Sandwich of the Week: Hocca Bar's Belíssima Sandwich
São Paulo's Paulistano Municipal Market is a glorious mess of distractions for the food-focused traveler.
Stalls with thoughtfully arranged bunches of fruit and vegetables, some exotic and strange, others familiar, if only in name. Walls thick with candies and spices, stacks of salt cod and contorted cured tongue. Next to that, a butcher with a case displaying animal parts that almost make you grateful for the language barrier.
Yes, the 135,000-square-foot Mercadão is an absolute affront on the senses, and in the best way possible. So to say that there is a sandwich here that is attention-grabbing and worth seeking out is no small vote of confidence. There are plenty of places to grab a bite — stands selling fresh fruit juice, coxinha, pasteis — but you'll want to save your appetite for the experience that awaits you upstairs.
There, among a tight-knit row of neighboring restaurants, your destination should be clear and obvious — you're head for the crowded one with the line. Open since 1952, Hocca Bar appears to have two claims to fame: the pasteis de bacalhau (a fried pastry filled with salt cod) and the Belíssima sandwich. Order both, and make sure you have someone to share them with.
The description of the sandwich sounds simple enough — sliced mortadella, melted cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and oregano — but it's a behemoth. The reality: a fat stack of salty meat, a thin layer of gooey cheese, and a couple of sweet tomatoes, all contained between two pieces of thick, crusty bread. There's so much mortadella, too much probably, but the excess seems almost appropriate given the surroundings. It's tasty to be sure, but you only need half.
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