In New Jersey, the Italian deli is the church, while mozzarella and salty cured meats are the son and the holy spirit. Amen. Chances are you’ll be able to find a great sandwich just about anywhere in the state. Whether it’s a gas station, a roadside stand, a nondescript building, or somebody’s home, you’ll likely find a sandwich that ranges from fulfilling to transcendent. Giovanni’s in Secaucus is just one of these holy deli staples. So when a friend of mine told me about their must-try chicken cutlet sandwich, I was ready for salvation.
I pulled into Giovanni’s during the lunch rush, which was a rookie mistake. I stood in line outside with all of the other nine to fivers, locals, and construction workers and decided to go with two deli staples, the chicken cutlet and the Italian. Full disclosure: I took these subs on the go, so they sat in the wrapping for about 20-25 minutes before eating, which would later affect its score and experience.
The chicken cutlet from Giovanni’s features a fried chicken cutlet with homemade mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and balsamic. This sandwich seemed relatively unscathed from the transfer of deli to apartment to table and still looked glorious. When I bit into it, the chicken was still crispy and well seasoned, but very dry. The mozzarella was thick with a slight milky taste and the roasted red peppers were slightly oily and delicious. The bread was solid, not too soft, not too hearty, not stale, just right for this type of sandwich. However, I could barely taste the balsamic and I feel that the combination of the dry chicken, bread, and the small amount of balsamic left me slightly disappointed. The chicken was very tasty and I loved the peppers, but the mozzarella was not as soft as I would’ve liked and the sandwich as a whole could’ve used a little more balsamic. But as a sandwich enthusiast in New Jersey, my standards are very high. Still a solid sandwich that I’d try again, but a little disappointing.
The Italian features a classic combination of ham, salami, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, red onion, oil, and vinegar. Now on the other hand, the Italian sub from Giovanni’s did suffer a bit from the transfer and was a little too wet. The Italian was dripping through the wrapping before I even got into the car, so you can imagine how it felt when I got home. The bread was absolutely soggy and drenched in oil and vinegar, but I didn’t let it detract from the rest of the experience. The ham and salami were sliced very thin and were salty and delicious, and I appreciated the thin onions and stringy lettuce. But the issues I had were how thick the tomatoes were and how rubbery the mozzarella was. I even took apart the sandwich and inspected the mozzarella and it was hard to pull apart, which leads me to believe this particular batch was possibly overworked. Again, this was still a solid sandwich and I obliterated the whole thing, but I was disappointed again.
Let me reiterate: my sandwich standards are very high. Both the chicken cutlet and the Italian were solid sandwiches and I’d definitely try them again. I feel like Giovanni’s deserves another shot. With the combination of letting the sandwiches sit in the wrapping for a while and showing up during the busiest time of the day, I think the quality of the sandwiches suffered. Both sandwiches had the potential for greatness but were very uneven by being either too dry or too wet. But in New Jersey, the Italian deli is a holy place and despite my unbalanced experience, Giovanni’s is not just your run of the mill sandwich shop, it’s part of our culture.
Between Two Slices Overall Score: 6.7/10
Giovanni’s Italian Deli. 267 Centre Ave., Secaucus. Open Monday-Saturday for delivery and take out from 8:30am-5pm.
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