NYC Sandwiches: Defonte’s of Brooklyn Open in Manhattan

Date February 24, 2009

There are a lot of delis in Manhattan, but there are few with the pedigree of Defonte’s, a Brooklyn relic known for their massive roast beef sandwiches and their house made fresh mozzarella.  NYC Food Guy was ready for sandwich satisfaction on Defonte’s first day of business in Manhattan, on 3rd Avenue and 21st Street.  Read on for delicious food porn and a look at the full menu.


Sandwich #1 – Nicky Special ($9.95)

Ham, capicolla, salami, fried eggplant, provolone, hot salad, marinated mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, oil, and vinegar


Aside from the roast beef, this is the sandwich I’ve read about most in articles about the Brooklyn branch of Defonte’s. I’m a fan of the first few ingredients in the Nicky Special, but once you hit the hot salad (a mix of celery, cauliflower, red pepper, green pepper, and pepperoncini) and marinated mushrooms, the sandwich took an undesirable turn.  In regard to flavor and texture, I didn’t like the obtrusiveness of the celery, cauliflower, peppers and mushrooms.  I kept the pepperoncini, however, and they added some welcome heat.

Sandwich #20 ($9.75)

Hot roast beef with fresh mozzarella, fried eggplant and natural jus


The sandwich that gave Defonte’s its name is delicious.  It was a little skimpy on the tender, flavorful and rare roast beef but I’ll chalk that up to 1st day blues. I was lucky they had any roast beef left by 5pm.   The fresh mozzarella is plentiful and creamy, the thinly sliced eggplant is crispy and tasty.  I took things up a notch by requesting my hearty hero roll to be turned into garlic bread which added some welcome flavor. I suggest you do the same, roast beef, fresh mozz, and fried eggplant don’t over much pop on their own, the garlic bread takes care of that without overpowering.


My only complaint is that the sandwich wasn’t wrapped in aluminum foil to contain the heat of the roast beef and garlic bread.  After a 15 minute transport uptown, the sandwich was cold, unmelted mozz, room temperature roast beef, soggy garlic bread.  But it was all still delicious and that says everything. I’m excited to eat it fresh, in store, after Defonte’s settles into their groove.

Other Essential Information

  • Defonte’s is closed on Sunday.
  • As of now the hours are up in the air, they’ll be staying open until they run out of food.  I picked up my sandwich close to 5pm, things were still hopping inside.  The best bet is to call ahead and find out (212) 614-1500.
  • I’ve repeatedly heard great things about the breakfast sandwiches, served all day.  The potato and eggs with mozzarella ($7.95) and the peppers and eggs with mozzarella ($7.95) are the only two choices offered on the menu, but you can mix and match if need be or add Virginia ham to either sandwich for $1.50.






nyc-food-guy-030Defonte’s of Brooklyn (website)

261 3rd Avenue at 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

40 Responses to “NYC Sandwiches: Defonte’s of Brooklyn Open in Manhattan”

  1. Hamburger America said:

    Wow. I had no idea this was opening. I hope they don’t meet the same fate as other failed Brooklyn-to-Manhattan ventures like DeMarco’s and Broome Doggs.

  2. Phil said:

    : )

  3. Big 2kizzle said:

    Lawrence is the man – he once got laid with 3 different women in less than 2 hours and then ate Defontes in between each Lay. His superpowers are unlike anyone out there – and i trust him not only for my food ventures and with my first born, but for catering my parties and for every food choice available – hes the man and continue doing what your doing COROROROOREOEERRERERCTTTTTTTTT CORRREREEEECCCCTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. moe said:




  5. Hugh Hubble said:

    delete my address… I live in FRANCE. Where good food exists…

  6. Dan said:

    #20 is my new lucky number. garlic bread really added to the overall flavor. Some of the best roast beef i’ve ever had.

