Now more than ever, New York food lovers recognize the value of diversity in their communities and on their plates, and in this year’s edition of our annual guide to the city’s best budget dining, we celebrate what ensues when culinary cultures meet. Namely: bacon-and-cheese tamales, Franco-Japanese bar food, Mexican-Turkish döner kebabs, and chocolate-drizzled Indonesian avocado shakes. This sort of thing used to be called fusion, and that wasn’t a compliment. But today’s growing acceptance that all cooking is, to some degree, fusion — or whatever you want to call tradition colliding with new ingredients and modern tastes — has engendered some mighty delicious things to eat. Further proof that immigration only enriches the cheap-eats catalogue came in the forms of tapioca crêpes from Brazil, rice-noodle soups from Yunnan, seaweed from Wales, and Nepalese thalis from … Jackson Heights. Read all about it straight ahead, then go tuck in. After all, a cheap eater’s appetite knows no borders.
Italian sandwiches in the Alidoro vein, but built more along the lines of a Chevy pickup or the stuff that comes out of the kitchen at Defonte’s.
In a break from tradition, Bensonhurst-born co-owner Roman Grandinetti named the heros not after Italian-American celebrities (no Joe Pescis or Steve Schirripas here) but members of his own family. You figure you can’t go wrong with the Roman (smoked chicken, fresh mozz, broccoli rabe; $14) because the guy in charge named it after himself, and you’re right. But if you’re celebrating something — the completion of a cabbage-soup diet, say — or if you’re throwing a dinner party for ten, then get the Uncle Jimmy (prosciutto, mozzarella, hot soppressata, smoked ham, roasted peppers, hot-pepper paste, and so on and so forth). “He was a big guy,” says Grandinetti regarding the late Uncle J. “He had tattoos.”