House Roasted Turkey at Parm
Generally speaking, turkey on a roll is a dry, bland affair; not so at Parm, where their turkey is marinated in honey, garlic, and herbs, and slow roasted until the turkey is tender and succulent with more than a little garlic kick. This is one of the best turkey sandwiches we've ever encountered.
For me the gold standard of chicken Parmesan is the sandwich Mary Lou Cappeza served at the late, great Corona Heights Pork store. The Torrisi's version comes perilously close. Why? The chicken cutlets are fried in good old Progresso bread crumbs, then topped with slices of housemade mozzarella and long-simmered tomato sauce seasoned with fresh basil. The sandwich's secret weapon here is the soft Parisi semolina roll, which makes a perfect foil for the crispy chicken cutlet.
Potato and egg
I have always found potato and egg sandwiches pretty boring. But here, where it's made with sauteed new potatoes, softly scrambled eggs, roasted peppers, and melted provolone, all on one of the Parisi semolina rolls, it's an exciting combination.
Mixed Italian hero
Made with too many slices of locally sourced cold cuts, this is the only sandwich I had here that isn't transformed. The flavors are indistinct, and the sandwich as a whole is out of balance. There's simply too much meat for the bread.
Their delicious lasagna, in the words of Torrone: "Italian-American, not traditional Bolognese. It's a recipe from Carbone's grandmother, made with sheets of fresh pasta (semolina and whole eggs), ricotta, fresh mozzarella, basil, and meat sauce. We use Esposito's sweet sausage along with ground beef and veal. The meats are left in larger chunks and the ragu isn't cooked for nearly as long."
Sweet and sour eggplant relish
It tastes suspiciously like caponata, but whatever it is, it's delicious. Toasted eggplant, peppers, zucchini, fennel, and celery, with a soffrito of anchovies, garlic, cocoa powder, golden raisins and pinenuts. Finished with agrodolce and tomato.
Potatoes and Pepperoni
The German-Italian-American potato salad of my dreams. Torrisi says: "The pepperoni is ground and rendered off and some chili flakes and sage is bloomed into it. It's tossed with the warm potatoes with some extra virgin and pickled shallots."
Cauliflower at Parm ($5)
Taking inspiration "straight from our grandmothers," Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi doctor up cauliflower with Progresso bread crumbs, roasted red onions, and a squeeze of lemon and rosemary—both totally homey and brilliantly done.
Idaho Carona beans
Creamy but cooked through, Carona beans with bacon again show the skill in this kitchen. They cook the American-grown beans slowly in vegetable stock and then toss them with Schaller and Weber bacon, thyme, bay, and chili, and DaVero olive oil.
Carbone make the fresh mozzarella ($8 a pound) every morning. It tastes great on any sandwich here, but it may taste even better as a starter served with California olive oil and sea salt.
As an alternative to the mozzarella, consider the locally sourced fresh ricotta ($7/pound) whipped with a touch of fresh cream and served with sea salt and thyme.
I usually have no use for the Italian-American cookies found in bakeries in all five boroughs, but these guys have me rethinking my aversion. They make their own tri-color cookies, the kind that serious eater Grace Kang adores. Grace couldn't convince me with the store-bought versions she brought to the office, but these guys have made a believer out of me: Theirs is homemade almond cake layered with apricot jam and coated in chocolate ganache.
Three for fifty cents, they're made with tahini and dotted with black and white sesame seeds, and baked until they are golden brown. The result tastes something like toasted nuts.
What's a delicious, moist sour cream coffee cake ($2) doing on an Italian sandwich shop menu? "This is the cake your family would bring over for 'coffee and cake,'" they told me. Responsible for these surprising desserts is Katherine Beto-Albanese, a manager here who is a former pastry sous chef at wd-50.