Monday, June 13, 2011

A Gem of a Portuguese Sandwich Shop in New York

I'm one of those few Americans who's not in love with sandwiches. Whatever is layered between two pieces of bread had better be pretty interesting or downright tasty before I would ever give two thumbs up to a sandwich choice. I find most sandwich options boring, tasteless, laden with greasy mayonnaise or stacked high with fatty meats and cheeses. But my skeptical view on sandwiches was turned on its head when I bit into one of several sandwiches over a few days at the new New York City eatery, City Sandwich.


Chef Michael Guerrieri who has an eclectic background -- he was born in Naples, grew up in New York City and lived in and opened up an upmarket restaurant, Mezzaluna, in Lisbon -- presides over this wee Mediterranean shop that easily transports me to Portugal, a country I visit at least once a year.

The idea behind his new venture, which melds the Italian with the Portuguese, is all about simplicity and remaining true to traditional flavors and ingredients. When I spoke with him recently, I felt his passion for Portugal and for the cuisine he serves. "I'm putting my Italian-Portuguese upbringing on bread," he said.


Sardines are imported from Portugal and he's also tapped into New Jersey's Portuguese community. The breads are made in New Jersey by a Portuguese baker -- it arrives at the shop twice a day. They'll also be bringing in Portuguese wines. And don't expect to see any mayonnaise on your bread; instead, it's yogurt or olive oil.



Even the color scheme of the menu, with red representing meat sandwiches, green for veggies/fish and yellow for those that are egg based, are in keeping with the hues of the Portuguese flag. But the restaurant also has a New York sensibility. After all, melted mozzarella is not something you'd expect to find in either Portugal or Italy. (It's a New York City Italian phenomenon.)

My favorite sandwiches included the Auntie that combines pickled sardines with onions and cilantro. Even if you're not a sardine lover give it a try because the cilantro offsets any intense fishy flavor you might expect when sardines are on the plate. The Todd, my other fave, is constructed with smoked Portuguese pancetta and a honey-Dijon sauce. Given that I'm what I call a conditional vegetarian -- I only eat meat if it's a specialty or something that's a notable local delight and then I'll consume only small portions -- it's especially noteworthy that I finished the entire sandwich and found it exceedingly flavorful. (The size of these sandwiches -- hero-quality -- means you are getting very good value for the money, as well.)

Some customers may be hesitant in ordering the codfish; the alheira, a sausage of pork and sausage; and especially the morcella, a Portuguese blood sausage, sandwiches but I say give any of these a try or split them with a friend or colleague. Anything Michael touches turns to gold, cuisine wise. He is extremely skillful with his flavor combinations. I intend to return one evening and sip a fine Portuguese wine while nibbling maybe the Portuguese alheira with collards, not a combination that initially attracts aficionados. But in Michael's hands, I'm confident it'll have a blending of flavors that'll keep me coming back for more.

24 comments:

NoPotCooking said...

These sandwiches sound so interesting. I don't eat sandwiches often, and when I do, I take off the top piece of bread!

Sheryl said...

Okay, I'm convinced. I want to go the next time I'm in the city. Where exactly is it?

Alexandra said...

Another fan of Portugal here. Thanks for this address. There's a great Portuguese restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Go there whenever we can.

Alexandra said...

City Sandwich: 649 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10036

Directions:

West side of Ninth Ave., between 45 & 46 Street.

Kris @ Attainable Sustainable said...

I'm not much of a sandwich eater myself, but my own Portuguese upbringing means that a sandwich made with linguica can take me immediately to comfort food heaven.

This sounds like a great little shop - though I'd have to pass on the blood sausage. Shudder.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

Some of these itty-bitty food spots in NYC intrigue me. It looks, at least, like the bread is awesome too. That's the real issue with lame sandwiches is boring bread.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Oh, man! I could have eaten these all the time if I were still commuting from the Port Authority. I'm in Hell's Kitchen often enough that I can still sample one, though.

JTravel said...

Hi NoPotCooking, I also often take off the top half of the sandwiches. But the bread on these sandwiches is so great, that I ate everything.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Hope you get a chance to visit this place next time you're in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of NYC.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, I'd love to know about the Portuguese restaurant in Cambridge. I might be there later in the summer.

JTravel said...

Hi Kris, yeah, everyone is not a fan of blood sausage. I've had it in Spain and Portugal and like it. But it's an acquired taste.

JTravel said...

Hi Roxanne, I love great bread and, I agree, it's definitely hard to find.

JTravel said...

Hi Casey, I've often thought of the Port Authority area as a no man's land, food wise. So it's great to find out about this Portuguese-infused shop.

Living Large said...

I'm not a big sandwich person either, but these do look very tempting!

MyKidsEatSquid said...

I am a sandwich person, but more than that I love the idea of just trying something even if you think you might not like it. The fusion of flavors here sounds so good. This post makes me miss NYC.

JTravel said...

Hi Living Large, Every time I'm in the neighborhood now, I have a craving for one of these sandwiches. I try a different one every time. Most yum.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, If you're ever back in NYC, please let me know. We could visit this place together.

Jennifer Margulis said...

Next time I am in NYC, I will be going here. Sounds excellent (and I'm not even a sandwich person.)

Christine said...

This sounds utterly delicious. And - add me to the list of people who want to know about the Portuguese sandwich shop in Cambridge!

Donna Hull said...

I'm not a sandwich lover either, but these sound delicious (and unique). Can't wait for my next visit to NYC.

JTravel said...

Hi Donna, Next time you're in NYC, hope we can get together, maybe at this sandwich shop.

JTravel said...

Hi Jennifer, wish we could get a gang of us together and, when you're all in NYC, we could all have lunch at this sandwich shop.

Melanie Haiken said...

It's wonderful to see you articulate exactly what I think about sandwiches but have never been able to explain. I will go all over town to find a place that has a soup/salad combo rather than grab a sandwich, no matter how much more convenient. But I love sardines (which are incredibly good for you, by the way0 so these sound very appealing.