I have a confession: I wasted three years on bad sandwiches. Although I visit the Upper East Side once a week—for the museums, not the boutiques!—I have struggled to find acceptable lunches. Dean & Deluca? A dirty water dog? Once, I stooped so low as to eat a cinnamon raisin pretzel from the cart outside the Met instead of wandering Madison for more wholesome options. After the Whitney Biennial, I had a salami and cheese sandwich at Neil’s Coffee Shop. Squished between slices of spongy rye, the soft pink meat (like a little finger sliced open and made pate, or a slimy alien fillet) was no Hebrew National. To my left, a 75-year-old army vet ate a raw hamburger with a fork and knife. The claustrophobia depressed me. I will also admit to the occasional eclair at La Maison du Chocolat. There is no shame in excess confectionary, though the subsequent walk across Central Park induced light-headedness, a mild stomachache, and hallucinations. I saw hundreds of Santas and sexy elves heading down Park Avenue. Later, I learned that a charity encourages people to dress up like Santa and get drunk—a portion of proceeds go to the cause! Three boozy Santas accosted me on the subway. I accepted the ho-ho-hoing and the whole pseudo-psychotic episode as just punishment for poor lunching habits. As you prepare for a move to New York—albeit not my New York, but the New York of my dreams, somewhere south of Columbus Circle, a land Columbia students only know from rumor and rain-soaked copies of the Village Voice—I am writing to caution you against settling for improper and depressing sandwiches. Finally, I have found a paninoteca perfectly suitable for post-museum lunches. Via Quadronno, an inconspicuous restaurant on 73rd Street, will save you years of wasted eating. At the risk of sounding disingenuous or pedantic, I will suggest that Via Quadronno’s paninis stimulate the spirit like a good linger before some Roman sarcophagi. Just as a man, who having lived his hours in solitude discovers true love in the twilight of his years, I now feel immeasurable regret. What lunches I have squandered!
Wishing none of the same agony upon you, I implore you to disregard other Upper East Side restaurants and spend your leftover quarters, carefully horded in plastic baggies, on panini di Via Quadronno. I lost my Via Quadronno virginity to the tentazione. Prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, rucola, shrimp, and pink sauce, sandwiched between toasty slices of bread, caramelized and almost all crunchy crust. Shrimp, on a panini? Why yes, and it’s wonderful with salty cured meat and smoky cheese. I spent seventeen minutes enjoying my sandwich: a big bite of time, at least for this speedy eater. I sat on an apartment stoop and inhaled, slowly, each mouthful. Like a Buddhist monk, I counted every respiration. Yet I could not help but cherish their worldly savor. I am not a glutton, but an aesthete. I offer no apologies. My weakness should be confessed, if it never be conquered.
What significance there is in a small sandwich! Do not ruin afternoons of art with wan salami. I have erred for the sake of your education. Do not let that wisdom grow feeble in the moldy pantry of my mind.