Torrisi Italian Specialties | 250 Mulberry St. (at Prince St.) | 212.965.0955 |

IN A CITY LIKE NEW YORK, with it's vast and varied culinary charms and treats, it's often difficult for one to find something unexpectedly exceptional. And even when one does, one fears—with all the fanfare given to restos with a unique—and recently singular—food ideology, with the ever increasing number of reality TV chefs and critics-turned-cooking show judges, and the endless number of food bloggers that follow their every step and "retweet" their every shortened URL—that others who might care the most about finding a nice spot to enjoy great food, might get completely distracted from attaining the very experience they most seek.

As it was for me, having done plenty of PHUDE-ing on the Lower East Side and unwittingly walking past a small gem of a spot called Torrisi Italian Specialties, a place that is so innocuously situated and décored as to render it beyond gimmick or irony. I never gave the place a first thought, much less a second.

Then, after walking by a couple extra times on my way to eat elsewhere—always in the afternoon—I'd notice how there always seemed to be some steady traffic, takeout and eat-in, going through the doors. And it wasn't until I was about halfway through New York Magazine's 5-star review of the place that I had realized I had missing something very special that had often been well within reach. I felt like I had just been told that Clark Kent was Superman!

Then, after reading a few other online love letters about their sandwiches (Pulino's Nate Appelman recommends the Roast Turkey Hero), I decided a quick 6 train ride downtown was in order. Just a few scant blocks from the Lafayette Street station, I espied the old world-ish familiar window for the umpteenth time but , for the very first time, ventured inside.

Cozy, calming, and comfortable, the ambience made me immediately happy, almost grateful, I had walked in. Sandwiches (lunch) are available only until 4 p.m., and as I had arrived at about a quarter of, they were out of roast turkey, so they only available sandwiches were the chicken parmesan and the Italian combo, which comes with ham, salami, sopressata, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, and tomatoes.

I cased the joint out, looking at all the fresh ingredients and the clean, professional and quick food prep, buying a little time until I could decide which sandwich I wanted.

I ordered a Combo hero, figuring it would give me a better idea of the quality of their fresh, deli meats and cheese, as opposed to their kitchen cooked and prepared fare. (I already knew I'd be going back soon for dinner, where I could sample the real cooking.) They asked if I'd like the Combo "spicy", which, by default, I responded "yes!" In just minutes, my sandwich arrived to my table, big and in a basket.

After the first bite, I had a better idea of how Lois Lane must have felt the first time she hooked up with Superman. Usually—or, often, Italian combos get so overdressed that they mask and cover the individual flavors of the separate deli meats. Not here! I could taste and feel the silkiness of the vibrantly fresh, tender ham slices. The salami, sopressata, and pepperoni, each slightly slick with their uniquely flavored oils, speckled with varying bursts of pepper, minced fat, and spice blends. All of the meaty goodness accented yet tempered by sharper-in-the-nose-than-on-the-tongue mellow grooviness.

And if the hot kick of the chili spread—that woke up otherwise dormant taste buds, adding an extra layer of depth in the flavors—wasn't enough, the Parisi Bakery roll that it came on was firm and slightly crackly on its exterior, but still light, malleable,airy, and aromatic on the inside, giving each bite a nicely finishing "heft".

By the last bite, left me wholly satisfied, thoroughly grateful, slightly spent, and looking very much forward to my next visit. (Much like, I expect, Lois Lane must have felt...!)

As I got up to leave, I quickly took a look at that night's menu, neatly handwritten on a chalkboard wall, and almost salivating over what was listed just by how yummy the lasagna dish they had on display—and also offer for lunch—looked. As I walked outside, another customer was enjoying the same Italian combo, having also discovered Torrisi only recently, but already becoming a regular customer.

Score one for the underdog!

Bun Apple Tea!


Torrisi Italian Specialties on Urbanspoon

Torrisi Italian Specialties | 250 Mulberry St. (at Prince St.) | 212.965.0955 |