From the outside Salumeria Biellese (376-378 8th ave, at 29th st.) looks like any old deli. Actually, from the inside it looks generic too: a bit run down with faded plastic menus and hand-written specials. Thank god, or people would discover the secret: it’s not generic — they serve up incredibly tasty Italian cold cuts and sandwiches. It’s actually a sausage and cured meats shop that happens to have a deli as a store front (and a restaurant on the side). If you find the menu a little confusing and scatter shot (I did), talk to them about what they’ve got. If you want to order meats, you have to talk to them, because nothing on the boards even mentions their meat specialty. So they’ve got a little interior design to do, so what?
When I went around 1pm, there was no line and just two tables were taken. After staring dumbly at the boards for a few minutes, I ordered a prosciutto with mozzarella and roasted peppers and a meatball with sauce while chatting up the counter guys, trying to get some secret Italian sandwich mysteries. Instead I got two gigantic sandwiches. The first thing I noticed (after the bland decor) was how heavy these sandwiches are. They are massive! Though the total came to $17, which is way too much for regular sandwiches in this economy, I held faith that they would deliver. Plus, by weight, they were probably equivalent to 4 sandwiches.
These are delicious sandwiches! My meatball was perfectly cooked, not gray, tough and chewy. It tasted almost homemade, almost. The sauce was used sparingly, thank god. I hate it when excessive sauce just lubes the meatballs to go flying out when you pick it up. In this sandwich, they’re just there to add a hint of tomato and oregano. After a while the bread got nice and soggy. When in comes to meatballs subs, I think soggy bread is fantastic, as long as it doesn’t fall apart and drop meatballs in your lap. [Aside: why are there so many songs about meat balls? Don’t believe me?]
The other sandwich was prosciutto with mozzarella and roasted peppers (at the counter guy’s recommendation) and a little oil and vinegar. It was massive (see photo below). The prosciutto was salty and left the perfect buttery-meat flavor in your mouth after a bite, unfortunately the mozzarella seemed to wash it out. I’m not really sure why I eat cold mozz, it always tastes like nothing to me but cold mushy texture. I took it out. Without the mozz to wash away the prosciutto, it was fantastic. The bread gave just enough resistance and held everything together nicely, despite the soggy-potential of added oil and vinegar. Yum. The portions of this sandwich are incredible! Compare the amount of meat below to that given by Despana. Despana gives a one layer covering while Biellese gives a little brick! Horray for Prosciutto!
[They also sell 6-foot cold-cut “party” sandwiches, which is creepy, becuase I’ve had dreams about sandwiches that large…]