Sandwich city

Rick’s deliCafe manager and chef Jim Harlan plates up a sandwich that’s as big, fresh and saucy as the gangster it’s named after.

Rick’s deliCafe manager and chef Jim Harlan plates up a sandwich that’s as big, fresh and saucy as the gangster it’s named after.

Photo By David Robert

A close friend of mine, whose vocabulary is usually expletive- and slang-free, unleashed a string of celebratory curse words and colloquialisms when I mentioned I would be dining at Rick’s deliCafe.

“Somebody at work brought me the John Gotti sandwich the other day, and it was fucking awesome. … I was a big fan of that food, man.”

My mom and I went to Rick’s during our brief lunch breaks on a Wednesday afternoon. We ordered ahead, so the food would be ready when we arrived. I had no choice but to order the Gotti. Being unfamiliar with the menu, my mom asked the person on the phone to read off some of the sandwiches, which she graciously did, even though she was clearly busy. I think we were lucky to be eating lunch at 1:30 p.m. rather than 12:30. Rumor has it that Rick’s gets very active at lunchtime, the result of being the sole deli along a lengthy street of bustling, warehouse-type buildings.

Rick’s itself is in such a building, but big, red, white and blue letters make it stand out against the monotony of the industrial scenery. The inside has a green and white checkerboard floor, and the panoramic photos of New York City that run the length of the north and south walls provide plenty to peruse while eating—that is if you’re not looking at the numerous black-and-white photos of Brandos, Cagneys, Bogarts and bombshell blondes that surround the panoramas.

Most of the sandwiches have names of famous gangsters. There’s the Baby Face Nelson, the Bugsy Siegel, the Cement Shoes, the Dillinger, the Scarface, etc.

Mom had to be boring and order a sandwich without a villainous name, the house roasted turkey ($6.95). It was a good choice, though, because the sandwich was anything but characterless. The hot, carved turkey was as good as if it had just been picked off a warm bone. It probably had been. The cold avocado and tomato were nice compliments, and the “special cranberry sauce” added a creamy, bitter sweetness to the flavor.

“This sauce is the color of those pink Hostess Snowballs,” my mom said. The eye-catching sauce actually made the sandwich more desirable; it looked saucy in the way a person can. It dared you to eat it.

Rick’s specialty sandwich, the John Gotti ($7.45), came with marinated, grilled chicken breast, sautéed-to-perfection Anaheim peppers and red onions, crispy bacon, cheese that oozed out every side, sprouts, tomato and chipotle mayo. It was rich, thermally hot and spicy hot, but not so spicy you’d lose the individual flavors. It was a decent-sized sandwich, and I was full after eating it, but I would have devoured another half eagerly.

As it was getting late in the afternoon, our only options for fresh-baked goods were flapjack-sized, chocolate-chip cookies ($1). We each took one for the road. When my mom and I spoke later that afternoon, we agreed that the cookies, although they seemed like they were going to be dry, were the perfect combination of crunchiness and chewiness.

“I was full after lunch and only wanted a bite of something sweet,” my mom said, “but I ate the whole thing on the way back to work.”

“I did, too,” I told her. It wasn’t hard to do.

At Rick’s deliCafe, you’ll always eat the whole thing, and then you’ll wish you had some more.