For The Big Eat this week, I drop by Giovanni’s Deli in Secaucus for some of the best “mutz” or fresh mozzarella, a great chicken parm, and Italian specialties. Also to show off “The Guns of Provolone” and explain what “Secaucus” means…
Welcome to Fresh Kill, the latest feature of the blog, where I will document in detail the many burgers, pizzas and sandwiches that caveman Tommy takes down on the wild Veldt.
Giovanni’s is a small Italian delicatessen snugged between the cozy houses of a quiet neighborhood in Secaucus, New Jersey. The amusing name means “black place of snakes” in Algonquin, and it was once known for its effusive odor, due to both its proximity to the Meadowlands swamp, and the pig farms, rendering plants, and junkyards that once populated the town. The pigs and their stink are long gone, and the only snakes are the convoluted streets and highways that clog the area, like the roots of an ambitious houseplant outgrowing its meager pot.
Giovanni’s has the usual cold cuts, from Kohler ham to prosciutto and capicola (gabbagool, in the common parlance). But the real draw is the hot cooked foods, with daily specials. They make their own fresh mozzarella, and it is some of the best I’ve tasted. It was still warm and creamy, and they do not skimp.
I ordered a breaded chicken cutlet on a hard roll with mozzarella, hot peppers, and balsamic vinegar. The chicken was crisp and tender inside, full of flavor. The mozzarella was creamy with the subtly tart milk taste of the best fresh stuff, comparable to the mozzarella di bufala I had in Napoli. The peppers were not very hot, but did have good flavor, and the sweet vinegar gave it all a little zing. An excellent sandwich, enough for two meals, which I ate one after the other.
My compatriots had meatballs in sauce and chicken parmigiana, and raved about both. They also sell soups and Italian snacks, they make their own pasta salads, and they offered rigatoni in meat sauce and eggplant rollatini as the specials. They have a few tables and chairs inside and out, but expect to wait. The lunch line was not long at all, and well worth it.
So what’s the verdict? Was this wildebeest worth taking down? This carnivorous caveman was perfectly sated. The mozzarella is the shining star, so do not neglect it on any sangweech (sandwich, in English) you get here. I would gladly return.