Alidoro, on Sullivan Street in New York, is a place famed for rude service as much as it is for Italian sandwiches. On my first visit I walked in, it was unusually empty; I stepped up to the counter, stood there for 5 minutes until the grumpy sandwich man casually walked over to me and muttered “No bread.”
Other times I had tried to go but the queue was out the door, or I wouldn't have enough dollars for the cash only place. It was always so close but still out of reach.
Then on this one day around lunchtime I'm famished and I have enough money in my pocket to buy one. These are madly priced sandwiches at around 14 dollars a pop. Yet, no one seems to mind hence the daily lines out the door. The Recession Proof Sandwich. So I walk down Sullivan, and notice that there is an unusually tiny line, I head in and wait. They have bread. This is promising.
There are passive aggressive signs covering the walls: “Don’t ask me my favourite sandwich.” “Don’t do this.”, “No Mayo”. Everyone in the queue ahead of me is a little nervous. They clearly rule by fear. It’s reminiscent of the angry soup man from Seinfeld.
The Sandwich Nazi is stood there making sandwiches. To ensure he keeps sane he watches movies all day, on a flat screen that only he can see. Today, he is watching daytime family favourite: Pulp Fiction. It is the “Tasty Burger” scene. Relatively apt in the circumstances until the Samuel L Jackson character starts shouting “English, Motherfucker, do you speak it?” and then proceeds to shoot a man in the knees. At this bit of murder, the sandwich guy chuckles away to himself and then looks up at us customers with a beaming smile. The happiest anyone has ever seen him.
It’s my turn in the line. I need to deliver the order to military precision.
“Il Porchetta on white.” I say.
“No white” He says, glaring at me, offering no alternatives. Clearly I should have known this.
Oh no. Panic. Look around at the signs for help. So many signs.
Tipping. The kick in the balls at the end of every transaction. But he is holding a knife and manically laughing at Pulp Fiction, so I pop a dollar in the jar.
Silently, he starts the process by cutting the bread and adding some rocket. He then begins laboriously slicing up the pork, chops provolone, deftly applies some sweet peppers and finally drizzles some olive oil. This is going to be good. Forget the clowns at Subway, this fellow is a real Sandwich Artist. A temperamental genius of a man.
Oh god. The scary money woman has appeared out of nowhere. Focaccia turns out to be two dollars extra. Damn. I give her a twenty. My last twenty for a while. She hands me back the change. The sandwich guy looks at the change in my hand and then looks at the tip jar.
Tipping. The kick in the balls at the end of every transaction. But he is holding a knife and manically laughing at Pulp Fiction, so I pop a dollar in the jar. 17 dollars for a sandwich. That’s 11 quid. 13 euros. 110 Kuai. That’s a lot of money for a sandwich.
He hands me the now wrapped in tin foil sandwich. I say thank you and head out the door. Too scared to buy a drink in the place I head to the nearest (my least favourite American word) Bodega to buy a Mountain Dew. The green liquid of infertility.
I get home and I walk upstairs. In the door. Sit down. Pop Guardian Football Weekly on the laptop and unwrap the sandwich. It looks good. It smells good. First bite. Exquisite. The bloody king of sandwiches is here. The pork is the real hero of the sandwich. It’s phenomenal. That pig died for a good cause. The sweet peppers are strong but work so well with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The provolone seals the deal. This is probably the happiest I’ve been in years.
The rest of it is a joyful blur. As I put away the last bite I stand to applaud the sandwich. It deserves that at the very least.
If only I could ever afford to go again.
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