Wherever I live I learn to adapt. Whether north, south, east or west I’m willing and eager to embrace local ways. I’ll try calling soda pop. The term fixin’ to becomes part of my everyday vocabulary. I have not, however, been able to call a sandwich on an oblong bun anything other than a hoagie, and I suspect I never will.
Oh I’ve tried adopting the local nomenclature in terms of this particular sandwich, especially now that I’m living in NYC and hoagies, errr, heroes are a prized NY Italian American food item. Still, much to my dismay, I find myself reverting back to my hoagie filled youth. Whaddaya gonna do about it?
All that being said, if ever a sandwich joint deserved for me to call the sandwich by its proper name it would be Lioni Italian Heroes in Brooklyn.
The walls in Lioni’s are filled with the names of heroes, both sandwiches and Italian American icons alike. Ok, perhaps not everyone would consider these icons to be heroes but they’re famous Italian Americans and so, perhaps, heroes to some. And there are a lot of them. I’m talking over 100. All delicious looking. All filled with amazing ingredients. All ripe for the picking.
If you tend to be indecisive please, I beg you, read the menu before you go, lest you want to be standing there reading descriptions of over 100 Italian sandwiches, each one looking better than the next. If you still can’t decide I recommend you narrow your choices down to the ones that have their signature fresh mozzarella. They have a fresh and smoked mozzarella that they’re known for and rightly so. It’s amazing.
Once you’ve decided on your hero the next step is to decide whether you feel up to downing a sandwich the size of a small child or would rather split it with your companion. Nick isn’t good at sharing his food and he makes no bones about it, but the sandwiches are so big at Lioni’s that he actually said, “next time we’ll split one and maybe share some fried raviolis”. This means something folks. These heroes are immense.
We weren’t aware of the shear girth of these bad boys when we ordered them so we each chose our own. I chose the Connie Frances($13), or number 26 as you really should call it lest you want them to look at you like you’re a newbie. It featured Prosciutto di Parma, Lioni fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, basil, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. It was amazing. The price threw me for a loop until I realized exactly how much prosciutto and how much mozzarella they put on that puppy. I’m a cheapskate and I can tell you it’s worth every penny.
Nick ordered something with hot capicola and the fresh mozzarella, along with a pesto, some tomatoes and some other goodies. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called because he, unlike me, just ordered by number and avoided looking like a tourist. Smart man.
These were up there with the best heroes we’ve had in NYC to date and I think it has to do with a few factors. The bread is top notch. Crunchy and chewy almost to the point that your jaw suffers, but you’ll get over it because it’s the way it’s supposed to be. The ingredients are phenomenal. The meats and cheeses are of great quality and they don’t just throw them on the sandwich and say fuggetaboutit. They add pesto, vinegar, spices, etc. All things these heavy sandwiches need to make the hero something more than just a meat and cheese delivery method.
Once you’re stuffed full of hero you may think the last thing you want to do is take a ball of mozzarella and a loaf of bread home, but you’d be wrong. Buy a ball and a loaf and come tomorrow YOU’LL be the hero.
They also sell other specialty Italian food items and their rice balls looked fantastic.
There’s limited seating inside but it’s enough to house the lunch crowd (perhaps 10-12 seats).