Let it be our secret: the best sandwich on Arthur Avenue can't be found in any deli. It's one you make yourself with great ingredients from all over the neighborhood.
This is a simple Italian hero, heavy on the meat and cheese, one that forgoes nonsense like lettuce. You can make it on a bench with minimal mess, and it perfectly captures the slowly disappearing essence of Arthur Avenue's Italian spirit. Start with a split sesame loaf from Madonia Bakery, then go shopping for your fillings.
It begins where every trip to Arthur Avenue must: at Calabria Pork Store. Here you'll find the best soppressata in all the land, aged in a dark storefront that doubles as a cave. (That old world trippyness is just a bonus.) Be sure to ask for the "extra hot" version, which carries a wicked burn.
Ask the counter man to slice some up for you—you'll need about ten thin slices—then save the rest for snacking. Get some thinly sliced pancetta while you're at it, and for an Extra Super Deluxe version, order some n'duja, a spicy spreadable sausage, or some capicola, to fill out a meat trio.
Afterwards, stop by Calandra for the most pillowy and luscious ricotta in the borough, produced in house, and mosey on over to Casa Della Mozzarella for their excellent fresh mozzarella and two toppings: marinated artichokes and smoky grilled marinated olives.
Head to the Retail Market. There you'll find Greco's (née Mike's), where you'll want to pick up some fried eggplant (which, swimming in tomato sauce and mozzarella, bested Bobby Flay in a throwdown), and giardiniera. The latter ingredient is just okay here, but it's just the right dose of acidity for this sandwich.
Bring it all Together
With all of your goods now in your hands, head to the park on the corner of 188th and Arthur. Park yourself at a bench and get going. This is not the time to mess around.
Assemble your sandwich as follows: generously spread ricotta on the top half of your hero. Follow with a layer of giardiniera, artichoke, and olives.
On the bottom loaf, spread ten pieces of sliced soppressata. Resist the urge to pluck them off and eat them—that;s why you have extra sausage. Follow with fried eggplant, then strips of mozzarella, and finally the pancetta. If you're going the Extra Super Deluxe route, spread n'duja (don't go crazy unless you want it super spicy) on the bottom half of the hero and alternate slices of pancetta with capicola.
Viola! Look at this beauty. Here we have a sandwich for the ages; a hero that will reign supreme over Belmont. It's meaty and milky, thanks to the fresh cheeses, and piquant and acidic without overwhelming the payload. Tweak it as your heart desires, but the Combo doesn't need much embellishment. Let the neighborhood's best homemade cured pork and fresh cheese speak for themselves.
About the author: Chris Crowley wrote Bronx Eats and Anatomy of A Smorgasburg Pop Up columns and covered New York's food industry after Hurricane Sandy extensively for Serious Eats. Follow him on Twitter, if you'd like. In person, your best bet is the window seat at Neerob, or waiting in line at the Lechonera La Piranha trailer.