As promised. Here we go.
The sandwich: Smoked turkey, bacon and mozzarella from Faicco’s in Manhattan’s West Village. The combination happens to be listed as an option on a whiteboard above the deli counter, but I feel fairly confident that Faicco’s is the type of place that would still dutifully and masterfully pile those (or any other) sandwich components on a hero even if they weren’t listed together on the menu anywhere. Which is to say: It’s a good type of place. More on that soon.
The construction: The above listed ingredients, plus lettuce and tomato. I have had this sandwich four times, twice with hot peppers. Every time, I got it with oil and vinegar as a dressing. Once, while feeling fancy, I specifically requested oil and balsamic vinegar. It comes on Italian bread, sometimes with sesame seeds.
Important background information: I’m not really moved to do any more whining about my old job in this space, so I’ll spare you some utterly un-salacious details here. But I’ll note that I had been reviewing sandwiches and food fairly regularly at For The Win until last August, when, dumb story short, I stopped doing that. Again, I don’t really want to get into it except to say that I found myself in a weird and uncomfortable position with regards to sandwich writing, which I recognize is a ridiculous thing to say.
Every time I ask readers what it is about my work that they enjoy, roughly half of the respondents reference sandwich reviews. It’s amazing and hilarious and appreciated, and it has always felt like an online identity worth cultivating because it, like so much else of what I write about, is part of my actual, analog identity.
This may be a performance of sorts, but it isn’t an act. I really do love sandwiches, folks.
The first time I went into Faicco’s, I did so with the intent of acquiring a sandwich to discuss in some forum. I found myself briefly, pathetically paralyzed by the notion of the forthcoming sandwich as #content, worrying about which option on the menu board would best lend itself to photographs, which might best grab readers’ attention, and whether it should be within my rights as an upstanding sandwich man of great integrity to take so bold a step as requesting hot peppers atop a sandwich that does not normally include them.
The point is — and I’m embarrassed to admit this — I let these motherf-ers complicate sandwiches. Heartbreaking stuff, I know. But really, in this case, all the fault lied with me and my vanity.
Then, after a few moments of agony staring at the menu board, I looked around the store and realized that, though I’d never been there before, I’d been there a thousand times before.
Except not even. Faicco’s isn’t a typical New York-area Italian deli and butcher shop so much as it is the apotheosis of the New York-area Italian deli and butcher shop, brilliantly clean and impeccably appointed, with one counter framing a beautiful store-length refrigerator lush with red meat and another guarding a dizzying cornucopia of charcuterie. It’s perfect.
What am I thinking? Why am I thinking? I know what to do in this place. I am a full-blown expert in what to do in this place. Faicco’s is a flat, belt-high, 88-mph fastball down the heart of the plate, and I am Barry Lamar Freakin’ Bonds standing in the batter’s box worried he can’t hit it. Get ahold of yourself, guy.
So I let instinct take over.
“Gimme a turkey, mutzuhrella and bacon, please,” I said, letting slip the Long Island Deli Guy accent I try to tone down on TV. “And lemme get some hot peppers on that with, uhh, oyy-uhl and vin-uh-guh.”
What it looks like:
How it tastes: I giggled.
After the first bite of the sandwich, eaten alone on a park bench a block away from the shop, I actually giggled. Had I really allowed myself to climb so far up my own ass that I doubted my ability to choose the right sandwich at the place that made this sandwich? This sandwich, it’s… spectacular.
And yeah, it’s but a humble combination hero of turkey, bacon and cheese, forms of which can be found practically everywhere. But it’s the perfect version of that. This is the Faicco’s of turkey, bacon and cheese sandwiches.
The turkey is sliced impossibly thin and piled high, but carefully distributed so there’s no single bite of the sandwich that’s overwhelmed by the quantity of turkey or that meat’s inherent dryness. The homemade mozzarella is fresh and creamy, the tomatoes are sweet and juicy, the lettuce is fresh, the dressing adds the acidic sting of vinegar and keeps everything moist, and the peppers, when added, provide enough heat to amplify all the other flavors.
The bacon deserves its own paragraph. I never confirmed whether the bacon they use is house bacon, but it’s so good and so flavorful that I will assume as much. It’s thick, but cooked evenly, and thoroughly crunchy without being burnt. It’s the type of bacon that makes you want to renounce the lousy, plastic-wrapped supermarket bacon you’ve been purchasing for home use and commit to buying butcher bacon from that point forward.
If it seems like a simple sandwich, it’s because you haven’t had one yet. I ate half of one on a gorgeous afternoon last week while my kid climbed on a nearby playground, and the sandwich conjured memories of carefree summer block parties or barbecues at the beach, with the subtle hint of smoke flavor from the turkey peeking through. I ate the second half alone in the narrow living room of my cave-like apartment, and the sandwich seemed moodier and more complex.
This sandwich contains multitudes. This sandwich rules.
What it costs: It’s a $15 sandwich, which sounds expensive until you hold it in your hands and realize that the thing probably weighs two pounds. I can eat a lot, but it’s difficult to fathom how someone could eat an entire Faicco’s sandwich in one sitting. Just half of one is a full meal, and when you look at it that way — $7.50 for lunch, another $7.50 for dinner — it seems like a downright bargain. I really don’t know of anywhere in Manhattan where one might find as much food of this quality for less money.
Hall of Fame? Yes. Hell yes.