I recently had to travel to the Upper West Side for my job and took the opportunity to eat at the famous (or infamous?) O_ Brothers. I had heard by word of mouth that this place was unbeatable; a classic Italian deli and butcher shop that make the best sandwiches. Unfortunately, I was not impressed during this visit. I don’t know if old O_’s was just having an off day but the cold cuts were not fresh nor was the sandwich maker on his A game. The sandwich was mostly lettuce; something I’m used to seeing at a franchise like Subway, not a place with such a hallowed rep. As bland and unsatisfying as the sandwich was, it wasn’t until I returned to work that the full reality of their suckiness was able to sink in. Yes, what better way to speak to clients and co-workers for the first time than with dozens of tiny pieces of cold cut fat stuck in between your teeth?
O_ brothers gets a Double “F” as in I’m not even gonna mention your Full Fucking name. You’ve been blacked out of my diary like a line in a Simon and Garfunkel song. You broke my heart, Fredo…
On the other hand, if you’re in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn some of the best food in NYC is right under your nose.
Monte’s Deli and Catering on Avenue O is just such a place. Their prosciutto is pleasing, their provolone unparalleled and their salami stops traffic. The bread is always fresh and perfect for their heroes. Here is where one can buy a lunch fit for a king or share it; these things are big! Just remember they don’t have tables so you’ll have to bring it home or eat in the car; just not on the subway (show some class, people!).
The shelves are lined with all kinds of Italian goodies, their display case is packed with powerful pasta salads and their fridge stocks almost every product made by Manhattan Special.
In case you’re not familiar with Manhattan Special, it’s the brand name for a soda-maker on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint that since the 1890’s (back when locals pronounced it ‘Green-pirnt’) has made old-fashioned sodas; no high fructose corn syrup in these puppies. Their flagship product is the espresso soda. Monte’s also carries the more elusive sarsaparilla (a spicy root beer for the unschooled of you out there) as well as the ever-creamy vanilla cream soda. I could go on and on but that’s for another post.
Monte’s comes out of this the undisputed ‘Champ-een’ of Italian Deli’s. They make some of the largest, fully packed heroes and don’t forget that most important ingredient: TLC. To the readers out there, please e-mail me your suggestions for future contenders. Plus, I’d love to hear ideas for great Jewish Deli’s. Let’s make Katz’s work for it! Maybe we should put them up against BK newcomer Mile End? Stay tuned!