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84 Very Good

This Red Hook sandwich shop has been making supersized Italian heros since 1922.

379 Columbia St., Brooklyn, NY, 11231


Known For

The lowdown

Red Hook’s famed throwback deli isn’t just a place where anyone can get preposterously enormous sandwiches in the company of chipper cops, gruff sandhogs, and the ghosts of thousands of longshoremen who had exceptional taste in provolone. Defonte’s is really a foundational text of the Italian-American experience, a place where, starting in 1922, huge spiced hams were steamed, red peppers were roasted, and all sorts of prehistoric olives were brined and chopped up into spreads for giant loaves of bread, decades before the vast majority of Americans knew there was something called “pizza.” The oil-and-vinegar-stained Nicky Special, with capocollo, salami, and creamy fried eggplant (also Defonte’s “hot salad,” threaded with sliced cherry peppers and marinated mushrooms) is one of its oldest, most enduring house specialties. Any one-third or half-sandwich, the two anachronistic ways to order portions here, pairs automatically with a 12-ounce Manhattan Special Espresso on the side, maybe because the Brooklyn soda company dates back to 1895.

What you need to know

DrinksNo Alcohol

Noise LevelCivilized