STATEN ISLAND, NY – If a deli owner says, “Come with a sandwich – anything you want – and we’ll put your name on it,” what would your combination be? It gives this food writer pause to ponder, “How will this eponymous dish speak to my soul and illuminate my inner, restaurant-loving self? What will be a gastronomic legacy for my children – and my children’s children? »
Or maybe I’m nerdy.
But it’s really in line with what happened when Paul DiSpirito and Rob Zirpoli of Brooklyn Italian Heroes encouraged me to think of a sandwich named “The Pam Silvestri” aka “The Number One” from a menu newly composed of Staten Island. The store lives at 857 Castleton Avenue in the home of the former Dick’s Deli. This iteration is the second in New York with its flagship operation in Sunset Park. In the spirit of the store’s order-by-number system, we will thus far refer to the West Brighton Outpost simply as “857”.
KNOW YOUR NUMBER
Conjuring up an 857 sandwich is truly a tall order. The future compadres in the noshing nomenclature are formidable. Just to highlight a few examples: number 89 Steve Schirripa is “the hero of a goumba for your stomach” – salami, provolone and roasted peppers. And Number 46 Dom Deluise – aka “It’s So Good It’ll Make You Laugh” – combines cappy ham, sweet sopressata, Lioni brand smoked mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano.
Lest we be called “Fatso”, I started thinking about lean, green…vegan combinations.
My children shook their heads.
“No mum. You want people to enjoy the sandwich,” our 14-year-old said.
So, I followed the “kind of” sane way. I love seafood and try to keep meals clean when I’m not eating “business-like”. A favorite combo came to mind – a nice couple of slices of Ezekiel bread topped with smoked salmon, vegan cream cheese with thinly sliced and vinegared cucumbers. Or how about a “Sardine Silvestri” for a lover of this fish. Staff at 857 can open a box of these Portuguese puppies in oil and – wham, bam, thank you, Pam – on butter crackers.
“I’ll have number one – ‘Pam in a box…time to let her out!” a hungry customer might call Eric, a sandwich maker behind the counter.
After observing the Hero Shop team in action during a busy lunch last week, there were no such ingredients in inventory. And with no SPAM in sight behind the food assembly line, DiSpirito and Zirpoli left no temptation to build a bun with any SPAM-ela Pun.
GREAT SANDWICHES ON STAATEN ISLAND
Then I thought of the great sandwiches under the belt over a lifetime in Staten Island, like the one made by Bruno Pica, a retired butcher from A&S Pork Store (now Italo’s) in Port Richmond – different every time you asked for a “Bruno Special. But Bruno always finished the creation – whether it was fresh pork, sopressatta or bologna at its heart – with the delight of homemade roasted peppers or a carefully prepared caponata that defies any explanation. The yellow American and ham on a soft Kaiser bun with shredded lettuce and tomatoes dressed in oil and vinegar is Ariemma’s favorite. Although it cannot be replicated outside of Dongan Hills.
It reminds me of a lunchtime sandwich fail in the Dongan hills where I grew up.
One day when I was about 9 years old and just starting to experiment in the kitchen, we received a sample in the mail of Tuna Twist – of Tuna Helper ilk. I barely read the instructions in the excitement of actually trying it – the product was well advertised and made an already established tuna lover quite giddy at the thought of lifting the skip jack. I made it for my mom and I with mayonnaise on toast and my mom said with a laugh, “I think you forgot something. It would be the tuna itself.
If added to menu 857, we might call this ditty “The Helpless Tuna” aka Number 911.
So, with all this overthinking about a single menu item, I finally turned the discussion over to Mark Herchenroder, manager and sandwich manager at 857. I asked him, “Where do you see a need for a sandwich?” »
He definitely said, “We have a good vodka sauce. I always thought we should put it on a sandwich.
While the store sells hundreds of pounds of fried chicken cutlets a week, he suggested it as a base with fresh Lioni brand ricotta cheese and fresh mozzarella. Being salubrious, I said, “Put on some broccoli rabe,” which is already on the steam table. And, with that, “La Pam Silvestri” was born.
At $22 on a loaf of Brooklyn bread, I think we’ll keep it.
Pamela Silvestri is editor-in-chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.