Park Italian Gourmet Finally Gets a Proper Review
Park Italian Gourmet has gotten a lot of attention on Midtown lunch over the years from Zach and other Midtown Lunch’ers – most recently back in 2010 in this post, but it’s never gotten a formal +/- review until now. I spotted this gem right away and I thought it would be good to get the word out yet again.
I should first warn you not to let Park Italian Gourmet’s name fool you. When you hear the name, you might think of either an overpriced Italian restaurant aimed at tourists or another midtown “gourmet” deli with scads of trays filled with greasy slop. But as soon as you see the sign you can tell there’s something special about Park. And there are more than a few midtown lunchers who know the secret: Park Italian Gourmet is a divey Italian deli where grumpy people serve up delicious sandwiches. Just my kind of place.
My coworker and I popped over last Friday to its location on 46th btw 5th+6th. The old school sign immediately begs a further look, and the front window is full of exactly the kind of stuff I would try to hide in my own kitchen: economy sized bottles of oil, mayo, lemon juice, and pickled vegetables. If you look inside, you’ll see those plastic alphabet menu boards and the most basic restaurant furniture with trays left from the previous customers. No pretense here.
We went at about 12:30 and the place was jammed. I wasn’t quite sure where to go or what to do, but there was obviously some haphazard system in place. There are two areas to order–the cold food side and the hot food side. At first I thought I would head to the hot side try the chicken parm sandwich that I had heard was good, but the temperature was in the 80s, and it just wasn’t that kind of day. So I made way to the deli, where everyone else had decided to go, too.
The cold side had a great selection of Italian meats like salami, sopressatta, and mortadella along with the regulars like ham and turkey. I wanted a real Italian style sub with salami and… What else? Then I saw the roast beef. Oh my god, the beef! At first I didn’t know what it was because it was so pretty. It was almost ham-colored pink with just a tiny bit of brown around the edges, (giving away that it was, in fact, beef) and it was sliced paper thin. I have never ordered salami and roast beef together in my life, but I had to make a choice. The line was moving fast and I noticed how skilled the regulars were at placing their orders. By the disinterested look on the face of the sandwich-making guy, I thought it would be best if I knew what I wanted by the time it was my turn.
So I ordered. Hard salami, roast beef, fresh mozzarella, pepperocini peppers and balsamic on a whole wheat roll- because I’m a health nut, obviously.
After food is the checkout experience, and when we were paying, I noticed that my buddy has a pickle and I don’t. What the hell. So I asked older gentleman taking our cash if I can have a pickle, too. He says, “Are you nice?” and I said, “Yeah, I think I’m nice.” So he shouts above the hustle and bustle to another gentleman behind the counter, “Get this lady a pickle… this lady needs a pickle!!!” I wonder what he would’ve done if I had said I wasn’t nice?
Now that I finally had my pickle, we sat down in one of the tables near the window (there is also seating available in the back of the restaurant). My sandwich was huge, had a good amount of meat, and tasted really, really good. The first thing I noticed was how soft and fresh the bread was. I wondered if the mozzarella is made there–it tasted like it might have been. The roast beef was like velvet, and of course I enjoyed my favorite italian flavors: salted meat and spicy peppers. I’d even say the dill pickle was worth the extra trouble. All of this set me back $8. My accomplice thought her turkey sandwich was tasty, too, and also commented on the fresh bread, which was white rather than whole wheat. Hers was a bit cheaper because she only had one meat.
This place is great, and fits right in to the midtown lunch way of thinking, but it’s not for the thin-skinned. Park’s proprietors don’t seem like the kind who buy in to the “customer is always right” philosophy. I overheard at least one man getting berated. The same fella who called out for my pickle yelled at a customer, “You do whatever you want, we’ve been here for 30 years.” I’m assuming the guy threatened a bad Yelp review or something of that nature. Well, Park isn’t getting a bad review from me. I enjoyed the grittiness and authenticity, but most importantly I enjoyed the food.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I like my sub shops unpretentious and authentic
- Fresh ingredients and the bread is really soft
- Large portions and good value.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- It’s just sandwiches, not rocket science. Why are these guys so mean?
- When this place gets crowded it’s the worst… and the guys behind the counter don’t make it easier.
Park Italian, 60 W 45th St (btw. 5+6th). 212-382-0580