Yesterday I undertook an expedition via the N train to Bensonhurst with my friend and big fresser extraordinaire, Daniel. Our destination was the stretch of 18th Avenue known as Cristoforo Columbo Blvd. (???), specifically Gino's Focacceria (71-18 18th Avenue). I had been to this archetypical Sicilian American joint about four years ago and was craving a dose of good homestyle fare.
We got off at the 71st Street stop on the M train and noticed a Peruvian pizza/chicken joint on New Utrecht and 70th?? Despite Daniel's pleas I did not let this potential find deter us from our mission.
The two-hour train ride had left us famished, hungry enough to eat a calf. I'd heard of vastedde, or calf spleen sandwiches. And after some assurances from the waitress I decided to go for it. It arrived hot from the oven, a semolina roll piled high with the mysterious organ meat, topped with fresh ricotta and coarsely grated romano cheese. It was delicous, I was concerned it might be kind of gamy but one bite and I was hooked. Never mind the food writer who'd been told by the proprietor of Ferdinando's (if I'm not mistaken) that vastedde was an acquired taste; the old guy why was trying to keep the good stuff for himself.
Daniel had a panelli or chick pea fritter sandwich with the same dressings. And we split a side of broccoli rabe and a seafood salad generously studded with tender octopus. The price for this feast? A whopping $25!
We crossed the street to Villabate pastry. Good thing I was so full, or I would have bought out the entire store. In fact, I've had the willpower not to eat any of what I bought, yet!
Then it was off to Trunzo Bros. an old-school salumeria at 68-02 18th Avenue. Gotta love a place that gives out a calendar with a Goya-esque Last Supper and a fold out chart of beef and pork cuts. I can't believe I only bought a prosciutto bread and 2 tins of Tabu licorice candies!
While walking off our feast I noticed a Vietnamese restaurant with a picture of a banh mi on the awning. So we ordered up two Vietnamese sandwiches from Pho Nam Bo (75-24 18th Avenue).
Only a few regrets about this trip: not buying enough provisions, not having a Manhattan Special and being too full to try the banh mi. It made a kick-ass breakfast today, though.