich—a happy accomplishment—I re-wrapped to halves I had left in the wax paper in which they were delivered, put them in a brown paper bag which they provided, and walked out of Defonte's (a little more slowly than I walked in), passing my favorite new brand and bag of potato chips on my way.


And as I carried this brown paper bag home, I kept wondering who else I knew who deserved to try these great sandwiches. I mean, the main reason why I blog about food is to share my knowledge and experiences with others who may be likewise interested in great food. What better way to share than to be able to give the actual food to some one? Then, who? My next door neighbor, who kindly enjoys my cooking? The bartender downstairs whose vocation keeps him from enjoying my food, despite his proximity? The chef downstairs, who has made a few decent sandwiches for me over the last decade?

Sorry, folks. These sandwiches were just to good to give up, even for charity, as they made an equally satisfying dinner for as well. And they eventually made for a very satisfying sleep. And, like revisiting an old friend from the old neighborhood you hadn't seen in decades, the sandwiches of Delfonte's (of Brooklyn) are pretty much a dream come true....

Bun Apple Tea!


Defonte's of Brooklyn on Urbanspoon

Defonte's of Brooklyn | 261 Third Ave. (at 21st St.) | 212.614.1500 |