Labeleca? La Bellezza? Either way, they make a damn good Chicken Parm
And so the quest to find the best chicken parm sub in Midtown rambles on. First, there was Tuscany Catering, the little hidden catering place/take out counter on 55th btw. 5+6th. I was down with it, but my boss (the resident chicken parm expert) wasn‘t impressed- and a few commenters noted that it was just average. The train moved on to 45th St., where we hit up Little Italy Pizza. The bread was good, but the chicken was not up to par, unlike across the street at Park Italian- where the chicken is good, but the bread was weak the day we were there (apparently, their 1st string bread is much better than their 2nd string bread, and maybe we got the back up bread?).
Commenter Margot mentioned La Bellezza on 49th btw. Lex+3rd, and since then, I have gotten a few more recommendations over email. Then, two weeks ago, Profiled Midtown Lunch’er “David” mentioned the Chicken Parm from a La Bellezza on 40th & 7th. Same place? Different place? What is going on here? I set out to discover some answers… and by that, I mean I used this as an excuse to eat Chicken Parm subs for lunch in one week.
What I discovered, and some chicken parm sub porn- after the jump…
The La Bellezza on 40th btw. 7+8th is actually Labeleca on the sign outside, despite being listed on Menupages and other sites as La Bellezza. A small take out pizza place, I’ve walked by this joint a ton of times without going in. But not today. It was mission time. It gets a little crowded during lunchtime, so if you want pizza just step to the left hand corner and order your pizza. If you want subs or pasta step up to the counter on the right and order from that counter.
The pizza looked pretty weak, but luckily we were not there for the pizza. The sub gets assembled behind the counter, and then popped into the pizza oven for a little toasting (and to melt the cheese). The bread was much better than you’d expect at a little hole in the wall like this, and the chicken was very well seasoned. Rather than one thick piece of chicken, this sandwich features two thinly sliced chicken breasts stacked up on top of each other. The result, more crispy fried stuff in your sandwich. Very nice indeed. Good amount of cheese too. The only downside (for some) is that they didn‘t put enough sauce on our sandwiches- but that is easily fixed. (I actually like my chicken parm a little more dry, so I was down with it.) Cost: $6.00 Not bad at all.
With Labeleca firmly in the thumbs up category, I headed over to La Bellezza 49th btw. Lex+3rd, on a different day (I’m fat, but not a machine.) La Bellezza III according to the sign, it was pretty much the same set up (although the pizza looked much better than Labeleca). Order pizza at the counter on the left, sandwiches and pastas go straight to the counter on the right (don’t get caught in the pizza line if you want to order a sub.)
They also confirmed that Labeleca and La Bellezza III were owned by the same people, but when I asked whose food was better, the guy said “Most people say it’s ours.” Fair enough. One chicken parm sub to test out this theory.
Once again, I was served two thinly pounded chicken breasts stacked on top of each other. Good amount of cheese, good bread, and the perfect amount of sauce (i.e. a little more than the version at Labeleca). The sauce was real nice, and not too sweet (the downfall of many chicken parm subs). All and all, another thumbs up. Total cost: $6.50. La Bellezza was even smaller than Labeleca, and even more crowded- so be prepared to be cramped and take your food to go if one of the 4 or 5 stools in the place is taken. Same goes for Labeleca- although they have more stools.
I’m not ready to call off the search for the best chicken parm sub just yet (I still have to hit up Mondello‘s on 37th, Lazzarra‘s on 38th and if all else fails, an “Out of Bounds” post about Manganaro‘s on 9th Ave.) But for now, La Bellezza III & Labeleca are where it’s at.
- Good bread
- Sauce that isn’t too sweet
- Very well seasoned, thinly pounded out chicken breasts (so they don’t get dried out)
- Not too expensive ($6-6.50) for a nap inducing sub
- Labeleca can be a little dry sometimes (but you can always ask for extra sauce)
- Both places are tiny, and can get pretty cramped
- Neither have any tables, just stools- and there aren’t very many, so you have to be prepared to take your food to go.
Labeleca, 200 W. 40th St. (just west of 7th Ave.), 212-869-9605
La Bellezza III, 145 E. 49th St. (btw. Lex+3rd), 212-871-3223