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Two halves of a sandwich seen in cross section with cheese wrapping around sausages and streaks of tomato sauce.
Faicco’s sausage parm hero uses both cheese and sausages made in-house.

Eater Critic Robert Sietsema Ranks His 11 Favorite Hot Parm Heros

The best parm heros — including chicken, eggplant, veal, and sausage — to track down in NYC

The history of the Italian-American hero is cloaked in mystery. From years of research and eating out, I’d say that it probably arose during the 1920s, when French baguettes became all the rage here and Italian bakeries began making them. (Before that, Italian bakery breads tended to be giant round loaves.)

Once invented, the sandwich took two routes: There was the version made from Italian ingredients like salami, prosciutto, the cherished neck-meat ham called capicola, the American version of mozzarella featuring cow’s milk, and aged provolone or other imported cheese; or distinctly American deli meats like roast beef, boiled ham, turkey, and American cheese.

The other kind of sandwich was served hot rather than cold. The Italian roast beef hero, using sliced rare meat, fresh mozzarella, and brown gravy became a classic in Hoboken and Brooklyn. But the sandwich that became famous worldwide was the parm hero. The word parm — short for parmigiana — referred, not to parmesan cheese, but to the city of Parma, which became associated with any dish featuring veal, chicken, or eggplant breaded and deep-fried, with mozzarella melted over the top. (Other theories for the dish’s origin mention Naples or Sicily.)

These parms proved the perfect item to put on a hero roll, which was then smothered in tomato sauce, making one of the world’s messiest sandwiches. Here are 11 of my favorite hot parm sandwiches in New York, ranked in order of increasing excellence.


11. Chicken parmigiana hot hero at Delizia 92

This Upper East Side pizzeria makes some great hot parm heros, sometimes priced lower at lunch. Found in many pizzerias, such heros have the advantage of being made with the low-fat mozzarella used on most pizzas — gooier and chewier, and sometimes having a little more sugar in the tomato sauce. Both features distinguish Delizia’s chicken parm hero ($10, lunch $8). 1762 Second Avenue, at 92nd Street, Upper East Side

A cheese smothered cutlet in a sandwich cut in half, with one half twisted toward the viewer.
Chicken parmigiana hot hero at Delizia 92.

10. Meatball parmigiana hero at Joe’s Pizza

This is not the now-ubiquitous chain that started out in Greenwich Village, but a one-off Chelsea pizzeria with particularly excellent hero sandwiches, including such arcana as a chicken Caesar salad hero and a Roma hero using chicken and mushrooms. Order the excellent meatball hero ($9), which features mixed-meat orbs of beef and pork, which are engagingly squishy, making a kind of melty mozzarella-meatball superfood. 211 Eighth Avenue, between 20th and 21st streets, Chelsea

A very messy hero sandwich cut in half with cheese and tomato sauce oozing out.
Meatball parmigiana hero at Joe’s Pizza.

9. Sausage, onion, and peppers parm at La Bellezza

Finding a sausage parm hero is a rare thing in itself — though you may be able to convince a neighborhood pizzeria to make one for you — and my favorite is the example at Faicco’s shown in the photo at the top. But my mind was nearly blown when I recently stumbled on the version that added the street fair topping of sauteed onions and red and green peppers at the shoebox of a Midtown East pizzeria called La Bellezza. The sausages, profuse in number, benefit tremendously from the sweetness of the caramelized onions, with the peppers providing other little jags of flavor. 145 East 49th Street, between Lexington and 3rd avenues, Midtown East

A hero roll toasted brown and split down the middle with the cheese melted on top.
The magnificent sausage, onions, and peppers parm hero.

8. Eggplant parmesan Brooklyn style hero at Benny Casanova’s

This counter in the Manhattanville Market food court inside Columbia’s Greene Science Center is the brainchild of Franklin Becker, who also runs the adjacent tapas bar Oliva. This eggplant parm ($14) is smallish compared to some of the behemoths on this list, but it’s still plenty of food to make a full meal for one person. The tomato sauce proves thick and piquant and, notably, the eggplant cutlet is less heavily breaded than usual, an advantage as far as this sandwich is concerned. 3227 Broadway, at 130th Street, West Harlem

A sloppy looking hero sandwich with eggplant slice sticking out and gooey cheese stuck here and there.
Eggplant parmesan, “Brooklyn style”.

7. Focaccia chicken cutlet sandwich at Marabella Pizza

Located on Sunnyside’s hopping Greenpoint Avenue, Marabella turns out a bewildering variety of pizzas, sandwiches, and seafood dishes. But walk in and you’re likely to spot in a glass display case its proudest invention: a chicken parm sandwich on two slices of focaccia. You can eat this wonderful sandwich like you eat a slice of pizza. 4107 Greenpoint Avenue, at 41st Street, Sunnyside

Two slices of pizza juxtaposed with a cutlet and cheese in between.
A pizza sandwich? At Sunnyside’s Marabella Pizza.

