Serious Eats

Grilling: Meatball Parmesan Hero

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[Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

Working in the Bronx a short walk from Arthur Avenue—dubbed "The Real Little Italy of New York"—my lunches often consist of excellent cured meat sandwiches and fine pastas. For all that Arthur Avenue does right, I'm surprised how often parm heroes are so wrong. They tend to consist of fried chicken cutlets or eggplant sitting in a steam table already covered in sauce and cheese; once piled into a hero roll, the whole thing becomes a messy, lackluster mush.

There's some exceptions though, with the best being Café Al Mercato, tucked into the back corner of the Arthur Avenue Market. They store each element of the parm hero separate, only bringing them together when ordered. The finished sandwich achieves the right balance of sauce to meat to cheese, then it gets toasted to crisp up the edges of the meat, eggplant, and bread.

To me, this sandwich construction is a no-brainer. It also so happens to be perfectly suited for the grill.

To make full use of my live fire, I went with a meatball parm, first grilling my tried-and-true Italian meatballs, then loading them into a warmed Italian hero. A simple marinara and mozzarella cheese topped the meatballs, and the whole thing was toasted over indirect heat until the cheese melted.

The final sandwich was all that a parm hero should be: a substantial filling with the bright and acidic flavor of tomato sauce paired with creamy cheese. So good and so easy, it's hard to fathom why there's so many sub-optimal parm heroes out there.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

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