You know, I’ve eaten a fair number of sandwiches in my life, in every shape and size imaginable. I’ve never, not even in my late hero-eating binge, seen a sandwich the size of Defonte’s “Nicky’s Special.” It is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the sandwich world. I should have had the affable owner weigh the damn thing, in retrospect.
I’ve long lusted after a trip to DeFonte’s, but never knew what the hours were, and had developed a tendency to stroll by when the place was shuttered (like, for example, all day Sunday). Finally, with my trip to the ballfields a couple months back, I blew by during opening hours, but had already consumed enough pupusas to make my stomach explode. I took a menu, wrote down the hours (6AM-4PM, Mon.-Sat.), and promised to get back as soon as I could raise a posse to accompany me.
That time was lunch on this past Saturday, and, while making the trek over from Boerum Hill, our appetites (I even skipped my morning pastry) peaked. One friend, who’d made the effort to come down from the Upper West Side, wondered if he’d have to order two sandwiches to be fulfilled. I told him I doubted it, but I had no idea the extent to which we’d later laugh about it until I saw one of the Nicky’s Specials presented with a thump on the back counter (the owner generously allowed us to chow down on the premises).
Again, I’ve seen healthy newborns smaller than this sandwich. It’s not filled with crap, either – the stars of the show were the thinly sliced fried eggplant (done, it would seem, that morning) and the “hot” (spicy vegetable) salad, which looks like something you’d find on a salad bar until you get the first “whoosh!” of heat. Compared to those, the other ingredients demure, but examine this list: provolone, ham, salami, capicolla, prosciuttini (made from the belly rather than the leg, as prosciutto is), mushrooms, lettuce and tomato. And the bread, while not reaching the semolina heights of Alidoro’s finest loaf, splits the difference between being a structurally sound foundation (critical for a hero of this size) and edibility. It’s good, in other words.
Also good is the owner’s temprament and friendliness. He obviously had us pegged as first-timers from the moment we walked in, and took the time to engage us. He even asked what my other favorite sandwiches were – apparently he wasn’t just sizing up the competition, as he’s friends with Faicco’s owner. You can tell he loves his craft.
Get to Defonte’s – I give the heroes my unqualified recommendation, and, if you get the largest size, you could easily make two meals from it for $10 (the 1/3 size isn’t really that much smaller, for what it’s worth). Make sure you go on a nice day, though. You’ll want to take a stroll down Van Brunt to the waterfront afterwards just to shake off the effects.