Sergimmo Salumeria’s $9 Panini Are Worth the Walk
I am the type to regard the sandwich as a step above old and busted. I consider it, like just going for a salad, a “lunch surrender” – for whatever reason, you decide that there’s too many choices and you’re too hungry, so you just go for whatever’s out there. I urge you all to consider Sergimmo’s Salumeria (on 9th Ave. btw. 36+37th) as your final line of defense against the lunch surrender. Think of what you’re going to do. Think of the people who love you. Would you really let them down in the face of this by going for turkey on whole wheat? Granted, it’s not an easy choice to make to pick up the Sergimmo’s menu. It is a heavy burden to bear, with most of the menu items topping $10. But they do have a list of $9 panini that are worth your consideration, because the closest equivalent to real Italian sandwiches probably faces the Adriatic.
Sergimmo’s (Full menu here) should win an award for toughest to spot. Granted, this is great counter-tourist fodder, but this is 9th Ave – you really gotta make yourself known if you want walk-ins. It’s on the east side of the block, and if you start seeing parked cop cars, turn around – you’ve gone too far.
Don’t miss the daily specials; their website doesn’t have ‘em. You can also call ahead to hear them and order them as special requests off of Seamless. They do delivery as well within a 1-mile radius – that’s one hell of a radius; you people in the 50s might get it a few minutes past us chumps just almost out of bounds in southeastern Hell’s Kitchen/southwestern Midtown.
Above are their marinated items – four kinds of olives on one side, roasted veggies and other good stuff on the other. I had the Sicilian green olves once before, and four or five of those could make up your entire lunch if you aren’t too hungry and love olives. Take note of the big balls of fresh mozzarella – you buy ‘em by the pound, or they’ll just unwrap ‘em to slice up for sandwiches as they go. More mozzarella comes out all the time, so you needn’t worry about dry, old mutz.
Service moves pretty fast if you order there, but if you’re in a hurry, call or Seamless ahead. It can get backed up fast, and it’s a small restaurant. There are tables if you want to eat in.
Each of our sandwiches came on crusty, amazing Italian bread, the kind that everyone else wants their bread to end up like. The crust is as rustic as it gets without being closer to a focaccia and therefore not sandwich bread, so get your chompers ready to do some actual work. The weak will have to rip and tear, ingredients spilling, but you gotta start somewhere. Do not fear the Italian bread, learn to love it – it’s harder and harder to find the good stuff like this these days.
The Umbria ($9) throws some extra protein in the mix in the form of really thin grilled chicken. Sadly, the thinly-sliced chicken cuts are unseasoned, unmarinated, overcooked, and an overall detriment to the sandwich. It’s really sad how a place so authentic and downright real can cave to some kind of options-for-even-Maude-from-Iowa crowd and have a pathetic flavorless protein contender. However, they shook on some kind of sweet balsamic vinegar on it. This helped a great deal; the balsamic below the mozzarella and prosciutto above really does good flavor profile things. Having a buffer between tart and salty, albeit with a flavorless chicken supporting profile, gives so much room to blend. The arugula comes through only when it’s really clumped in there, but it works.
The Venetto ($9) is something else entirely. The soppresatta isn’t the dark-red crap you get from Hormel at the supermarket – it’s nice and yielding, thinly sliced, with big fresh peppercorns in there. A layer of marinated hot peppers at the bottom does a lot for the saltiness – there’s the tart/salty offset again – and mine came with a few good shakes of the same sweet balsamic-based sauce on top of the mutz. You still get a good deal of the modest, balanced heat from the peppers which fades quickly. Plus they don’t skimp on the soppresatta either. The mozzarella has a perfect creaminess that comes into play as a sort of cooling factor, just a bit salty. You get your $9 worth on this one.
Another co-worker got the Di Francesca ($9), with breaded chicken cutlet, mozzarella, roasted peppers, and artichokes. I didn’t get a chance to taste this one, but he said that the chicken was pretty flavorful, which would be a real stunner to me given how forgettable at best, bland at worst the grilled chicken was. Maybe the breading is where they focus their efforts? He also said the artichokes and peppers were good offsets, nice and flavorful – more tart than anything, but he liked it.
Still, though, my all-time favorite, despite blatantly being out of the ML price range, is the top of the heap – the VIP. You are not seeing things, this is not filler-enhanced, do not adjust your monitor settings. That is a thick-ass pile of prosciutto di parma roughly 1” thick when compressed, under an extra big schlog of fresh mozzarella. Above it you can see the arugula and the balsamic-fig spread. While the co-worker who ordered this thought the bread was too crusty, I can only say it’s worth eating over a plate or napkin to catch the bits and pieces that fall out. It’s good, salty prosciutto, fatty enough to have some melt-in-your-mouth action going on. The mozzarella is a concentrated creaminess – it’s not just an offsetting factor like it is in the other sandwiches, buffering and supporting ingredients. It’s the second star of a trio. The third star is the balsamic-fig spread. It’s a good tart/sweet balance, with plenty of bits of fig in there. You feel it yield as you eat it, the miniscule seeds giving it a nice dryness on the tongue as you chew.
Despite all my wax-ecstatic wine guy-ish blurbs about the VIP, I can’t in good conscience ignore the price tag. This is a $14 sandwich before tax and tip. You don’t get a drink with anything here, so this is a splurge. Hell, fully half the menu at Sergimmo’s is out of the ML price range. All other paninis are $9, with a $4 option for an extra dosage of prosciutto. Granted, you get a decent sized sandwich, about 10” long and packed quite well full, so you won’t go hungry. It’s not like ordering a lobster roll for lunch where you get what amounts to a hot dog bun full of tastiness for $20, but the VIP is up there in cost.
Sergimmo’s is where it’s at if you want a real sandwich that’s made like you get in Italy, with really good ingredients that are put together in a balanced, joyful setting. It’s just really tough that you gotta hit the wallet really hard to make this happen, because the prices are decent values for what you get but pushing the ceiling of the ML $10 limit. If you’ve got your own drinks at the office it makes the proposition a lot easier to swallow, but you do get what you pay for. Especially on that VIP.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Flavorful, amazing homemade and imported cured meats/salamis/charcuterie
- Mozzarella that doesn’t get any better
- Quick and convenient
- No compromise on authenticity
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Expensive no matter how you look at it
- Way out there, darn near out of bounds
- Pathetic chicken wherever it’s employed – feels like the afterthought that it is
Sergimmo’s Salumeria, 456 9th Ave (btw 35+36th). 212-967-4212