I was lucky enough last night to attend the friends and family night at the neighborhood's newest Italian sandwich shop, called Zito's, on Seventh Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and as of this afternoon, it's officially open for business. A word of advice: GO. NOW.
"The classic Italian delis and salumerias of our childhood were our inspiration here, and this is our homage to them," said owner Marcello Bucca, a Bensonhurst native who runs the shop with his brother-in-law Enzo Conigliaro along with their wives, Maria Zito-Bucca and Michelle Zito-Conigliaro. "If you've stepped foot in Brooklyn, you've eaten food like this. The only difference is, we're using the best ingredients available."
Fresh mozarella is made in-house daily, with curd from Aiello Brothers in Sunset Park. Beef and veal is from Ottomanelli's. Pork is from Faicco's. Prosciutto and other cold cuts are from Salumeria Biellese. Bread is from Il Fornaretto. It's as if Zito's is at the nexus of a hundred years of the best in New York City Italian Deli.
That homage is most apparent in the menu, with 13 classic sandwiches. The full menu is here (PDF), but standouts include chicken, meatball, and eggplant parm, sixpoint braised roast beef, 8 hour slow cooked pork braciole, and the "Autogrill" (in monster form, above), a combo of provolone, mortadella, sopresatta, and prosciutto, inspired by the surprisingly delicious sandwiches available at many Italian gas stations. If you prefer to design your own sandwich, that's of course an option as well.
Also available is the simple panelle sandwich, fried chickpea fritters that are very common in Italy but hard to find in these parts, simply dressed with a dsqueeze of lemon. The 18th Avenue Feast is named for the famed Bensonhurst festival, and comes with (what else?) Faicco's sausage with peppers and onions. There's also a delicious, garlicky meatball slider, arancini fried to order (an homage to the late, lamented Joe's Superette), a large selection of olives and antipasti, and, of course, zeppole for dessert. Sixpoint beer is also on draught.
It's an elegant, simply-appointed space, with reclaimed wood floors, white tile walls, and a high ceiling. There are about 30 seats inside and 12 outside, in a surprisingly lush garden. As per tradition, you order at the counter and take a seat, and your food will be brought to you when it's ready.
It's impossible to not take notice of the wall decorations, a giant sign that reads "King of the Sausage" near the front and another near the back, both hand-painted and fading. "Those signs are from Bari Pork Store in Bensonhurst, and were painted in 1966," said Marcello. "It closed in 2009, but we managed to get in there and take those signs. I needed those signs."
Owners Marcello Bucca and Enzo Conigliaro
Zito's Sandwich Shoppe, 300 Seventh Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-499-2800. 11 AM - 10 PM Daily.