A famous Florentine store brings Square, stuffed sandwiches to NYC

All’Antico Vinaio was opened by the Mazzanti family in central Florence, Italy, in 1989. It started as a wine bar with a small sandwich counter, but over time it occupied four storefronts nearby and one in Milan, most with sandwiches as the main focus, and becomes a tourist attraction in itself almost as much as the nearby Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio. Cows pulled out the door in the narrow winding streets while customers stood outside to eat.

Now All’Antico Vinaio (which translates to “old wine merchant”) has arrived here with a bang. NYC’s branch is located on Eighth Avenue and 46th Street just west of Times Square. There is no place to eat but a small standing counter (although a dining room apparently opens next door). Most of the interior is occupied by a glass display case showing cold cuts that are the stars of the show, as well as the creamy toppings and vegetables that add to the hit sandwiches. Among the cold cuts are delicious porchettas, aged cheeses, balls of fior di latte and imported salami, many of Tuscan origin.

Three figures on the sidewalk dressed in autumn clothes eating sandwiches.

As in Florence, many customers eat standing up.

A narrow sandwich shop with customers in the middle and sandwich makers and a cashier behind a shoulder height counter and t-shirts and wine bottles on the walls.

The interior of the All’Antico Vinaio is quite cramped.

Behind the glass showcase, two guys put the sandwiches together like acrobats – slicing, greasing, adjusting and squeezing – while a number of customers stretch out the door, even though the place has only been open for two weeks. It first appeared in 2019 as a month-long summer pop-up at Otto, Joe Bastianich’s (and former Mario Batalis) casual Italian restaurant in the village. Bastianich and current operator Tommaso “Tommy” Mazzanti apparently became friends because bottles of Bastianich wine are prominently displayed in the NYC department, although no wine is currently available for sale, and a sandwich bearing his name is sold in Florence .

While the typical Italian sandwich available here has been a torpedo-shaped panino with a small slice of ham or two or two, pressed or not, this sandwich is completely different. Square and stuffed, it is made on a Tuscan flatbread called a schiacciata (“smashed”), a very common focaccia that resembles Sullivan Bakery’s pizza bianca. But while the schiacciata – the same word became the name of the sandwich – is well known in different parts of Italy, All ‘Antico Vinaio has turned it into something more sumptuous with a larger portion of meat and all sorts of spices and garnishes, giving a very gloppy sandwich .

Nine of these schiacciati are currently on offer, most identical to those back in Florence. Of course, I was first attracted to L’Inferno ($ 12). The key ingredient is porchetta, a thick skin-on pork roast rolled in flavorful ingredients like garlic and fennel, which grows wild by the roadside throughout central Italy. These roasts are often sold as sandwich fillings from trucks parked along random country roads, so when you pass a field of sunflowers or a town on a hilltop, you can spot one on the horizon and press your foot harder on the accelerator pedal. Your sandwich is simply a thick slice of fat porchetta on a roll with nothing else, such is the traditional simplicity of sandwiches in Italy.

Gloved hands pour diced vegetables on the sandwich.

Preparing L’Inferno.

A sandwich cut in half to reveal layers of sliced ​​meat, arugula and pureed salami.

L’Inferno in cross section.

I saw a far more complicated porchetta sandwich than the ones I had eaten in Italy being assembled at All’Antico. First, a large square of flatbread was cut across the width, then spread thickly with the pureed salami called nduja. Next, grilled vegetables were placed on top of the red puree, and thin slices of porchetta were dipped on top of the pell mell. Next, baby arugula was stacked on, and the finished sandwich was held up by the twin sandwich makers as a sort of edible trophy. It was beautiful and so big that once I had taken it outside to eat on the sidewalk, I could only finish half.

In the coming days, I tried several of the sandwiches. Each version used pretty much the same formula – a tent meat, some vegetables and spices that were the strangest part of the recipe. No mayo, mustard, ketchup or even olive oil is used here, but instead there is truffle cream, artichoke cream, pistachio cream, pecorino cream and nduja. All’Antico Vinaio has apparently invented its own strange spices.

A square sandwich with salami peeking out at the edges.

La Favolosa displays a Tuscan fennel salami called sbriciolana in Chianti.

The leading star of this Broadway show is la favolosa ($ 17), which features sbriciolana, a truly wonderful Tuscan salami, crisp and funky, along with pecorino cream and artichoke cream, plus spicy depleted eggplant, which adds an oily and peppery punch. That raises the question: Can a sandwich be too messy? This is and you can find yourself extracting slices of salami and enjoying them separately. Other sandwiches include prosciutto, pancetta, capocollo (a cooked ham of compressed neck meat, from southern Italy) and mortadella (from Bologna).

There is also a mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich here called La Caprese ($ 9); back in Florence the same sandwich is called summer, and undoubtedly much more ripe tomatoes are used than those on display in our branch – so I skipped it. Otherwise, this new sandwich shop is worth a visit, not only to try fine quality cold cuts, but to get an insight into a sandwich that has been invented in modern Florence, reminiscent of the Italian-American hero in his lavish use of ingredients.

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