Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Park Italian Gourmet
60 W 45th Street, New York City, NY
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Diana, LeiderhosenBoy, Macky, SheepBoy, IsAwesome, BramBram

Much about this place is incongruous. For instance, it's not on Park Avenue, nor is it near a park (the closest is Bryant Park, three blocks away). Its moniker implies that it may be a swank place with good red sauce; it's a hole-in-the-wall place with a long display and order counter (meaning, mostly take-out) with a few rickety tables and chairs in the back. It's located in what's technically called "the theatre district" but it's not the type of place you'd go before seeing an expensively ticketed show. It's a lunch place, which services the businesses around it for breakfast and lunch.

But it's owned and run by old-school Italian men who speak with heavy accents and holler in a manner you'd expect from an Italian dive. Though nona nor mama are there making sauce, the food does taste like it. They offer a lot of things that we — in our pursuit of foodiness — may have forgotten about good Italian deli sandwiches. They offer the saucy meatballs and parmagianas, the fried eggplant or zucchinis, which may run you about $6, and you can opt for "fresh" mozzarella, too. They do also offer lasagne, chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs, etc., but they are all assembled from the same steam table offerings. "Sides" of baked ziti or fired zucchini cost $1.

But if you're here for only one sandwich, get the Italian sub. It comes on fresh bread (the bread makes the sandwich, here!) and is layered with genoa salami and a nicely balanced variety of meats and cheeses. You can opt for oil, vinegar, mayo, mustard; they won't yell at your for sullying their heritage. There may be a half-sandwich option, but we have never seen anyone ask for that. You get a full sub roll's worth of sandwich here; it's really two meals for the price of one.

The place is packed at lunchtime. We've been there before 11:45am and after 2pm when it's more civilized, and you can grab a table in the back to enjoy your big sandwich. At holiday-time, we sat beside four tables pushed together and lined with foodwrap, so that the cooks could wrap up their 6-foot party sandwiches for delivery, which looked as delectable as the more modest ones we were eating. They do catering, but it seems more fun to deal with the cacophony and just come here to pick up your order.

We've been there together and separately, during lunchrush or not, and the food's been consistently good each time. We normally take our sandwiches to go, and the Italian sub is the perfect picnic sandwich to share, on a warm day. You can walk the three blocks to Bryant Park and sit under the shade of the bordering trees, or in the lawn. In winter, we hike back to the office and make co-workers jealous!

So, don't be put off by the "greasy spoon" front and appearance. Inside is a meal worthy of a lunch before a matinée! It's a hidden jewel and what makes Italian-American food a favorite of just about everyone.

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