Fiorello’s is a very small Italian imports store located at 1182 Western Avenue near the entrance to University of Albany. Directly across the street is a plaza containing a favorite place of mine for sandwiches, DiBella’s.
Walking into Fiorello’s was a very familiar experience. I spent a large number of my adolescent hours working in my father’s and uncle’s deli and import store in Orange County, NY. The scope of Fiorello’s is a whole lot smaller. They have a few small areas with Italian specialties, a few deli cases, and some soda cases.
The people working behind the counter are most certainly Italian (which has been a frustration of mine walking into some other “family owned” Italian shops in the area). You can tell from the accents and nicknames; I believe one of the guys working there was being called Meemo.
My main goal for the visit was to get a hero [aside: there are many names for this - submarine, hoagie, hero, grinder (wtf?) - for the purpose of this review, we're going with the traditional Brooklyn classic, hero]. There’s a board with a number of Boars Head cold cuts, and a list of sandwiches. I thought, why not try the Italian Special hero ($6.50)? At Fiorello’s, this consists of ham capicola, mortadella, genoa salami, and provolone cheese. I opted for lettuce, onions, oil and vinegar dressing, and added hot peppers (I think it was a 75 cent upcharge). I also picked up a diet A&W root beer.
[Not part of this dining experience but worth noting - I bought a container of fresh mozzarella boconcini because, at $6.99/lb, they were cheaper than the garbage you get at the supermarket and far less pricier than the crooks at the farmers markets charging $13/lb for inferior product.]
I took my hero to go (which was my only option) and went home to work on some writing.
The only suitable wrapping mechanism for a hero is white paper. I was happy so far.
This was a familiar experience. Slightly crusty yet soft bread, sourced fresh from somewhere local, thinly sliced cold cuts, spicy peppers. This hero took me back to my roots.
I don’t want to dissect this too far. The one thing that I will comment on is the way the cold cuts were sliced. The only way a sandwich like this will work is with thinly sliced meats. Each bite should come away without having to rip it away from your mouth, and with thick cold cuts, this is impossible. I was glad that they sliced the meats (1) to order, and (2) just about as thin as I would have [truth be told, I probably would have gone a little thinner, but I also used to get in trouble for slicing too thin and dirtying up the slicer.].
I very much enjoyed my hero experience at Fiorello’s, and would urge you to visit. There’s certainly a bit of charm as you walk in, and you’ll be fed well; they certainly made me feel a lot more at home than some of the other capital area Italian import and sandwich shops.