Real New Yorkers often complain that the Old New York is dead. Old New York, as far as I can understand, was like something out of the Wild West. Lawlessness and disorder reigned. The streets were filthy, both in the literal sense as well as the more debaucherous, sloppy, rough and tumble sense. No one helped you, you helped no one, and patience existed only in the form of not pummeling the people slow walking in front of you. And when it came to delis, shop owners didn’t have time to hear about your day – it was make an order or go to hell. The Soup Nazi incarnate.
This Old New York has been replaced by a New New York, overrun with hipsters, cleanliness, and a general cordiality that is alien to these Old New York denizens. “Remember when Williamsburg was full of prostitutes and drug dealers?” they say. “Now what do we have? Billyburg, home of yuppies, hipsters, and the confusing, unlovable hybrid, the yupster, smiling and calling you ‘chief’ while they charge you five dollars for a cup of coffee.”
Where’s the grit? Where’s the furious indifference? Do any relics of that Old New York, no B.S mentality exist? Or are we all trapped in this friendly, trendy matrix?
I can happily say that Alidoro in Soho (founded in 1986) still moves to the beat of that Old New York mentality. They are open only from 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM, unless they run out of bread, in which case, you’re shit out of luck. Posted above the register is a warning, advising you to know your order in advance, otherwise the cashier will tear you limb from limb. The line of patrons is a powder keg seeking an excuse to explode, a bunch of starving, over-worked start-up lunch breakers, eager to shank one another for an Italian sandwich. And the hapless man slicing prosciutto behind the counter looks like he’s seen the darkest of times this world has to offer.
But dear God, do they make a quality sandwich.
I am rarely wowed by bread, but their Sfilatino bread (that’s right, there’s an S-F sound to start that word) might be the best bread you’ve never eaten. If you asked an Italian to make a French baguette, Sfilatino is what you get. The flow of your mastication through crunchy outside into gooey interior begins a worthy sandwich experience. But if that’s not your thing, you can sample their Focaccia, Tramezzino, and Semolina bread as well.
Then there’s the interior. Whether you take your mozzarella straight up or smoked, you have made a wise decision including this Southern Italian water buffalo cheese within your sandwich. Both the Alidoro prosciutto and salami are quality and sliced fresh in-house, but while meat is delectable, this is one of the few eateries where the cheese and vegetable game surpassed the flavor of the meat. This was most noticeable on the Pavarotti, where the sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, and sweet roasted peppers dominated the flavor of the sandwich in the best possible way.
You may have to battle your way in, but please, do not leave this city without experiencing this relic of Old New York.