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Sietsema’s Sandwich Quest Leads Him to a Hearty, Cheesy Meatball Hero in Chelsea

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It may be the quintessential Italian-American sandwich

Stella’s Pizza with neon signage and a woman carryout a box of pizza out front.
Stella’s Pizza
Robert Sietsema/Eater

It is my intention to celebrate the sandwich this year by finding as many tasty examples as possible, with a special emphasis on fringe styles. I will do this on a weekly basis and periodically present round-ups of the ones I consider best. See the rest of the sandwiches here.

Meatball Parm Hero

Who doesn’t love a hero sandwich? These humongous assemblages — made on the Italian version of a French demi-baguette, popularized at Italian bakeries here in the 1920s — fall into two categories: those made with cold cuts and those made with hot fillings. Heroes in the second category usually entail veal or chicken cutlets, sausages and peppers, eggplant, or meatballs. Most are smothered in tomato sauce and the kind of low-moisture mozzarella favored by pizzerias. These are then referred to as parmesan, or more properly, parmigiano-reggiano, as in “eggplant parm.” [Note: The original unedited version of this article included the following sentence: “Most are smothered in the kind of low-fat mozzarella cheese favored by pizzerias, as well as tomato sauce. These are then referred to as parmesan, as in “eggplant parm,” though the term refers to the city of Parma, from which this style supposedly emerged.”]

Stella’s Pizzeria meatball parm
There’s no heartier sandwich than a meatball parm hero
Robert Sietsema/Eater

Though we will doubtlessly be covering lots of hero sandwiches in this column, today we consider the meatball parm hero. One of the best places to look for these is at neighborhood pizzerias, where hot heroes are done in the stacked pizza oven as a sideline. Stella’s Pizza in Chelsea has a particularly good one ($8), with lots of cheese, a sharp and slightly sweet tomato sauce, and plenty of meatballs, which are good by themselves. The sandwich also has a compact circumference that makes it easy to eat and keeps the meatballs intact. 110 Ninth Ave., between 17th and 18th streets, Chelsea

Stella's Pizza

110 9th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10011 (212) 462-4444 Visit Website