Friday, September 10, 2010

Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York, NY, USA

I realized earlier this week that Torrisi Italian Specialties is only a five minute walk from my work. It being a Friday, I thought I'd take the walk, check in and see what the fuss is about. The main consensus is that Torrisi does Italian-American better than anyone and specializes in the comfort food of the first- and second- generation families from the Boot.

Nice little place. Sundries stocked the shelves but was I perplexed yet amused by the large portrait of Billy Joel on the wall --I thought he was Jewish. But I suppose an Italian joint doesn't always have to have Danny Aiello on the wall. Speaking of which, I once rode in an elevator with Danny Aiello and he is actually an intimidating presence. It was small but not too crowded, then again it was the second day of Rosh Hoshanah. Wait, am I talking about the elevator with Danny Aiello or Torrisi's? Can't remember. On to the food...

I saw a few good options, the italian classic and the chicken parm. There was also a turkey breast on the counter embedded with rosemary that looked and smelled awesome, despite being within coughing distance of Torrisi patrons like myself. From this experience, I declare commandment #5, which is that no sandwich meat will be within sneezing distance of the customer. So no question, I had to get the parm, which on a hero was $10, immediately breaking commandment #2. Then the wait was agonizing, breaking commandment #4.

As I was waiting I casually inspected the patrons and spied none other than Mario Batali in the corner with a couple folks. I've always liked the guy and used to see him often walking around the Village when I worked at NYU (Babbo's nearby). As he and his friends left, he brought back two uneaten sandwiches to the counter (not sure what what that was about) and I felt like snatching one of them, as I was starving from the wait. He actually waited at the cash register to pay as his friends went outside, and exchanged pleasantries with the cashier. In my opinion, Mario seems to be a down-to-earth guy. Bless 'em, Crocks and all.

On to the sandwich. I finally got it and tried to make the trek back to work. Couldn't do it: I needed to eat the breaded chicken immediately so I sat in the park next to the Spring Lounge to devour it. Italian foodfare relies heavily on the quality of the ingredients, and I can attest that no corners were cut. First notice, it was a small sandwich. The italian bread was above average but the bread-to-fillings ratio might have been too high. I was really expecting some enlightenment with the cutlet, and while it was pretty damn good, it wasn't what I thought it would be. I think that soaking a cutlet in brine before breading and frying is the difference-maker. I wish I had a little of that salt. The mozzarella was pretty good but felt that there could have been more and of slightly better quality (like Leo's Latticini). The tomato sauce would have been to my wife's liking: basic, sweet without too much over-preparation. The secret of this sandwich was the sneaking in of a couple basil leaves. Never thought of that before, never had it before, but it did add something and going forward I'll always want it on a chicken parmesan sandwich. I will admit that some bites of this sandwich were better than others, a sort of back-and-forth between near-perfect bites and others that were somewhat average (neighborhood pizza joint average).

I ate the sandwich in two minutes next to a group of guys playing dominoes in the park. Overall, I was expecting a little more but it was still a very good sandwich. However, the breaking of two commandments and the creation of a fifth prevents me from being in a position to declare Sultanhood. Dinner here is quite good I'm sure.

My friend Jay reviewed this joint as a part of his Best New Sandwich shops article.

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