At first glace, Early (967 Manhattan Avenue) looks like any other gussied-up Greenpoint coffee shop: reclaimed wood counters, baked goods under glass cloches, organic teas, cold brew. So you’d be forgiven for not noticing the zappie, a cheese-and-mushroom sandwich tucked away in the middle of the menu. But that would be an oversight indeed.
“It’s a really popular Polish street food,” says Marcin Mroz, the chef, who’s been tinkering with the sandwich ever since he learned how to cook. “With the end of communism, people were ready to build businesses, and they’d get these camping cars, and put a little oven in it, and start making zappies, because they had the ingredients easily — mushrooms, bread, regulation cheese. Then investors came in, and suddenly there were chains of zappie kiosks everywhere.”
The zappie, short for zapiekanka (the noun form of the Polish verb for “bake over” or toast, zapiekac), is a hollowed-out baguette stuffed with mushrooms and melted cheese.
“It’s so simple, but we wanted to make it right,” says Mroz, the gleam of obsession in his eye. “We roast the mushrooms for two or three hours so that they get rid of their moisture, which would make the sandwich soggy. Then we intensify the flavor with a touch of truffle oil, and mix in sweet, caramelized onions, and fresh chives for contrast. We toast the bread after we hollow it out so that it’s really crunchy, and we use a great fontina cheese, too.”
This is no grab-and-go sandwich. Each one is made to order, and that takes about five minutes. “It’s worth it,” says Mroz. “The zappie is simple, but I think that when you pay attention to all the details, the simple things can be some of the best things.”