Torrisi Italian Specialties, located in Nolita (North of Little Italy) in Manhattan and owned by Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, has quickly become a cult favorite. Dozens of people, tourists and locals, are lined up at all time around lunchtime and dinnertime each day to get a look, feel, and bite of some of the finest Italian-American soul food in New York. The shelves inside are lined with many of the grocery staples used in their house recipes, including Progresso seasoned breadcrumbs, breadsticks from Parisi Bakery, plastic Polly-O ricotta containers, and Stella D’Oro cookies. Rock and classic soul and blues music flows through the air. The cooks and cashier wear little white paper hats as they work an amazingly teeny kitchen, prepping and assembling to order. All against the backdrop of old-school deli menus hung on white subway tile. You can’t help but notice all of these things as you’re surely waiting in line, salivating, jealous as you watch others sitting at the hard-to-snag tables grinning as their orders freshly arrive. But you find joy as you know your time will come, and as this was my third visit to Torrisi, I knew that the quality would be consistent and there would be no chance of disappointment.
During the day, Torrisi offers an assortment of sandwiches, eggplant parm (stacked like eggplant lasagna), and a half dozen of seasonal antipasti plus always-on-the-menu fresh mozzarella and homemade ricotta. There are beverages and sweets, but the real stars are the turkey sandwich, chicken parm sandwich, and seasonal veggies. On my most recent visit, my hubby and I dove into perfectly crisp Progresso breadcrumb kissed cauliflower with lots of fried rosemary and onion bits. The brussel sprouts were beautifully prepared, a Torrisi-roasted-vegetable-salad of sorts, where the little cabbages are first roasted, cooled, then mixed with olive oil, thin and raw red onion, grated cheese, and chili flakes. I had a similar mix during the Summer months when corn and mushrooms played the part of the brussel sprouts, and the blend worked just as well. Beets with pine nuts and butternut squash with pumpkin seeds looked marvelous and bright through the ‘looking glass’ counter, but I had to save room for my ultimate super star, the turkey sandwich.
The turkey sandwich comes in two sizes–on a roll or hero. With a mere $2.00 difference, of course I had to go for the hero. More turkey for me, thank you!! Without any specifications, the sandwich comes piled high with the thinnest sliced red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce as well as a healthy slab of mayo. However, and this is a big however, there is an optional spicy sauce for 50 cents more. Of course, this was my only sandwich add-on, and that was globbed on to my liking. The condiments, thin veggies, and turkey are piled high on gorgeously fresh Parisi Bakery bread. This combination sliced in half in a wax-paper lined plastic basket literally comes to you as if from heaven. And as you take your first and rapid consecutive bites, you realize that this is the best turkey sandwich you’ve had in your life. And you know that yes, the veggies and spicy sauce, and bread are all awesome, but those things may be easily replicated. But there’s an element that’s truly special, and you don’t have a clue how it became that special. The turkey. Torrisi turkey. So tender, moist, flavorful, sweet, and savory. Perfection.
Inspired by this recent trip and upcoming Thanksgiving, I decided to try my hand at the not-at-all easily replicated turkey. After a quick Google, like a gift, I found a recipe posted in the New York Times (November 2010) featuring yes, Torrisi Turkey. Stay tuned for my attempt at achieving this masterful sandwich at home. To be droolingly-continued…
Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012