Hot meat, gooey cheese, warm tomato sauce, soft chewy bread.. what's not to love about a great parm sandwich? Not everyone gets the combo right, however... in fact, the failure rate during my research this past month was considerably higher than in many other categories. These 10 restaurants however—a combination of old school red sauce and sandwich spots, as well as newer places paying homage to the classic—really nail it.
Please note that Eggplant Parm is obviously also delicious, but I did a list of those just last year, so this one is all about the meat. (Note: many of those eggplant spots also make a nice meatball and/or chicken parm, even if they're not repeated here.)
Madcap's All the Meats - Balls. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Madcap Cafe: All the Meats - Balls ($14) Heather Fuller's ever-evolving Carroll Gardens gem has many, many good things to eat at all hours of the day and night, so it doesn't surprise that her meatball parm sandwich totally kills it, too. In typical Madcap fashion, this beautiful beast has a quirky name, top-notch local ingredients—including a secret blend of ground veal, pork, and beef from Paisanos down the street and bread from Mazzola's over on Henry—and is always made with love.
Located at 387 Court Street near 1st Place, and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (929-337-6117; madcapcafebk.com)
Salumeria Biellese's Chicken Parm. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Salumeria Biellese: Chicken Parm ($11.15) There used to be countless spots like this all over Manhattan, a place crowded with regulars where you could grab a quick sandwich or a simple plate of pasta—no fuss, just a bunch of excellent homemade food for a reasonable amount of money. One of the great survivors in the genre is Salumeria Biellese Deli, which has been holding it down in Chelsea for nearly 100 years. Order with confidence across the menu (the sausages are semi-legendary), but if you're craving Chicken Parm, this sloppy monster, served on a superb soft hero from Brooklyn's Milano bakery, might be the single best version of the sandwich in the whole city.
Located at 378 Eighth Avenue, at the corner of 29th Street (212-736-7376; sbdeli.net)
Scarr's Meatball Parm Sub. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Scarr's: Meatball Parm Sub ($12) Repeated visits to Scarr's over the last three years have solidified this throwback pizza parlor as one my favorite LES spots. Everything's great here, but if you can tear yourself away for a minute from the pizza part of the menu, definitely get Scarr's Meatball Parm Sub, which features co-stars like the ample melted mozzarella, chunky sauce, and a toasty roll. The guy up front will warn you that it takes 20 minutes, but that's fine, wait and chill in a booth in back, while taking in the well-curated hip-hop mix.
Located at 22 Orchard Street between Hester and Canal (212-334-3481; scarrspizza.com)
Ferdinando's Focacceria's Meatball Parm Hero. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Ferdinando's Focacceria: Meatball Parm Hero ($11)
Talk about old school! Ferdinando's (née Paul's) Focacceria has been serving sandwiches, macaroni, and Sicilian specialties from the same spot on Union Street near the waterfront since 1904—same wooden doors, same tile floor, same tin ceiling—and though the place is no longer packed with longshoremen and stevedores, it's not hard to imagine the many different Brooklyns this place has seen over the decades. Everything tastes good while you're sitting here (these days the locals rave about the sausages and panelles), but the Meatball Parm Hero is a true beefy beast, with chunks of bread helpfully scooped out from the roll so you can close the damn thing.
Located at 151 Union Street between Hicks and Columbia (718-855-1545)
Harry and Ida's Pastrami Meatball Hero. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Harry and Ida’s: Pastrami Meatball Hero ($14) Julie and Will Horowitz can add a twist to just about anything and make it feel fresh and exciting. Witness Will's Smoked Watermelon "Ham" at Duck's Eatery, and this glorious Meatball Hero, which is made from the Harry and Ida's incomparable pastrami, then topped with, not just any tomato sauce, but roasted romesco. Creamy smoked provolone, pickled greens, and a sturdy, flaky roll complete the package. By the way, the small East Village place has added seating, and is now open well into the night, so feel free to stop in and wolf one of these down as your own private afterparty.
