When an international celebrity of Luciano Pavarotti’s magnitude dies, it’s only to be expected that there will soon follow a flood of posthumous recordings. But what to make of the posthumous hoagie?
That was the question on the Underground Gourmet’s mind after the Golden Tenor had taken his final bow, and Walter Momente, the owner of the Soho sandwich shop Alidoro, had decided that a fitting tribute to the opera superstar would be to meticulously layer salami, smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and sweet peppers into a titanic semolina loaf and call it the Pavarotti. “We had to do something for him,” says Italian-born Momente. “Besides, I am a huge soccer fan, and before he became a singer, Pavarotti was a very good professional soccer player.”
You’d think that in a town where Pavarotti spent not a little time and kept an apartment and where there are sandwiches named for Gloria Estefan, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Joe Pesci, and Fyvush Finkle (to rattle off just a handful), there would already be at least one Pavarotti. The man, after all, was a prodigious foodie and a relentless pastavore. He stood six feet tall in his stockings, weighed some 350 pounds, and always carried a giant white handkerchief that one suspects might have served as an impromptu tablecloth as well as a brow-mopper. In short, if ever there were a man who deserved to have an overstuffed sandwich named after him, it would be Pavarotti. And yet, as far as the UG can tell, Alidoro’s might be the first Pavarotti this town has ever seen.
Never mind that old fans of the sandwich shop (which was formerly known as Melampo and run by the fearsome Alessandro Gualandi) will recognize the Pavarotti combo as one that was previously listed on the menu as an Arzibubo — a Gualandi name, and one whose meaning was lost on everyone except perhaps Gualandi himself. (An Italian friend of the UG after some head scratching surmised that Arzibubo was Florentine dialect for someone who is complicated or confused.) And never mind that Pavarotti might have preferred, rather than salami, his beloved prosciutto di Parma or perhaps some mortadella from the Emilia-Romagna region where he was born.
In certain sandwich-chewing circles, having any Alidoro concoction named after you would be a supreme honor, a legacy that trumps a commemorative building, statue, or park bench any day. —Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld