Anyone who frequented the Soho sandwich shop Melampo Imported Foods, a.k.a. Alessandro Gualandi’s den of terror, in the late eighties and nineties remembers Gualandi’s rules: Speak only when spoken to. Form a neat line and stand at attention. Order by sandwich name. Chief among these rules, perhaps, was, Don’t ask dumb questions like “Can I get that with mayo?” To do so was to risk banishment from the shop and cause flames to shoot from the moody sandwich maker’s eyes and steam to blow out of his ears.
When Gualandi retired a few years ago, and his cheerful young understudy Walter Momente took over, rechristening the place Alidoro, the mood lightened considerably, but not because Momente didn’t hold to Gualandi’s vision. Consider, as evidence of this, a new sign that hangs near the counter and lists 39 things you’ll never find at Alidoro. It includes, among other provocations, half-sandwiches, soup, salads, wraps, chips, pickles, glasses of water, a bathroom, forks, spoons, knives, plates, liverwurst, and, of course, mayo.
So imagine the Underground Gourmet’s surprise to discover not only a brand-new Alidoro outpost located behind the bar at the landmark Puffy’s Tavern in Tribeca, but also, on its abbreviated Alidoro menu, a new sandwich called the Americano. Served on an actual plate — albeit a paper one — it comes on your choice of Grandaisy Bakery bread, and mingles sliced smoked chicken with arugula, tomato, and, yes, mayonnaise — Hellmann’s to be exact. “It’s the only new sandwich we’ve added,” says Puffy’s managing partner and enduring Alidoro fan, Charlie Garriga, who proposed the offshoot idea to an expansion-minded Momente. “And people are really, really into it.”
Lest any sandwich sticklers get the wrong idea, Puffy’s isn’t totally flouting convention. Every other ingredient, from smoked chicken to the signature Alidoro dressing, is Momente-made or -approved, and a bartender named Jeff trained two weeks straight behind Alidoro’s counter. Garriga himself, by the way, predates Momente, having been one of the few and the brave to charm his way into Alessandro Gualandi’s good graces, to the extent that his former hard-core band’s sticker was posted prominently on a Melampo cooler by Gualandi himself.
Granted, Puffy’s sandwich selection is limited and its prices ($8.50 to $12.50) marginally higher than at Alidoro headquarters, but the Tribeca tavern does offer a couple of amenities that only enhance the sandwich-chewing experience: namely beer and flat-screens for watching soccer matches. “I love it,” says the Italian-born Momente. Chances are he hasn’t spied the Hellmann’s yet. —Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld