Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

Doubleday’s Restaurant and Bar: Penne Vodka

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I have mentioned previously that the best location for Penne ala Vodka, Luca Bella, had shut down, making Sal’s pizza in White Plains the default best Penne ala Vodka in the county (having previously held a close number two spot). That being said I am always on the lookout for great Penne Vodka, not only because I love the dish, but also because I want to see if anyone else can even come close; well, Doubleday’s in Dobbs Ferry most certainly does.

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This Penne Vodka is very good. The serving size is quite large and could easily last you multiple meals if thats what you desire.

In terms of flavor and texture, the pasta is tender and has a decent amount of sauce on it. The sauce is creamy and carries a flavor of savory-sweet, not very salty in comparison with other Penne Vodka dishes, and interspersed in the pasta and sauce are some pretty nice pieces of pancetta.

All in all Doubleday’s serves a very good Penne Vodka and I have no qualms with recommending it to anyone who loves this dish.

First Annual Pristine Awards

Awards

Welcome to the First Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2015. The Categories this year are as follows:

Best Burger, Best Plain Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, Best Sicilian Pizza, Best BBQ, Best Bird, Best Desert, Best Milk Shake, Best Mac and Cheese, Best Penne Alla Vodka, Best “Other” Pasta, Best Appetizer, Best Side Dish, Best Soup/Chowder, Best Hot Sandwich, Best Deli Sandwich and Best Philly Cheesesteak. 

Each category will be broken down into the top 3 choices, and the winner will be chosen from the finalists. Certain categories that only have one choice in them, such as Steak, Salad, Burrito, Smoothie, etc. will be forwarded to next year’s awards when they will (hopefully) have some competition. With that out of the way, on with the awards!

Best Burger: Pretzel Burger (WBC) vs. Bacon Cheeseburger (O’Malley’s) vs. Eastchester Burger (Piper’s Kilt.) 

Winner: The Pretzel Burger – Westchester Burger Co.

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While the other two choices were both amazingly delicious, the Pretzel Burger just had no downsides. With a perfect patty, delicious melted cheese, crispy maple bacon and a pretzel bun, one can’t go wrong with this choice. Besides, when a burger can make me actually enjoy an egg, that’s an extra bonus.

Best Plain Pizza: Plain Slice (Portofino’s) vs. Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella (Frank Pepe)

Winner: Plain Slice – Portofino’s.

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Portofino’s combines a great flavor with an amazingly sized slice. New York makes some of the best pizza in the world, and this slice easily ranks up there with the best of them.

Best Specialty Pizza: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella) vs. Big Mac Slice (Luca Bella) vs. White Pizza (Tarantella)

Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza – Luca Bella 

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This slice beats out the other delicious specialties from Luca Bella and Tarantella, because the Vodka Sauce used on this slice is by far the best Vodka Sauce I’ve ever had. The idea to put this sauce on the pizza was inspired, and we are all better off for it.

Best Sicilian Pizza: Nicky’s vs. Sal’s vs. Portofino’s

Winner: Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.

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Nicky’s had thickness, Portofino’s had size, but Sal’s was perhaps the best Sicilian I’ve ever had, and certainly the best in Westchester. Light and airy, and yet somehow filling; with perfectly melted cheese and an amazing sauce, Sal’s Sicilian pizza earns the easy victory.

Best BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Jack’s *Ribfest NH*) vs. Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke) vs. Ribs (Texas Smokehouse *Ribfest NH*)

Winner: The Trash Rib Teasers – Holy Smoke.

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Believe it or not, the rib teasers actually beat out a full rack and pulled pork, mainly due to how meaty and flavorful a rib Holy Smoke was able to concoct. The Texas ribs were great, but Holy Smoke gets the edge.

Best Bird: Duck Confit (Le Provencal) vs. Fried Chicken (Holy Smoke)

Winner: Duck Confit – Le Provencal.

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If I’m being honest, I don’t like eating birds that much; so many places just don’t do a good job preparing them. Holy Smoke and Le Provencal are two establishments who know what they are doing. I went with the Duck because it was simply one of the best birds I’ve ever had. In my review I described it as “the steak of birds” and in the end, that is what sealed the victory for the Duck Confit.

Best Desert: Cheesecake (WBC) vs. Black Salted Caramel Donut (Gypsy Donut)

Winner: Cheesecake – Westchester Burger Co.

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This was a harder decision than you might think; the black salted caramel is one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever tasted, but the Cheesecake won in part due to its light, and rich texture and flavor. The plating of the desert was also an added bonus but did not play into the decision.

Best Milkshake: Chocolate Milkshake (City Limits) vs Italian Nutella Milkshake (WBC)

Winner: Italian Nutella Milkshake – Westchester Burger Co.

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The specialty milkshake carries the day. I love chocolate milkshakes, but the Italian Nutella was just too good not to win. The flavor was unique, and  it was made so well. Both were great, but WBC’s was just better.

Best Mac and Cheese: Mac and Cheese (Piper’s Kilt) vs. Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac (Mr. Mac’s) vs. Philly Cheese Steak Mac (Mr. Mac’s).

Winner: Philly Cheese Steak Mac – Mr. Mac’s.

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Man, I wish this restaurant would come to New York! The Philly-Mac was simply one of the best things I’ve ever had. The Macaroni and Cheese portion was great, and made even better by an authentic taste of the Philly Cheesesteak.  Not only that, but it also has great re-heat value; and while I love the Mac at Piper’s Kilt, Mr. Mac’s specialty is their Mac and Cheese, and this is one of the best.

Best Penne Alla Vodka: Sal’s (White Plains) vs. Luca Bella

Winner: Penne Alla Vodka – Luca Bella

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Its the sauce. In the same way that Luca Bella won best specialty pizza with their Vodka Sauce slice, they win the Penne category with the sauce being where it was always meant to be, on pasta. It was a hard choice given that Sal’s sauce included a few extra and delicious elements, but in the end, Luca Bella’s sauce was just that much better.

Best “Other” Pasta: Spinach Ricotta Pillows (Grazie) vs. Linguine and Clams (Lago)

Winner: Spinach Ricotta Pillows – Grazie

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A country club take on spinach ravioli, these pillows were not only delicious, but presented in a wonderful manner. The spinach and ricotta meld beautifully and just made for a great pasta dish.

Best Appetizer: Speck (Lago) vs. Dueling Meatballs (Grazie) vs. Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites – Prohibition River.

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Possibly the toughest choice so far; on one hand you have a a wonderful Charcuterie dish, but you also have a fantastic meatball offering. But the Chicken Fried Steak Bites get the victory because it is one of the most delicious appetizers out there. Filet Mignon steak bites, with a deliciously crispy skin and a fantastic gravy? How could it not get the win?

Best Side Dish: Garlic Balls (PPT’s) vs. Beer Battered Onion Rings (O’Malley’s) 

Winner: Garlic Balls – PPT’s.

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The ultimate side to pizza, Garlic Balls from PPT’s are doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. It is easily one of the most unique side dishes out there, and a must try for anyone who likes good food.

Best Soup/Chowder: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s) vs. New England Clam Chowder (Townhouse)

Winner: New England Clam Chowder – O’Malley’s.

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Very easily the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve had, as it is the specialty of the Chef at O’Malley’s. It is thick, creamy, and has great clams. An easy dish to return to over and over, and I do almost every time I go to O’Malley’s.

Best Hot Sandwich: Phive All Day (Philly’s) vs. Aged Beef Top Round w/ French Onion (Melt)

Winner: Phive All Day – Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia.

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One of the most unique and succulent sandwiches out there, the Phive All Day wins based on its combination of traditional Philly Cheesesteak elements, but with the fantastic additions of bacon and home-made “McNabb Sauce.” (Note: This Sandwich will not be considered for the category of Philly Cheesesteak because it has too many unique elements).

Best Deli Sandwich: Sicilian Sandwich (Roosters) vs. The Godfather (Anthony’s) vs. American Combo (Anthony’s)

Winner: American Combo – Anthony’s Deli.

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Another tough choice, especially considering that the Godfather is Anthony’s signature sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the Godfather is a fantastic Italian Sandwich (as is Rooster’s Sicilian), but the American Combo just has the “it factor” in terms of traditional deli sandwiches. The bread, as well as every meat used is fresh, and the size is fantastic. I’ve had all three of these sandwiches on multiple occasions, but the American Combo is the one that I go back to the most.

Best Philly Cheesesteak: Silver Lake Pizza vs. Royal Scarlet Deli

Winner: Philly Cheesesteak – Silver Lake Pizza.

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Easily my favorite Philly Cheesesteak, Silver Lake Pizza knows what they are doing in regards to this sandwich. The bread is crisp, the meat is thick and flavorful, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the peppers and onions are a nice addition to this juicy sandwich.

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That’s it for the First Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

Roosters Market: Sicilian Sandwich

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If you grew up in an Italian family or spent any considerable time around one, you have probably had a wonderful dish comprised of mozzarella, tomato, and basil. We all know how good that is, but imagine that as a sandwich…with meat…and peppers; that’s what you have in Roosters’ Sicilian.

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This sandwich is absolutely delicious. Served inside a nice, soft wedge of bread, the ingredients within are of the best quality.

The mozzarella was fresh and very spongy, the prosciutto was slightly salty, and the salt flavor that it had coalesced with the rest of the flavors perfectly. Not only was the prosciutto tasty, it was also plentiful. The tomatoes were juicy, the peppers roasted nicely, and the Italian dressing that topped it off was quite delicious.

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Every single ingredient in this sandwich works alone, and together, but preferably the latter, and Roosters has struck upon a very good twist on a classic Italian dish.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Westchester Burger Co: Italian Nutella Shake

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Ever since Cheeburger Cheeburger shut down I’ve been looking for a place to get a really good milkshake; so far, I have found a couple of places, and Westchester Burger Co. is one of the best. This is a flavor I’d never heard of before, the Italian Nutella shake.

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What a unique flavor! Thick, like a milkshake should be, it tasted just like Nutella, except liquefied; with a nice mixture of both chocolate and hazelnut flavor.

On top was a fresh, light and airy whipped cream that seemed to be home made. It is without a doubt some of the best whipped cream I’ve had in a long time, nothing about it seemed artificial or mass produced.

If you feel in the mood for a good milkshake in Westchester, Westchester Burger Co. is a place you should definitely check out. I will be back with my other choice location for Milkshakes soon, so please stay tuned.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Lago: Linguine and Clams

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Growing up, Linguine with Clam Sauce was one of my favorite dishes, and it still is to this day; its for that reason that I am a very hard critic when it comes to this dish. I have found, sadly, that so many people simply fail at making a proper Linguine with Clam Sauce, and no one comes close to making it like my mom does.

My last experience with this restaurant bought dish ended pretty badly, so I was worried that Lago’s might turn out to be a let down; could it live up to my expectations?

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I must admit that the first couple of bites had me worried that this would be just another failed attempt at one of my favorite foods, but with each and every bite thereafter, I found myself liking it more and more.

The linguine was soft, but slightly more al dente than I’m used to; a feature that was different, but added to the overall experience with its uniqueness. The clams were as they should be, salty and bite sized, with just enough chewiness to where they neither melted in your mouth nor stayed around for too long.

Mixed into the pasta were small, crunchy garlic cloves, and the Parmesan sprinkled on top was another new and welcome element; the final touch was a nice buttery sauce that the pasta and clams rested in until there was none left to be had.

All in all this was the best Linguine and Clams I’ve ever had in a restaurant, and I would give it a big thumbs up; I still think my mom’s version is better, but hey, its hard to beat home cooking right?

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Lago: Speck

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Lago is a nice Italian restaurant (ristorante) in West Harrison that makes some pretty good, authentic Italian food. While there were many intriguing options on the menu, the appetizer that I decided to try was a meat dish known simply as “Speck.”

For those who don’t know (and I certainly didn’t), Speck is the name of a particular type of prosciutto, which the menu describes as “Smoked pork belly from Trentino region.”

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The Speck was thinly sliced with a smooth and polished texture; in terms of flavor it was sweet, but with a nice accompaniment of saltiness. It was moist, while also having the tiniest bit of hardness on the edges.

I happened to show this picture to a foodie friend of mine, and he opined that this was possibly one of the best cuts of this particular meat that he had ever seen, and he may very well be right, as this smoked pork belly was quite tasty.

Lago’s Speck was a good start to my meal, the entree of which will be covered at a later date. One thing is for certain; Lago definitely deserves respect as an Italian restaurant, and has earned a future return visit from yours truly; I hope that it will gain your business as well.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Portofino: Sicilian Slice

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When I reviewed Portofino’s delicious slice of plain pizza, I made a point to say that it was not just the taste that made it special, but its huge size as well. Fortunately, the same can be said for their Sicilian slice. I have covered a Sicilian slice before (for a size reference on what normal Sicilians look like, click here), but I have never seen anything quite like this.

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This slice literally takes up two paper plates, its massive. Along with the size, there are slight differences between this and most Sicilian slices; so the question is, how does it hold up against others?

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This culinary marvel needs to be broken down into three categories; cheese, sauce, and crust. The cheese one might notice is lacking in comparison to many others, but in this case it doesn’t matter; what cheese there is provides a nice sweet flavor that compliments the sauce. And speaking of sauce, there was plenty of it. In fact, I would say that in this case the reduction in cheese is balanced out perfectly by the increase in sauce.

That leaves the crust, which very well may be the best part of this entire pizza; it is doughy (like any good Sicilian), but also has a very good light bite; and the crunch on the crust can be summed up in one word: fantastic. I have never had a slice of pizza with a crunch like this (burnt ones aside), and the crispness of the crust mixed with the cheese and sauce makes this one truly special piece of pizza.

With two reviews dedicated to their product in a week, its safe to say that Portofino Pizzeria is one of the premiere pizza shops in Westchester County. If you are a Westchester resident, or are just passing through, this is a spot that you need to visit; and if you are in Putnam County, you are close enough to visit as well, so please do; if you like pizza, you won’t regret it.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Portofino: Plain Pizza

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Portofino Pizza & Pasta is everything that is right with the pizza world; not only do they make a great tasting pie, but the size of their slices is unbelievable.

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Yes, that is one slice that has been cut in half; when you have a slice of pizza that is nearly the same size of two normal ones, you automatically have something unique. But unique is not enough, you need quality and taste as well, and fortunately, Portofino does exactly that.

In contrast to its extremely thin crust, this slice has a good thick cheese that carries a nice element of sweetness to it; the sauce on the other hand was very special, with a flavor that is mildly savory. That sweet and savory combination really stands out in the world of pizza, and rightfully so, because such a duo deserves our attention. Not to be outdone, the amount of oil that is used in each serving is just the right amount for a slice of this size.

Another reason why this is a great slice of pizza is because its sheer size allows you to employ a truly proper “New York Fold”:

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Portofino Pizza & Pasta (located in Golden’s Bridge NY) is simply put, some of the best pizza you will ever have; and I highly recommend it to everyone. Rest assured though, this is not the only review that will come from this restaurant, tune in later this week as I take on their massive Sicilian slice.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Anthony’s Deli: The Godfather

0ET4CODWL1RMCSJ4R3U3MZZQ1NOILLZOXV1PYMDWEWC3SCZCThe Original Godfather sub (“often replicated never duplicated”) is Anthony’s signature sandwich; in a world of deli sandwiches, the Godfather is a true Italian creation (as proved by its large group of ingredients).

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The Godfather is composed of: “salami, pepperoni, ham cappicola, proscuitini, mortadella, sopresatta, provolone, lettuce, oil & vinegar, hot peppers served on Arthur Avenue Italian bread”; and the vast amount of Italian spice contained inside is amazing and works really well to make an authentic Italian sandwich.

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For those who don’t know, Arthur Avenue bread is some of the best around, so deciding to use it on your sandwich is automatically a great decision. Each of the meats involved brings their own unique spice and flavor, the provolone adds to the Italian flair, the lettuce provides a nice crunch, and the oil and vinegar provided tang and moisture. But one of the most noticeable parts of this sandwich is the peppers.

To say this sub has peppers on it is an understatement; the inside of the bread is thoroughly lined with them, both hot and sweet. The sheer amount of peppers involved means you get a mildly sweet burn that carries throughout your entire consumption experience.

There is literally nothing like a Godfather sub, and no one does it better than Anthony’s; so if you want a truly authentic Italian-American deli sandwich, you need to visit Anthony’s Deli.*

*One thing that must be noted for first time buyers at Anthony’s is that they are a cash only establishment; credit/debit cards are not accepted (although they do have an ATM inside). But hey, that’s part of the charm.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com