A chicken parm is the kind of sandwich that's pretty delicious no matter how it's prepared, and even a bad one is still going to be pretty good. You can't really go wrong with fried chicken, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and bread. So elevating the familiar deli classic is best done by approaching it from a place of subtlety, lest you undermine the essential qualities that make it great. At Mike Isabella's latest project, G Sandwich Shop, his iteration of the Chicken Parm ($11) is immediately recognizable, but augmented just enough to make it its own delicious beast.
The primary ingredients are all there—toasted roll, chicken cutlet, marinara, and mozzarella—but it's the small additions that make it worth ordering. Isabella uses Thai basil and delivers an extra shot of flavor with a chicken leg gravy. "It might be considered non-traditional," Isabella admits, "but Thai basil has a nice anise flavor which works perfectly with Italian cooking and usually gets the same kind of flavor as fennel." And it works. The basil lends an extra dimension of herbaceous spice to the usual blend of Italian seasoning. And then there's the chicken gravy—a thick, rich sauce that doubles down on the sandwich's already hearty flavor. Have one of these and you'll want to put that gravy on every sandwich you eat for the rest of your days.
From the crispy garlic bread to the massive maelstrom of chicken, cheese, and more chicken, Isabella's chicken parm is the kind of sandwich that fills you up halfway through, but you'll finish it anyway because it's just that good. It's still the humble sandwich you know and love—just with some key enhancements that will guarantee you come back for more.
About the author: Brian Oh is a Washington, DC based international development professional and a food, photography, and travel enthusiast. In his free time, you can usually find him stuffing his face in our nation's capital. Follow him on Twitter @brianoh11