May 17, 2022, 0:07

The Irresistible Sandwiches of All’Antico Vinaio

The Irresistible Sandwiches of All’Antico Vinaio

I won’t take a side in the battle over whether the city’s office workers should be expected to return to their desks as we shift with an ever-evolving pandemic. I will note that anyone with a desk in or near Midtown West might be incentivized by the promise of a superlative lunch. Last November, All’Antico Vinaio, an extraordinarily popular sandwich shop that originated in Florence, Italy, before expanding to Milan and Rome, opened its first U.S. outpost, in New York. I’ve been to Florence just once, for barely a day some summers ago, and what I did with that day, other than speed through the Uffizi, was optimize for eating. Lunch was at All’Antico Vinaio.

The New York shop, blocks away from Times Square, has a small seating area that gets flooded with light on a sunny day.

I ordered La Paradiso, tripling down on my favorite nut: thin coins of pistachio were spangled, like leopard spots, throughout floppy folds of mortadella that had been layered with an oily, pesto-like “pistachio cream” and stretchy stracciatella (made from mozzarella curds mixed with cream) dusted in crushed pistachio, stacked between enormous rectangles of freshly baked schiacciata, a focaccia-adjacent Tuscan bread. (Schiacciata means “squished,” as in with fingertips.) I ate it, both hands required, on a doorstep across the cobblestoned street from the shop, drinking cold wine out of a plastic cup. I saw, in vivid colors, what all the fuss was about.

It’s a pleasure to watch the sandwich-makers at work behind the counter.

Eighth Avenue is no Via dei Neri. The Florence shop is a two-minute walk from the Palazzo Vecchio, home to the famous copy of Michelangelo’s David. The New York shop is a six-minute walk from the Times Square M&M’s World. But their interiors are mostly indistinguishable, and in New York there’s a small horseshoe-shaped seating area, wooden counters, and a few stools, all flooded with sunlight one recent afternoon. It was a pleasure to observe the work of a small team of expert sandwich-makers—artists, really, to borrow a term from Subway—including one who had been transferred, indefinitely, from Florence.

There are sixteen sandwiches on the menu, including the New Yorker, which features roast beef and onion-porcini cream.

Towering stacks of schiacciata emerged from the basement at regular intervals, shiny with olive oil and sparkling with coarse salt, releasing clouds of steam from a dense landscape of air bubbles as the loaves were sliced horizontally, ends slivered off and passed to patiently waiting customers. Each slab was piled with irresistible combinations of freshly cut meats, cheeses, flavored creams, and vegetables. It can be hard to choose from the sixteen options, especially given an overlap in ingredients. A tiny chalkboard placard on the counter helpfully lists the two best-sellers, which also sit at the top of the menu. La Favolosa features Tuscan salami and soft cubes of spicy marinated eggplant, plus Pecorino and artichoke creams. La Schiacciata del Boss encases Tuscan prosciutto, sliced Pecorino, and a generous smear of inky black-truffle cream.

There are plenty of sandwiches for vegetarians. Steer clear of La Caprese outside of tomato season, unless you don’t mind a pale, mealy beefsteak; try, instead, La Broadway, loaded, like La Paradiso, with stracciatella, pistachio cream, and, in place of mortadella, sun-dried tomatoes, cubed zucchini, and a handful of arugula. The L.A. Fade Away, which comprises those vegetables plus eggplant and Gorgonzola, is satisfying as well, though I’m not sure what it has to do with L.A. (The New Yorker is made with roast beef and onion-porcini cream; there’s turkey and avocado in the Venice Beach.) Vegans will have a harder time, as did the woman behind me in line who announced that she liked cheese but not “cold cheese.” If you eat pork, to skip the meats—the salame, the prosciutto, the capocollo, the porchetta, the ’nduja—is to do yourself a grave disservice.

My two favorite All’Antico sandwiches exalt the Tuscan art of salumi by including only meat and cheese, the saltiness of each sharpened by a drizzle of truffle honey. La Toscana marries salame and Pecorino. The Dolcezze d’Autunno pairs Gorgonzola with lardo, cutting through the figurative fat by homing in on the purest stuff. (Sandwiches $10-$18.) ♦

Sourse: newyorker.com

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