Decades of lawsuits settled once-and-for-all the long-running feud between the two branches of the family that owned the side-by-side Managanaro’s stores on Ninth Avenue, near Port Authority. This resulted in the closure of the Grosseria a few years back. Hero Boy was the larger, and more modern (and generic) looking store of the two, a cafeteria-style restaurant; no groceries for sale here.
Like their former neighbor one door south, Hero Boy makes heroes and a few hot Italian dishes (including the deep-fried Sicilian rice balls known as arancini), and six-foot heroes for parties and events. So who made the better hero? That all depended on what you wanted, and when you wanted it (and how you wanted it served — the Grosseria had some of the surliest sandwich makers in history — not wink-wink schtick-surly, but genuinely miserable people).
For one thing, only Hero Boy was open Sundays, so for one day a week the choice was easy. How about the other days? We thought the Grosseria used better bread than the very crusty, brawny textured, but bland, bread at Hero Boy, though truth be told the bread at neither store was as good as it could be. We much preferred the old-world Italian-American atmosphere at the Grosseria, too.
On the other hand, the sandwiches at Hero Boy are much more generous than the ones formerly served at the Grosseria (at comparable prices). Hot heroes are Hero Boy’s strength and, in particular, we love Hero Boy’s meatball hero. The meatballs have a touch of hot pepper heat and garlic, and are soft and juicy. They use fresh mozzarella on the sandwich, which they lay in a steam table pan to turn molten before applying it to the hero, and we enjoy the sweet dairy flavor of Hero Boy’s mozz.
Finally, we are of the opinion that great bread is not critical to the success of hot heroes. As with barbecue, artisan bread can work at cross-purposes with the meat and sauce. For cold heroes, however, the bread is key. So in the final analysis, we went to the Grosseria for cold heroes and Hero Boy for hot heroes. Unless we were in the mood for the classic atmosphere of the Grosseria. Or if it was Sunday.494 9th Avenue New York NY 10018 212-947-7325 Manganaro’s Heroboy’s Website Manganaro’s Heroboy on Facebook