For the second installment of the Italian Submarine Series, I'd like to share my recent experience at Faicco's Italian Specialties in the West Village - and - in addition those findings, I urge readers to stay tuned to the second half of my post in which I classify levels of Italian-American self expression on a scale I spent a few days contemplating - "The Cavone Continuum" I call it.
First, official blog business: Faicco's and the sandwich. Faicco's itself is a neat and tidy, well oiled delicatessen machine with the typical Italian deli characteristics - hanging cheeses, Italian men, and stacked shelves of sauces, pastas, and random goods. Upon entry, about 20 customers are huddled around placing and waiting for orders, but I was helped rather quickly. I ordered what is known as the "Italian Special" for $11.00. Slightly high in cheddar for your typical Italian sub, yet well worth it if it was going to be good. After all, I usually save the second half for dinner.
The sandwich comes with capicola, sopressata, (home-made) mozzarella, roasted peppers, and oil and vinegar. And after my man slices the meats, dresses the bread, and presses it all together, it arrives on one of Faicco's steel counters with a dull thud, wrapped tightly in some white packing paper, and coupled with a "s'at all buddy?" Yes, that is all. For a brief moment, and prior to exiting the store, I took a violent whiff of the paper covered sub in an attempt to forcefully extract any potentially escapable scents. No such luck. I then see-saw both ends of the sub to critique its weight, as if I was in a Peruvian Temple attempting to switch out the sub with a golden idol. This earned me a curious glance by another customer. And rightly so. Shake and sniff all I want, I just needed to tear into this thing already. I flew home to begin my feast.
And tear into it I did. And Awesome it was. My previous sub at Lisa's had a slightly dry presence to it - not Faicco's. This sucker is perfectly - but not overly - lathered in oil and vinegar, which lends itself to some wonderful levels of what I call "togetherness." What I mean by that is the bread, although dense (maybe a touch too dense if I had to make 1 complaint), is fresh, moist, and perfectly dampened (but not diminished) by the dressing, while the meats and cheese, which are generously applied, are proudly featured (not over matched by carbs) in a deliciously stacked pattern of symmetrical glory. This was a superior sandwich to Lisa's in all respects. Fine craftsmanship and quality ingredients. I was happy. So happy, in fact, that I immediately ate the second half. And then texted with sis about it.
And even a couple of days post-Faicco's, I found myself re-living my experience. Using my brain's dvr, I'd literally play, rewind, and play back again my bite for bite relationship with that beautiful sandwich. And this got me-thinking: what does this actually say about me? To be clear, it is absolutely appropriate to recall past experiences of culinary glory and excellence - I do this every now and then - but what does it say about me when I'm getting the same quality of goose bumps upon the recollection of thinly cut, stacked sopressata, as I do with a Lamb Parpadelle? Am I that easy to please? Surely, Maude in West Virginia probably receives similar levels of retrospective joy from last Friday night's carnage at the Golden Corral. I began to question the tier of intelligence that governs my palate. Calm down, I tell myself. Calm, the F down. You're not effing Maude.
Thankfully, I eventually realized that I was over reacting; a realization that was supported by two well reasoned, scientific facts: (1) Quality food is not directly related to price and/or a purported sophistication of its ingredients (as in the case of something wonderfully simple, like Pizza) and (2) participating in an Italian-made guilty pleasure is simply inevitable, particularly for an Italian American like myself.
As an Italian American, devilish temptations are all around us: Do I really need that third cannoli? Is the most-peal double fisting of an espresso/limoncello really necessary? It is bad that I just did a double take at my 3rd cousin's ass during the family's most recent Sunday dinner?
Italians are a passionate collection of people. What separates us as Italian Americans is where our passions lie, and, also, how often we participate in some of the more devilish Italian temptations. How often do you dance with your inner Italian devil? A once in a while, harmless tarantella? Or a fist pumping grindfest where you're beating up the beat:
Or perhaps you are somewhere in between. Depending on your answer to this, you could be a Cavone, or, more likely, you could have some Cavone in you. What is a Cavone, exactly? Urban Dictionary defines it as: "a term used by Italian Americans to describe someone who is disrespectful, has no class or no couth." And, while I do essentially agree with this, I respectfully submit that that each of us, as Italians Americans, have at least a little bit of Cavone in us; a barbaric side which yearns for the pursuit of Italian pleasantries and passion fruits. When harnessed correctly, you can channel your inner Cavone towards respectable realms of greatness with a few harmless detours. Yet allow your inner Cavone to roam unsupervised, and you may have yourself a Situation. In my mind, there are varying classifications of a Cavone. Where do you fit on the Cavone Continuum?
Level 1: The Classy Cavone
If the Classy Cavone was transported to a street corner in Rome and observed for a few moments by natives, they would not necessarily stick out or be made fun of. They are typically well educated in some redeeming arena, with a more refined palate. And, look, I'm not saying these two are the beacon of Italian class - particularly when one of my subjects is donning a sausage link necklace - but they pronounce their words correctly, embrace their Italian-ness without sounding like a gangster, and generally seem like respectable souls. They have, for the most part, channeled their inner-cavone towards more lofty goals. Nonetheless, Mario's waistline would indicate he's not scared to give in to some serious cravings every now and then...
Level 2: The Casual Cavone
The Casual Cavone's Italian pride and awareness is managed with simultaneous pride and class, yet they may shamelessly experience a swell of swagger from the following sources: endings of Rocky Movies, Gangster Biographies, and the former supremacy of the Ancient Roman Empire. A peek into the Casual Cavone's medicine cabinet may raise an eyebrow or two also due to its contents; maybe some hair gel. Maybe some axe body spray. This Cavone is equally comfortable in Marinara-Mills as he is within small-plate, Mediterranean spots alike. DeNiro, I thought, was a fair representation. There's no doubting the man's level of intelligent artistic expression, but one has to question the frequency and comfort in which DeNiro played a gangster. Vito Corleone and Jimmy the Gent Conway were fine, but Paul Vitti? And then Paul Vitti again?
Level 3 - The Considerable Cavone
The easiest way to know if you graduate from a Casual Cavone to a Considerable one? How do you pronounce your basic Italian foods: Is prosciutto sounding more like "pruh-shoot?" Is gabba-gool said with a straight face? Is Mani Cotti, Monnie Gaht? If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you are Considerable Cavone, not to mention objectively embarrassing. Subjectively, you assume this pronunciation is reflective of "real" or authentic Italian behavior and, it is, for Bada Bing patrons (Soprano), the Real Housevies of New Jersey, and Perillo Tour participants (Romano). You want a real tour of Italy, check one of these out.
Level 4 - The Complete Cavone
What more can I say? When your number one priority is GTL (that is, Gym, Tanning and Laundry for those living in a cave), chances are, you are a total, complete Cavone. Somewhere along the line, the Complete Cavone stopped maturing (probably around high school). Same goes for their diet. Experimentation is bad. Melted Mozzarella on everything including their toothbrush, good. Travel habits are often limited to within State boundaries - after all, putting excess miles on that white Escalade is bad for resale value!
Oh, have a sense of humor, offended cavones! I love all Italians, levels 1 through 4. And to be honest, I'm not quite sure where I land myself. The common bond among all great Italians, regardless of your classification within the Cavone Continuum, is your passion and love for life, family, and friends.
And if given the chance for a hot date with either Mona Lisa Vito or Giada D? I might have to think about that one for a bit.