The longtime (since 1922 longtime) Brooklyn sandwich shop Defonte's opened today in Gramercy. Back in 1992 (when only food dinosaurs roamed Brooklyn), Ed checked out the Red Hook original at the behest of the New York Times' Florence Fabricant.
Since it was the first day at the Gramercy location, I didn't expect everything to be perfect. Indeed, there were some communication problems among sandwich-carvers—nobody seemed to know what rare or medium-rare was—but the operation looks well-managed, and with a little meat bloodiness enlightenment, I'm sure the staff will be up to speed soon enough. [More Defonte's, after the jump.]
I ordered the roast beef sandwich (turns out the beef is medium-rare, unless you get saddled with an end cut). The sandwich comes on a choice of seeded or plain Italian bread, topped with fresh mozzarella, fried eggplant, and au jus.
The beef was nicely seasoned and flavorful. Thinly cut, it was tender enough and was complemented nicely by the creamy cheese and slightly crunchy eggplant. The generous spoonful of jus moistened the inside of the bread nicely, but the outer crust remained crunchy. It was a balanced sandwich, but at $9.75, I would expect a bit more beef (it had trouble asserting itself over the cheese and thin eggplant slivers). Criticism aside, Defonte's is a welcome addition to the area. The Gramercy neighborhood doesn't have many nonchain sub shops.