Flatiron Lunch: Defonte’s of Brooklyn
Defonte’s (on 21st and 3rd) has been on my radar for a while now, but for one reason or another, I never quite got around to checking it out. This corner of Flatiron Lunch bounds tends to be just out of the way enough that I don’t make it out that often. But earlier this week, a good friend told me that they make an amazing roast beef sandwich that I should definitely try. This friend has never led me astray in food matter in the 20+ years I’ve known him, so I took him at his word and checked it out.
The shop is deep and narrow, but doesn’t accommodate really well when it gets crowded, which it does during the prime lunch time. Walking in, you get to the register first, which you have to squeeze by to get to the ordering station. It can be a bit of an ordeal, but it’s absolutely worth it to get to the back.
Behind the counter, a large menu takes up much of the wall, listing hot and cold heroes, salads and all the rest. With 20 varieties of hero, mostly hot, plus another handful of specials, I could keep going back here for months and never get bored. Of course, that’s presuming that I don’t get the roast beef hero every time.
So, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. About half of the sandwiches break the $10 mark. The hot roast beef hero breaks the Midtown Lunch limit by a whopping $.50. If those two quarters are a big deal to you, you may want to skip ahead, scroll past the close ups of this deliciousness and see the next sandwich.
Upon ordering the sandwich, a mass of roast beef sitting in gravy is taken to the slicer and about half a dozen layers of juicy meat come out. It’s piled on top of a thin slice of fried eggplant and a couple discs of fresh mozzarella that they make in house.
Before all that is packed into the Italian bread, the server ladles just enough of the jus on the inside of the bread to make it super juicy and tasty without getting remotely soggy.
The sandwich was all kinds of wonderful and the next time I go, it’ll be a challenge to skip this in favor of trying the rest of the menu.
I went back yesterday and had the Vinnie Barbarino ($8.95) – a sausage and peppers hero – as part of my quest to track down a proper summer street fair style sausage sub. Like Mondello, the sausages aren’t grilled, but simmered in a sauce of tomatoes and peppers. It’s not what I’m looking for exactly, but look at that. The peppers and spices were far too inviting for me not to try, and it was not surprisingly far better than Mondello’s.
Served on the same perfect Italian bread that soaks up sauce and flavor without disintegrating into much, they put the sandwich in the oven for a few minutes to warm it all up. The crust of the bread was slightly crisped, the inside soft and warm, tasting of the sauce. In other words, yes, it was good.
If I had any complaint, it’s the problem I have with any sandwich like this. The sausage is cut up and crammed into the bread. This means that the pieces are always trying to escape. Pieces slip out the back as you try to keep it all together. It can be a bit messy, but thankfully, the bread is solid enough to make it less of an issue.
Among the specials I saw listed was the shrimp parmigiana, which definitely caught my attention, not to mention a roast pork special that sounds just like the philly-style sandwiches I haven’t seen anywhere else but at Shorty’s. There was also a Cuban with said roast pork and Virginia ham and a pastrami sandwich as well. I could go on, but it’s just making me hungry. Suffice it to say that I plan to make my way over to 3rd avenue more often, just so I can spend some quality time seeing what else Defonte’s has to offer.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Piles of juicy roast beef slices, fresh mozz and fried eggplant on crusty Italian bread are pretty fabulous.
- With 20 heroes on the menu – plus specials – you could come here for weeks trying a different sandwich every time.
- Really friendly, welcoming staff.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Half of the sandwiches break the $10 mark.
- If only they grilled the sausage.
Defonte’s of Brooklyn, 261 3rd Avenue, at 21st Street. 212.614.1500. defontesofbrooklyn.com