Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe
300 Seventh Ave, Park Slope
4 out of 5 L’s
If you’re going to bill yourself as “THE GOOMBA OF SANDWICH SHOPPES,” you might as well go nuts with the all-caps, right? The extra “pe” on the end of “shop” (not to mention the mod and streamlined website) seems a bit yuppyish for a true goomba, but hey, Zito’s is catering to Park Slope. Also, before anybody gets revved up about political correctness, it’s worth noting that “goomba” is an Italian-American bastardization of the Italian word for a male friend, “compare.” This shouldn’t be confused with the feminized “goomah,” which means “mistress.” (Whoa, I just figured out what I’m naming my future after-hours bar, serving cheap and dirty Sicilian specialties all night long. Why isn’t there a dive named Goomah already? I’m officially seeking investors.) The amiable cashier pronounces chinotto (as in the herbaceous San Pellegrino soft drink) with a beautiful old-country accent. He pronounces arancini with a heavy w: “rice bawls.”
And, guys, you gotta get in on these rice balls. Oblong and big as Bartlett pears, the crisp-crusted arancini are filled with rich saffron rice and a core of stretchy and stringy house-made mozzarella, tender peas and carrots, and chopped meat from Ottomanelli Brothers, a hundred-year-old butcher shop in East Harlem. Their 13 regular sandwiches put new-Brooklyn spins on classic flavors. Their thick-cut roast beef, for example, is braised in Sixpoint beer. You can’t actually taste the local brew, but tender beef piled with mushrooms, onions and mozzarella makes a solid sandwich. They’re not dethroning Defonte’s as the king of Brooklyn sandwich shops, but the airy space and ample seating makes it a cozier place to savor your bracciole or meatball parm.
Zito’s has all the trimmings of a nuovo Brooklyn café—exposed brick, subway tiles, rough-hewn wooden tables, Edison bulbs hanging from black chords. Behind the counter, shelves are stocked with cans of San Marzano tomatoes, Six Point growlers, giant olive jars, and a stack of Italian cookbooks. Muted soccer games play across flat-screen TVs while the stereo blasts golden oldies, like Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover.” (Ladies: I’ll be spinning Mariah Carey’s song of the same title at my aforementioned new bar, Goomah.) Behind a foosball table, glass doors lead to a sunken patio tucked between leafy backyards. Around the outdoor tables, stylized posters for various meats utilize the same all-caps font that declares goombahood on Zito’s website. Another sign reads “INSPIRED BY THE GREATS,” and cites a handful of Italian-American Brooklyn shops, like the dearly departed Joe’s Superette and Trunzo Brothers meat market—and the still-kickin’ Bari Pork Store. It’s like propaganda for cholesterol intensification. Listen, paisan, don’t forget to take your Lipitor. (Photos by Cody Swanson)