Defonte’s of Brooklyn

April 23, 2010

Defonte’s of Brooklyn, a long-standing sandwich institution hailing from Red Hook, has finally branched out to Manhattan, specifically Gramercy. After eating two sandwiches, I’ve found that it was not worth the wait.

Shortly after the Grand Opening, the first sandwich I tried was the Joey Bishop. (Some sandwiches are named after the Italian members of the Rat Pack). I knew I was in the trouble shortly after ordering as my sandwich maker had no idea what sandwich I wanted. After ordering by number (27), he seemed to have a better idea of what sandwich he was just asked to make. I thought I was in good hands, until I saw him consult a piece of paper taped to the wall. It was the ingredients list. I understand there are a lot of sandwich combinations to memorize. However, the Bishop was one of the basics (ham, provolone, roasted peppers, balsamic, and extra virgin olive oil). I could barely taste the balsamic or the EVO and the roasted peppers slowly slid out of my sandwich making a nice pile on my plate. I wanted the peppers on my sandwich, not my plate. Thus, my sandwich quickly became ham and provolone, something I could have made on my own. And made better.

Being a glutton for punishment, I went back a few weeks later for a second sandwich. This time I decided on a plain old chicken parm hero (a.ka. # 32). This sandwich maker knew what I wanted without having to tell her the number. Good sign. But then, to my horror, she took each chicken cutlet and dipped in marinara sauce that was currently marinating the meatballs. Three times she did this. Three times I gave her a “What are you doing?” look. Is it that hard to have the marinara sauce sitting in a pan by itself? She then sprinkled on some parmesan and took the sandwich to the back, where mozzarella was added and baked on.

The chicken was over cooked. After the first bite it was obvious that the chicken had been sitting out all day, slowly turning into coasters. The sauce was non-existent. The mozzarella seemed to disappear after one bite. By the time I was done, there was two large, meatless butts of bread on my plate. I felt like asking “Where’s the Beef?” I’m sticking with the local pizzerias for chicken parm sandwiches from here on out.

Defontes also offers a host of sides that seem more suitable for a family gathering than lunch for one. The potato salad should be called onion and mayonaisse salad because, after two bites, you’re all out of potato and onion and mayo are all you have left. The others sides are your standard barbeque sides all of which look like they have mayo as the main ingredient.

A quick scan of their menu revealed that fried eggplant is one of their favorite ingredients (it’s featured on 7 out of 20 sandwiches). I’ve never put this on a sandwich, nor do I know anyone that has. I didn’t try to order off menu, so I don’t know if they’ll create sandwiches on demand. However, I wouldn’t recommend it.

The space itself is ridiculously tight. If you’re there during peak hours, it will get a little confusing as to who is ordering what to which sandwich maker. There’s no room to eat in store, unless you want a stranger standing over you as you eat.

Due to the lack of quality sandwich shops in the Gramercy area, a new sandwich shop was much needed and was welcomed with open arms. (It also helps that the store is located right around the corner from my apartment). However, after trying two sandwiches and being unhappy with both a third visit is out of the question. Perhaps I was asking for too much going to a shop with over 87 years of sandwich making experience.

An edited version of this “review” appeared on http://openpalatenyc.wordpress.com/ in June of 2009.

Defnote’s of Brooklyn is located at 261 3rd Ave (on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 21st St.)

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One Response to “Defonte’s of Brooklyn”


  1. […] few visits to Defonte’s of Brooklyn came shortly after the Manhattan branch opened, and, as previously mentioned, there were a number of issues with those initial visits. After a long hiatus, I returned to […]

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