I had been faithful to my diet since Jan. 1 and painfully managed to lose 15 pounds. Feeling good while driving west on 14th Street, my gaze fell upon a brightly lit sign where the old Led Zeppole used to be. I had to swerve to avoid hitting the car in front of me so entranced was I by the siren song of that sign: "Chubby Mary's — The Best Heros in Town" it read. Screeching to a halt, I parked the car and peeked in. The Artichoke Basille Pizza boys were at it again, this time to revolutionize heroes, the way they previously conquered pizza with Artichoke next door and roast beef at This Little Piggy just blocks away.
I swore to myself that I was just going to look at the menu, like sneaking into a strip bar and watching a pole dance. If This Little Piggy was intended as an homage to Brooklyn's Roll-n-Roaster and Brennan & Carr, and Artichoke as a tribute to Staten Island pizza, Chubby Mary's goes even further south, all the way to Philadelphia, to introduce Manhattan to the best hoagies (New York City translation: heroes) that Philly has to offer.
The Philly connection is acknowledged both by the Rocky Balboa mural gracing the wall and the predominant ingredients of sharp provolone and garlicky broccoli rabe offered on the sandwiches with your choice of veal or chicken cutlets or sausages. Before Adam Richman finally declared Philly's Reading Terminal's DiNic's roast pork with provolone and garlic sautéed broccoli rabe as the country's best sandwich, I had already declared it as Philly's greatest contribution to the world, even over the Liberty Bell or the cheesesteak.
Firmly trapped within the clutches of the seductress Chubby Mary, I ordered the veal cutlet with provolone and broccoli rabe. The veal was freshly pounded, breaded, and fried. Its crunchiness stood up against the excess moisture of the bitter broccoli. Raw shredded provolone was piled high atop an entire soft Italian loaf to melt in the tightly gift wrapped butcher waxed paper and aluminum foil. I devoured the sandwich outside in seconds. I was hooked.
Just as I naively thought I was free from further temptation, Chubby Mary lured me back inside with her large round beef and pork meatballs dusted with Parmesan and topped with the same melty provolone, grilled onions, and sweet roasted peppers on yet another crusty footlong Italian hero bread with its innards scooped out to make room for the softball-sized meatballs and deep ruby red gravy. The Meatball Shop had better pray that Chubby Mary's doesn't expand as quickly as Artichoke did, as this is easily one of the best meatball heroes in town.
If gluttony were a crime and not merely a cardinal sin, the police would easily be able to track me down from the trail of debris I left along 14th Street during my walk of shame — I left behind stalks of broccoli rabe, peppers, onions, provolone, and red sauce drippings as I tried to escape the gravitational pull of Chubby Mary only to know for certain that I would soon return to the scene of the crime.