A First Look at City Sandwich in Hell's Kitchen
A sandwich shop featuring Italian-Portuguese fusion may sound like a funny idea, except the flavoring scheme and raw materials of the two cuisines have plenty of overlap. And don't forget, the Portuguese and Italians lived side by side on either side of the Hudson River for most the the 20th century, giving plenty of opportunity for intermixing: Witness Frank Sinatra, the Portuguese-surnamed Italian-American singer from Hoboken.
City Sandwich (649 Ninth Avenue, 646-684-3943) is just such a place. A roster of 20 sandwiches is plastered on one wall of the modernistic space, which offers rudimentary seating. The sandwiches are oddly categorized as follows: "Without Meat," "Egg," and "Meat." "Meat" includes chicken and turkey. "Without Meat" doesn't mean vegetarian, as you might guess, but lists seafood selections as well. The "Egg" section isn't vegetarian, either, as it has a sandwich made with a Portuguese large-circumference sausage calle paio. Nevertheless, there are several decent vegetarian and vegan sandwich selections in the first two menu sections.
I was knocked out by the morcela and broccoli rabe ($9) -- a sandwich of dark, crumbly Portuguese blood sausage matched with bitter rabe and sweet fresh mozzarella, making an insanely good combo. The bread alone -- which the proprietor said was made specially for the shop by a local baker -- is worth visiting for. It's perfect for a hero, not too tough, not too wimpy, with an engaging softness to the crumb. Nice greenery completes the package. The sandwich was probably larger than you could eat at one sitting.
The other sandwich I tried was the one made with salt cod, constructed along much the same lines. I found the fish to be overly desalinated and deskankified, so the flavor got lost in the sandwich, though capers and a black-olive tapenade made it more than agreeable. In a nifty deal, a cup of soup comes alongside for an extra $2; by itself the soup is $4. The one I tried, roasted red onion, had been made with a soup base, which is common in most of Europe. I was not a fan of the soup.