Everybody has heard of a PBJ. And I've seen the classic tomato, basil, and mozzarella combo called a TBM on a few occasions. But hands down, my favorite three-letter sandwich is the PMB. By applying the transitive property, the PBM should consist of peanut butter, basil, and mozzarella—but that would be disgusting (or would it?). Lucky for us, we don't have to test that theory, because the PMB actually stands for pancetta, mango, and basil, a combo of ingredients that makes up one of my favorite New York sandwiches, found at the Sullivan Street Bakery.
Jim Lahey, the genius behind everything made at the bakery, takes his sandwiches very seriously, and it is evident by the fresh ingredients, which are all hand-selected and combined with obvious thoughtfulness. The PMB starts off with a thin layer of pancetta from Salumeria Biellese, an old-school deli that has been providing sausages and salami to New York restaurants for more than 80 years. The pancetta is cut 1-millimeter thick and baked in a 400 degree oven until it's crisp and slightly browned, like a "fragile piece of glass." It's then topped with slices of mango and dusted with chili, Central American street vendor style.
For the mango, Lahey uses whatever is looking good in New York City's Chinatown, which right now is the Atualfo, or "Champagne" variety. Sweet and tart, the flesh isn't stringy at all, making it easy to slice into nice layers for a sandwich. The whole thing is finished with a thin layer of basil from the Union Square Greenmarket or from the planter that sits on the sidewalk in front of the bakery. Either way, you know it's fresh.
But the part that brings the whole thing together, both literally and spiritually, is the bread. I don't know exactly what they do inside that bakery, but the output is the yeasty equivalent of crack—and a true revelation for anyone who thinks that all breads are created equal. Thin and long, it is simultaneously crunchy and moist, with a chewiness that is the hallmark of any great bread.
The PMB is a perfectly balanced masterpiece, pairing sweet velvety mango with crisp and salty pancetta and pungent basil. Because Sullivan Street is a bakery first and a place to buy sandwiches second, it is not surprising that the bread is outstanding. In fact, it is so good, the bakery could probably get away with slapping anything between two slices. Lucky for us, Lahey and company take their sandwiches a little more seriously than that.
Sullivan Street Bakery
Address: 533 West 47th Street, New York NY 10036
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