Why can’t they be friends?

I have recently eaten at BOTH of the feuding Manganaro’s outposts, located on the same block of 9th Avenue between 37th and 38th Streets, as recommended to me by a friend.  He, having grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, said that everyone in the nabe used to swear allegiance to one or the other.  It seems entirely plausible to me that you could prefer one or the other from just the difference in decorative approach.

The original (aka the Grosseria) is very evidently family-run, with an older man sitting at the front greeting customers and his legendarily quick-tempered daughter (also writer of the Manganaro Family Cookbook) making heroes in the back.  It is decorated, as you might expect, in the style of an Italian grocery, with supplies strategically placed (but not packed) on various shelves, and a deli counter in the back.

Located next door, Manganaro’s Hero Boy, by contrast, looks more like a modern chain pizzeria.  The huge space is well-lit and looks designed to harbor a waiting lunch crowd of tens.  The help also, for the most part, look like they’ve been there for decades, but the atmosphere is certainly less traditional.

Which did I prefer?

Well, I didn’t really do a fair comparison, because I ordered different things at both.  At Hero Boy, I ordered the meatball parm sub ($9), which included six really flavorful meatballs with the circumference of a half dollar, a slightly stingy dollop of sauce, and two pieces of fresh-looking mozzarella warmed up on the steam table (an ingenious trick).  The bread was forgettable, but if you got a bit more sauce and had two people to share the sandwich, it would serve admirably as a sop (I don’t recommend trying to polish off the sandwich, bread included, by yourself).  

At the Grosseria, I had the Maganaro’s Special sandwich ($8), which layered Swiss and provolone along with several types of cold cuts, roasted red peppers, lettuce, and oil/vinegar dressing.  While the bread was better than at Hero Boy (though, frankly, my jaw was sore from chewing it by the end), the cold cuts suffer slightly from having been pre-sliced (can you imagine what Walter would say?), and the overall ensemble (for instance, putting the oil on the sandwich after the meat and cheese rather than before) could use a little work, in my opinion.  Nonetheless, not a bad sandwich in the least – just not a great one.

Based on the fact that the meatballs were excellent, I’d have to prefer Hero Boy over its competitor, but with so few visits under my belt, I can’t call my opinion definitive.  Plus, I don’t want to be blacklisted from either of them – this feud has been going on for far longer than I’ve been alive, and I’d bet for long after I’m dead.

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3 Comments

Filed under NYC

3 responses to “Why can’t they be friends?

  1. Hey I just wanted to say that I love your blog and wonder if besides the usual cheap eats, you ever hear of any places that are normally more expensive that offer cheap eats, or discounts. I know about the restaurant week, but I’m looking for something year round. Thanks!

  2. I don’t, I’m afraid.

  3. FutureMrs.Bryan

    Hey guys! http://www.diningfever.com is my personal fave for year round NYC restaurant discounts. I just ate at Bobby Van’s for %15 off. Good stuff, good stuff.

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