  7. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Hamburger America,
    I agree, DeMarco’s was a sad casualty, no pun intended. I never had Broome dogs though. I have a feeling Defonte’s is here to stay. There’s no other standout sandwich spot in the Gramercy area so if it can prove worthy, it has a big void to fill.

    Glad to see a smile. Go eat some Defonte’s and then tell me how you feel.

    Big 2kizzle,

    While I can’t vouch for those casanova exploits, I appreciate the vote of confidence. Grubbing is long over due.


    That’s what I like to hear. Go check this place out, let me know what you think.

    Hugh Hubble,

    Au revoir mon ami. Where in France do you live?

    Good stuff cuz. That’s what I like to hear. I’m looking forward to having it again fresh, in house, and seeing what this sandwich is really all about.

  8. Kuj said:

    I get roast beef heros at Johns Deli in Bk, just outside of Coney Island. Huge gut bombs that’ll leave you on the couch for an hour nap. Ever try John’s, Food Guy?
    And have you ever had Roll n Roaster in Sheepshead Bay? They make roast beef that’s pretty good. They also have a manhattan place, I think on 23rd? I don’t know if it’s still open. Also in Brklyn, Brennan and Carr, roast beef is their thing, but its a place I’ve grown not to like. You know any of these spots, Food Guy?

  9. Azhar said:

    Thanks for posting up pictures of the menu. I hate walking in and having to take a few minutes to decide.

  10. Phil said:

    Will do Food Guy.. this seriously looks legitimate. I love the garlic bread move. Did they have fresh garlic bread? Or did they just take the standard hero and add some garlic and butter to it. Either way I’m sure it enhanced the sandwich.

  11. Master said:

    Maybe it was phil-ate again…

  12. Wich said:


  13. Emily said:

    I am eating here tonight. Thanks for the heads up, I can’t wait!

  14. The NYC Food Guy said:

    So John’s Deli in Brooklyn huh? Never heard of it. I have heard of Roll n Roaster, they used to have a spot on 11th street and 3rd avenue but it went out of business a while ago. I have heard good things.

    Have you tried Defonte’s yet? I’m looking forward to hearing how it stacks up, you have some good RB experience.


    Anytime man. Glad it worked out for you. Did you eat there yet?

    I’m not sure about the garlic bread because I called the order in on the way to work. I didn’t eat the sandwich for a while after, it was all sort of sogged together, so I can’t say for sure if it was real garlic bread or not. But you’re right it definitely made the sandwich better.

    Damn right.


    Looking forward to your review. Let us know what you got and how it went…

  15. Emily said:

    I met a friend last night at about 7 o’clock – Delfonte’s was nearly packed! We both got the Jerry Lewis – #23 – fried eggplant, fresh mutz, tomato…plus some fresh basil and some balsamic. The bread is incredible, the sesame seeds make a delicate but important difference. There seemed to be a pretty good amount of food left, I imagine they were open for at least another hour. It is an order by the number place, so even though we ordered one of the ‘funny’ named sandwiches, they still didn’t know it by name.

    I am looking forward to going back, and will take my Dad the next time he comes up for a visit. He’s been a fan of Newark and Hoboken staple sandwich places for a while, I know he’ll love Delfonte’s.

    Also – I ate the whole thing. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. I had to go home and fall asleep early, that’s how full I felt. It was worth it!

  16. Phil said:


  17. Kuj said:

    I’ll let you know what I think, Guy. Maybe I’ll hit it up this weekend, but this flu has really wore me out.

  18. Billy said:

    Food Guy, Thanks for head’s up on this place. I was in the neighborhood on the 24th, a day after the opened. I’ve been to Defonte’s in Brooklyn with great results. A Defonte relative also had a place on Smith Street in Brooklyn in the mid 1990’s that was awesome but the place went out years back.

