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Mar 7, 2009 11:28 AM

Defonte's-To hell with Quiznos, Subway and Blimpie

We all had real Italian hero/deli places growing up. In the 70's near Stuyvesant High School was DiBella Bros. whose antipasta heros made from the leftover scraps of proscuitto, soppressata, provolone, peppers, etc., etc. made the crappiest day in high school heaven. In the 80s down on Wall Street where I got a crappy job as a stockbroker's cold caller during college there was Rosario's where the capicolla (pronounced "gabbagoul") was legend. Nowadays the iconoclasts of Italian heros, namely Quiznos, Subway and Blimpies have all but destroyed those happy memories. Until now. I've never been to Defonte's in Red Hook over the last 87 years-my loss, but the new Manhattan branch has brought that old NYC Italian love on a roll with them. The roast beef was sliced to order and my request for rare was unnecessary as it came off looking like beef carpaccio. The fried eggplant gave it a slight crunch and just the right vegetable counterpoint to the nearly raw meat. The mozzarella (pronounced "mutz") was fresh and made in house. The au jus gave it the french dip component while the hot peppers and the soft baked humongous garlic bread complemented the whole thing. Not to mention the love spilling out of it. I looked longingly at the fried shrimp (only available on fridays and saturdays) and the owner tossed a few on my plate. They'd stand up to the best shrimp po' boy I've had in New Orleans, another city where the Italian amore still exists. Look, we still have Alidoro, Faicco's, Biellese, Mike's and Mama's (thank God), but Defonte's has restored my faith in NYC. As for Quiznos, Subway and Blimpie...fuggedaboudit.

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      1. I'm so glad to see this report, guttergourmet. After reading the other thread, I was beginning to worry that we were in for another 3rd Av. in the 20's disappointment (referring, of course, to the dreaded, avoid-at-all-costs Pizza Pub). I, too, have never been to the Brooklyn Defonte's but am now looking forward to only having to walk a few blocks to the Manhattan branch, which I will be doing asap.

        1. Hmm ... I'm heading over to a hospital nearby and may give this a try ... another culinary confession ... I've never eaten a hero!

          1. oh holy smoke. dibella brothers!!!!

            moved here in the early 80s and got turned in to the place by a stuy alum. the pepperoni, ricotta salata and olive salad was the closest thing to readymade hangover cure cold pizza i ever tasted.

            thanks for the memory :)