By Evelyn Barge
I’m not a big fan of restaurants with gimmicky food names; even less so, nightclubs with lame drink labels.
It’s an allergy I developed after ordering, with head hanging in shame, the embarrassing “Jenny’s Favorite” smoothie at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Monterey many moons ago. I still haven’t figured out just why Jenny – an abused child, turned counterculture hippie, turned druggie, turned baby mama, who finally gets sick, settles down and then immediately dies – would have a predilection for strawberries, cranberry juice and non-fat raspberry frozen yogurt. (Send me a memo if you know more than I do.)
At any rate, New York’s Finest Bakery and Cafe proprietor Salvatore Mangiafreno obviously disagrees with me.
Every sandwich on the West Covina eatery’s menu is named for a New York City attraction or borough – The Bronx, The Staten Island, The Yankee Stadium, The Shea Stadium, The Park Ave., and on and on.
I find this a little too cutesy for my taste. But, let’s be honest, a good taste – the kind that really counts at a restaurant – can overpower all sorts of cornball phrases.
That’s how I felt ordering “The NYPD” sandwich ($5.50) at New York’s Finest. Yes, the sandwich is really called that, and just speaking the name aloud gave me low expectations for it.
But I was won over by the force – or, more specifically, the ingredients, which piqued my interest from their place on the menu.
Hot capicola, prosciutto, provolone cheese, pepperoncini, lettuce, oil and vinegar. Simple, spicy; I’ll take it. I picked the round roll, which is really more of a giant oval, but the sandwiches are also available on 12-inch hero subs.
The pepperoncinis really steal the show here, acting en masse to overpower thick layers of meat with a mild, pleasing, pickled heat.
The New York Style salad ($5.00) with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze was beyond basic but comprised of fresh ingredients and quite satisfying. It reminded me of something I’d whip up at home to take on a picnic.
New York’s Finest has an interesting kind of appeal for a city like West Covina. It’s Italian-American deli fare through-and-through, with fresh bread, cookies and pastries baked daily on the premises.
It’s the kind of place you stop on the way to work to get a baker’s dozen of cannolis for the office.
It’s refreshing, light, healthy fare – just don’t forget something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
New York’s Finest Bakery and Cafe is located at 648 S. Sunset Ave. in West Covina. (626) 814-9900. www.nyfinestbakery.com.