    I got the #34 roast pork but switched the swiss for fresh mutz and hot salad for their tomato and onion salad. This thing brought back memories, that awesome bread and serious satisfaction that so few Manhattan sandwiches bring today. I had them add a little pork gravy too, my only improvement would have been some heat. A few cherry peppers in the mix would have done it but overall a great place for a sandwich. I also took your advice and had it there as opposed to the trek home so it wasn’t soggy. The place isn’t conducive to much of a dining experience, too narrow of a seating area. I’m sure they’ll open up some sidewalk stuff in the better weather. Good call FG!

  19. Vince said:

    Oh man. Looking forward to my trip to Brooklyn in May!

  20. canwepleasestopandreflect said:

    The suggestion to go with garlic bread sounds amazing. I just got back from BK this morning, but may need to make another trip soon!

  21. JMandET said:

    got an eggplant parm sub from defonte’s today, was very good but could use some tomato sauce. didn’t seem like there was any on it at all actually. will ask them to add it next time! or could try the jerry lewis. we’ll see. My fiance got the joey bishop and said it was could but could use some oil and vinegar. we will definitely patronize again!

  22. Before Sunrise said:

    Am definitely putting this on the list of places to take a friend of mine who is coming here in April. Seems like his kind of place!

  23. HowfreshEats said:

    Why is there eggplant in almost every sandwich? I can’t eat that shit. Some of them look good though. Also- FG- can you get bread without sesame seeds for every sandwich? Another allergy on my part.

    ’09 is looking like the year of the sandwich.

  24. sanka said:

    ya dead food guy?

  25. joe bones said:

    this place rocks

  26. wayne said:

    I refuse to believe Gay Superman got laid with not one, but two, women.

    Everything else may be true. But not that.

  27. Bill said:

    Hey good sir, how is the bang for the buck here? The sandwich prices seem rather steep. Are they huge like the Italian Special at Faicco’s? $8-$10 is a lot to pay for a sandwich.

  28. Before Sunrise said:

    Hi there! Did you see this?

  29. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Before Sunrise,
    Thanks for the heads up on the NY Times article. Lamazou is great, I’ve known about it for a long time
    and reviewed it a while ago.

    Check out the Lamazou review here:

  30. Before Sunrise said:

    Food Guy: I should have known you’d already reviewed Lamzou, you’re always a step ahead 😉

  31. Phil-Ate said:

    phil ate a creamsicle.

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  33. SR said:

    I’ve been here 3 times, each time trying to give it another shot. Well, I’ll tell you that I should have gotten the #20 on garlic bread since otherwise it has no flavor to speak of, even though the roast is good quality and so is the mozzarella. The thin single layer of eggplant was the only thing adding any flavor to an otherwise bland sandwich.

    As for your picture of the #20 and what I actually got, your sandwich is loaded with cheese. Mine had one thin layer of mozzarella. I’ve noticed this time and again. They cut the ends to make the hero short and skimp on cheese. Every time.

    I guess they caught on to the fact that manhattanites will accept less for their money. I suppose you have to go to Brooklyn for the real deal. If I’m going to make the trip to BK, I’d much rather go to A&S pork store in Bay Ridge. They put some actual flavor in their sandwiches and NEVER skimp on bread or ingredients.

  34. Phil said:

    SR – have you seen/heard from the Food Guy lately?????

    -(a concerned) Phil

  35. SR said:

    I’m new to this site and I don’t know Food Guy. I hope he’s okay.

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    […] Just in case you forgot, one of New York City’s best roast beef sandwiches is alive and well in Murray Hill. Defonte’s knows that great sandwiches start with great construction. The bottom half of a Brooklyn-baked hero roll is topped with thin slices of fried eggplant, house made fresh mozzarella and rare, machine-sliced house made roast beef. The top half of the hero roll is then held at an angle as hot jus is carefully ladled on. The result is a sandwich that maintains its textural contrast – juicy, fatty, creamy, crispy – and allows each of its ingredients to shine. I like to order my #20 with a side of spicy mustard. You can also ask for it on garlic bread if available. Defonte’s is open seven days a week – it used to be closed Sunday – so now there’s no excuses. […]

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