Located at 189 Avenue A just south of East 12th Street (646-864-0967; harryandidas.com)
Anthony and Son's Chicken Parm. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Anthony and Son: Chicken Parm ($10) Everyone will tell you to order the FDNY at stalwart Williamsburg "panini shoppe" Anthony and Son (25 years and counting!), and they're right, it is an exemplary sandwich, with the chicken cutlet and melted mozzarella smothered in vodka sauce instead of straight-up tomato. But just as an experiment I ordered the regular Chicken Parm the other night and, really, it's equally as good. As are most of the other 60+ varieties on the menu. The only seating is a bench outside, so if you're on an eating adventure, it's best to visit on a warm, pleasant day.
Located at 433 Graham Avenue at the corner of Frost Street (718-383-7395; paninishoppe.com)
Brancaccio Food Shop's Meatball Sandwich. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Brancaccio’s Food Shop: Meatball Sandwich ($9) If Brancaccio's was located near me, instead of in Windsor Terrace, I'd probably wind up bringing prepared food home a few nights a week. Just look at this menu! And the prices are as throwback as the Ricky Powell photo of circa-1988 Adam Yauch that hangs near the ordering corner. The Meatball Sandwich is phenomenal, the massive balls stuffed with pine nuts and raisins—don't be a coward, it's delicious—sliced for easy stacking between the crusted sesame roll, and topped with cool, unmelted mozzarella for a winning contrast of textures and temperatures. There are a couple of stools by the window, but the bench out front is the better option if it's nice out.
Located at 3011 Fort Hamilton Parkway between 2nd and 3rd Streets (718-435-1997, brancacciosfoodshop.com)
Faicco's Veal Parm. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Faicco's: Veal Parm ($18) Another piece of Olde New York still going strong is Faicco's on Bleecker Street, which has been making sandwiches in the neighborhood for, almost unbelievably, over 100 years. Opened in 1900 and now in its fourth generation of Faicco, this chaotic, aromatic treasure is an excellent source of all Italian deli staples, but its parm sandwiches are real standouts. My most recent meal here was this Veal Parm behemoth, and, to be honest, it took about two days to finish it. "That's $25-a-pound veal there" the counterperson boasted, so I guess you'd call it fine dining, Faicco's style.
Located at 260 Bleecker Street between Leroy and Morton (212-243-1974; faiccosnyc.com)
Corner Slice's Meatball Sandwich. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Corner Slice: Meatball Sandwich ($11.95) As has been well documented by now, Long Island kid turned ramen master Ivan Orkin also makes some of the best pizza in the city at Corner Slice, located, unfortunately for all of us who don't live in the shadow of the Intrepid, at the Gotham West Market about a million miles from the nearest subway. As it so happens, Orkin and crew also makes an exceptional Meatball Sandwich, which utilizes the Corner Slice's chewy, airy, focaccia-like crust to house several well-seasoned balls, and to soak in all that terrific tomato sauce.
Located at 600 11th Avenue at 45th Street (212-956-9339; cornerslicenyc.com)
Lioni Italian Heroes' A Nonna/Nonno. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Lioni Italian Heroes: A Nonna/Nonno ($17) The place on this list with both the best and the MOST sandwiches would have to be Lioni, with more the 150 different distinct varieties at their Bensonhurst original and, incredibly, also at their handy booth in the Dekalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn. I say handy because the Alamo theater is five flights up, and splitting one of these monsters pre-show with your movie buddy is an ace money-saving move. Anyway, my last Lioni was the Veal Parmigiana, a.k.a. A Nonna / Noona: "Just Like at Home", a.k.a. #41 on the big board, and it really hit the spot. Eat here and you definitely won't even need popcorn upstairs.
Located at 7803 15th Avenue in Bensonhurst and 445 Albee Square West in Downtown Brooklyn (lioniheroes.com)