6. Chicken parm hero at Alleva Dairy

Just down the block from Di Palo, and proving that’s not the only latticini left in Little Italy, stands Alleva. In addition to the usual imported Italian products, and made-on-the-premises ricotta and mozzarella, it sells prepared foods from a counter shoved out onto the sidewalk. The heros are some of the longest and sloppiest in town, and the price for the chicken parm hero is right at $12. The elements meld nicely, the bread won’t break your teeth, and it’s easy to share. 188 Grand Street, at Mulberry Street, Little Italy

Two halves turned at right angles, with a rope of cheese connecting them.
Chicken parm hero at Alleva Dairy.

5. Eggplant parm hero at Jimmy’s Famous Heros

The 75-year-old Jimmy’s Famous Heros offers a full range of sandwiches to the crowds that head for the fishing boats in Sheepshead Bay. The eggplant parm is one of the longest in town, built on a crusty seeded baguette with plenty of tomato sauce and cheese, but more important, masses of lightly fried eggplant impart an earthy tang — more often when these heros are made, the vegetable recedes into the background. 1786 Sheepshead Bay Road, between Belt Parkway and Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay

A twisted sandwich with lots of eggplant, sliced white cheese, and a backdrop of grass lawn.
Eggplant parm at Jimmy’s Famous.

4. Chicken parm panino at Rosa’s Pizza

If you’re alone and not starving, Rosa’s is your place. Located in the little Sicilian enclave on the northern reaches of Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, it offers a bewildering variety of pizza and subs, the latter mainly in large sizes. But, in the style of Sicily’s Palermo focaccerias, it also offers a smaller version of the chicken parm hero ($7) on a top-quality round roll, handily avoiding much of the mess of eating a full-size hero. 62-65 Fresh Pond Road, between Bleecker Street and Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood

A breaded cutlet with cheese on top on a round roll.
Chicken parm panino at Rosa’s.

3. Meatball parm hero at Parm

Naturally, you’d expect a place called Parm to have great parm heros, and it does. Sailing in on a seeded roll that makes up for its shortness with a greater breadth, the meatballs in the meatball parm hero ($16) are perfect in every way — squishy and full of flavor. The tomato sauce is sweet, and the cheese helps hold everything together. There are several Manhattan branches. 235 Columbus Avenue, between 71st and 72nd streets, Upper West Side

A seeded roll, with ground meat, tomato sauce, and white cheese oozing from the cut halves, on a wooden outdoor table background.
Meatball parm hero at Parm.

2. Chicken parm hero at Parisi Bakery

Sadly, the Elizabeth Street branch of the 1903 Parisi Bakery shut down during the pandemic, but its deli counterpart on Mott remains open. A regular part of the hero rotation are the parms, of which the chicken parm ($12) is a notable masterpiece. The crisp cutlet is piled on a Parisi-made roll with sliced mozzarella and pickled peppers (one of the optional free toppings) that round out the flavors and textures. 198 Mott Street, between Spring and Kenmare streets, Greenwich Village

A hero on a long brown roll with red peppers, cheese, and the cutlet visible.
Pickled peppers make this hero particularly memorable.

1. Veal parm hero at Faicco’s Salumeria

To Italian immigrants, veal was considered the most luxurious of the meats suddenly available, making the veal parm hero the queen of the long sandwiches. But these days, veal is rather expensive, so most versions of the sandwich feature a thin, tough, heavily breaded cutlet. Not so at Faicco’s, founded in 1900 by Eduardo Faicco, who grew up in Sorrento. This salumeria is one of the few remaining vestiges of Greenwich Village’s Little Italy. The cutlets are thick and tender, and the salumeria’s own mozzarella adds to the richness of this wonderful sandwich ($20). 260 Bleecker Street, between Morton and Leroy streets, Greenwich Village

A hero sandwich seen from the cut end with white mozzarella oozing on the top.
The veal parm hero features two thick and tender cutlets.

Want to read the previous installments of this sandwich column?

11 Favorite Winter Sandwiches, 11 Favorite Fall Sandwiches, 11 More NYC Sandwiches That Are Getting Us Through the Pandemic, 11 Great NYC Sandwiches That Got Us Through the Pandemic

Rosa's pizza

2 West 14th Street, Manhattan, NY 10011 (212) 898-9898

Marabella

4107 Greenpoint Avenue, Queens, NY 11104 (718) 786-4635 Visit Website

Parm

235 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10023 (212) 776-4921 Visit Website

La Bellezza Pizzeria

145 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017 (212) 871-3223 Visit Website

Parisi Bakery

198 Mott Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (212) 226-6378 Visit Website

Faicco's

260 Bleecker Street, Manhattan, NY 10014 (212) 243-1974

Jimmy's Famous Heroes

1786 Sheepshead Bay Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11235 (718) 648-8001

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