You might expect it to take a truly refined dish to blow away the executive chef of the Altamarea Group — he presides over such high-end restaurants as Ai Fiori (400 Fifth Avenue, second level; 212-613-8660) and Costata (206 Spring Street; 212-334-3320). But most chefs would admit that culinary brilliance is often found in simple, traditional foods done well. And so a classic sandwich of Italian cured meats at Faicco’s (260 Bleecker Street; 212-243-1974) was the best thing chef PJ Calapa ate this month.
“Faicco’s had been on my ‘to go to’ list for so long. It’s one of those places I’d heard about for so many years, but for some reason had never got around to going into it. Finally, I was in the area running between our restaurants and saw the sign and was like, oh my God, I have to stop in now!
“Faicco’s is an old-fashioned pork store, like they called them back in the day, where they make their own cured meats and stuff. So of course I ordered the classic Italian Special, with all of their cured meats on one sandwich. Then I realized I couldn’t go back to the restaurant with only one for me and the sous-chefs, so I ordered three.
“It was everything I had heard it would be, and everything I wanted it to be. It’s easily comparable to every other Italian sandwich, so what makes it special comes down to the ingredients. Every meat is made and cured in house, then sliced to order, with two slicers in the back of the shop and people screening orders. The bread was obviously baked that morning. And it was seasoned beautifully with a balance of oil and vinegar. You could tell the ingredients were of the highest quality, and they didn’t skimp — one sandwich weighed probably a pound and a half. I walked in for one, walked out with three, and those three fed nine people, which is really awesome. It was quite a meal.
“That place has to be almost like a secret, because it would be much busier if more people knew about it. But maybe it’s better that way.”
Where do chefs go to eat on their nights off? We’re asking them — and they’re divulging the best things they’ve eaten in the last month in this weekly column. Read more in the archives of The Best Thing I Ate This Month.