We love the New York City hero. We also love Philadelphia hoagies and Louisiana muffulettas and all their regional brethren. A muffuletta is defined by the olive salad garnish. A hoagie, unless otherwise specified, comes with lettuce, tomato, and onion (order a cheesesteak hoagie, as opposed to a cheesesteak, and you are requesting your sandwich to be garnished [however ill-advised] with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions).
The hero, as we see it, is the least constrained of the group. A hero is a sandwich on a long roll or length of Italian bread. Fill it with hot sausage or meatballs, cold cuts, cheeses, tuna, roasted vegetables, anything you can think of, and it’s still a hero. You, of course, don’t want just a hero though, you want a great hero, so it’s up to you to find a place with top-quality bread and primo ingredients with which to fill it, and then you have to select those ingredients wisely.
Todaro Bros., an Italian deli that has become more of an international grocery and gourmet shop (and, lately, a wine bar as well), is an excellent place to begin. Like most of the finest hero purveyors, Todaro’s is take-out only (this being New York City, it’s not difficult to find a bench or a park to settle into before unwrapping your feast). Make your way to the back of the store, passing shelves and counters and refrigerated cases loaded with olive oils and wine vinegars, fresh-cut meat and fresh produce, where you’ll find the deli counter arrayed with a mind-boggling assortment of prosciuttos, cheeses, and salamis.
The menu above your head offers many suggestions, but the best way to go is to build your sandwich from scratch, selecting those meats and cheeses that most interest you. Begin by inspecting the roll selection. You want a good crusty roll, and if none of the rolls at the deli counter appeal to you, your sandwich man will look for options up at the bread counter. This not only ensures good bread for your hero, in our experience it also signals to the sandwich man that you are serious about your hero. He will likely take extra care in its construction.
Todaro carries a wide selection of first-quality imported cold cuts, and they are worth your attention, but even the domestic choices are far better than those you’re likely to find at your local supermarket. Our suggestions: be sure to get the sweet and creamy fresh mozzarella, and the olive spread is a wonderful addition. We’re also particularly fond of the Italian mortadella. Be careful with the oil & vinegar; the vinegar is balsamic, and we find that it clashes with the taste of many of the meats. Unless you absolutely must have them, avoid the pink tomato slices and skip the lettuce.
A hero with two meats and fresh mozz can run you ten bucks, maybe even a dollar or two more, but when you unwrap your sandwich and wrap your jaws around this custom-built specimen, we think you’ll agree it’s worth every penny.555 2nd Avenue New York NY 10016 212-532-0633 Todaro Bros.’ Website Todaro Bros. on Facebook