One of my life’s goals is to find the perfect sandwich. Thankfully, New Jersey is home to thousands of delis. In this new monthly column, I’ll explore as many as I can.
First, define terms. What is, and is not, a sandwich?
Here’s how I see it: A sandwich consists of at least two slices of bread with meat, cheese or other filling between them. Subs, hoagies, Sloppy Joes or whatever you may call them are sandwiches. Wraps, hot dogs and tacos are not. Burgers are debatable.
What constitutes a great sandwich?
First and foremost is the quality of bread. Most of the sandwich consists of bread, so it has to be fresh and hold everything together. Second is having the right amount of filling. Sandwiches that are piled too high may look appealing but will turn into a mess. Conversely, if there isn’t enough in the sandwich, the thing looks sad. Third is using the right amount of condiments. No one wants to eat a soggy sandwich. (Unless it’s a French Dip or an Italian beef.) Pairing the right mustard or mayo with the other toppings is also important in maximizing flavor.
I will grade each sandwich’s bread, filling and toppings and then give an overall grade.
First stop on this quest is Andrea Salumeria in Jersey City, the small, family-owned Italian deli open since 1975.
Located in the Heights neighborhood, Andrea Salumeria offers sandwiches, meats, cheeses and other imported Italian products. Lunchtime can feel cramped, with just one narrow line to the cash register and nowhere to sit and eat. But waiting in line gives you time to admire all the imported oils, vinegars and sauces. Everything here feels authentically Italian. I noticed no bags of chips or anything else you’d see at many delis. Instead, there are shelves of Nutella, Italian cookies and pastries, black truffle salt, white truffle oil, balsamic glazes and more. The owner, Peter Soriano, is friendly and seems to make a point of having a small conversation with each of his customers. When I told him it was my first time ordering one of their sandwiches, he replied, “It’ll change your life.”
I ordered the Soprano and the What’s Up from Andrea Salumeria’s Specialty Sandwiches menu. The Soprano featured sopressata, prosciutto, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Everything was sliced thin, directly onto a loaf of hearty Italian bread. The first thing I noticed when I bit into it was the sun-dried tomatoes, which are imported from Italy, then soaked by Soriano in white vinegar. They were slightly salty, sweet and oily, but not overbearing. With the next bite, I realized how simple and cohesive this sandwich was. The combination of thinly sliced sopressata, prosciutto and mozzarella blended so beautifully that none of the toppings stood out on its own. And let’s not forget the bread. It was tough on the outside but soft and light inside. I usually prefer softer bread for my sandwiches, but because the toppings tasted so light and fairly dry, the harder Italian bread was perfect. Overall, it was a very solid and subtle sammy.
The What’s Up sandwich included hot cappicola, hot sopressata, mozzarella, sharp provolone and hot peppers. While the peppers do add a little kick, it wasn’t as much as I expected. The star, however, was the sharp provolone. It added a salty, chewy texture to the meat and mozzarella that really elevated it. Again, everything worked together well.
The What’s Up:
From the bread to the meat and cheese and the imported sun-dried tomatoes, everything about Andrea Salumeria tasted fresh. This was definitely one of the best Italian subs I’ve had. If I had any criticism, these Specialty Sandwiches were a little dry and could use maybe a splash of vinegar or more oil. Did it change my life? Not really. But it definitely opened my eyes. I’ll be back.
Overall Between Two Slices Score: 4/5
Andrea Salumeria, 247 Central Avenue, Jersey City; 201-653-1666. Open Mon-Sat.Click here to leave a comment