The sandwich: Meatball What's on it: Meatballs, provolone, mozzarella Where to get it: Luciano's Pizza and Wings (1043 Broadway, 303-446-2424) How much: $5.65
There's something almost magical about a sandwich charred in a pizza oven. Maybe the extreme heat transforms the molecules of the bread and the meat, the sauce and the cheese, melding them together the way a lightning strike can turn sand into glass. Maybe it's the flavor that the ghosts of 10,000 slices impart, giving the sandwich a smoky, spicy taste that a toaster just can't match.
Some of the best sandwiches I've tried have been cooked in pizza ovens, sandwiches that would make my doctor shake his head and my mother weep. Italian sausage; chicken parmesan; meatballs covered in gooey provolone; mushroom and pepperoni, drenched in garlicky tomato sauce and sealed with seared and crusty mozzarella.
Luciano's bakes its sandwiches in its massive pizza ovens, right alongside pies topped with sausage, pepperoni and buffalo wing sauce. But even with those magic ovents, it takes the right combination of circumstances to make a Luciano's sandwich turn out right -- or rather, it takes the right sandwicheur. Basically, the guy behind the counter has got to time things right.
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Take it out too early and the sandwich will be just another sandwich. Leave it in too long and the bread will turn hard and crumbly, like parking lot gravel. Do it just right, and your meal will emerge steaming hot, the bread slightly blackened on the corners, the cheese melted into oblivion and the sauce (and, in this case, the meatballs) piping hot.
The guys at Luciano's don't have a demeanor that inspires real confidence, but they do a pretty good job of timing their ovens, and the meatball sandwich I got was done perfectly. In fact, I'd suggest that Luciano's add a whole line of oven-toasted pizza sandwiches to its menu. Mushroom and pep, sausage and onion, tomato and basil.
The chemistry would be perfect.