Astoria has always been a stalwart community of immigrants who stayed and did not stray to the suburbs. Recently, a younger crowd-driven out of Manhattan on a quest for affordable rents has staked their claims. Fortunately, they appreciate what really makes Astoria feel like home, supporting small, local businesses that have been in the neighborhood for a year. Lucky for all of us, Astoria's beloved D&F is one such spot. Inexpensive sandwiches are crafted alongside crowd-pleasing Italian-American fare like marinated olives, prosciutto, mortadella and all manner of salumi. At D&F, the fresh mozzarella is made in house daily, and specialties like meatball marinara, eggplant parm and homemade pasta keep patrons old and new coming back for more.
Recommended for Deli because: Because of their superb sandwiches and service, D&F has been an Astoria mainstay for over 40 years.
Maria's expert tip: When they're in season in the fall, stock up on the pumpkin ravioli in the freezer.
Located next to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Foragers Market calls itself a craft grocery store with a farm-to-table deli. The 'deli' component includes made-to-order sandwiches with the same farmstead meats seen in their butcher case, along with produce from area farms and bread from Bien Cuit Bakery. Additionally, Foragers offers a hot lunch entree section (everything from chicken curry to soup) and a salad bar featuring items like kimchi and quinoa along with traditional selections, varying the offerings by season. Each morning, a breakfast bar of hot cereal is available for purchase. Foragers also has a home in Chelsea and an outpost in Brooklyn's Dekalb Market Hall.
Recommended for Deli because: Foragers Market uses fresh, in-season ingredients from local farmers and producers in the deli case.
Maria's expert tip: The Foragers team also has an outpost in the Dekalb Market Hall, a great place for a mini-food tour of some of the city's best bites.
Hop on board the Staten Island ferry and bring an appetite to this Italian-American sandwich shop, where this iconic gem has been serving up eggplant parm subs, pork heroes smothered in tomato sauce and tangy, cucumber eggplant since 1922. The sandwich board is expansive, and the ordering system slightly convoluted, but, hey, that's part of DeFonte's charm. Hot heroes like potatoes with eggs are hearty enough to cure anyone's Monday morning ails, the Sinatra Special includes steak pizzaiola that would bring a twinkle to Old Blue Eyes, and the crispy fried eggplant atop the hot roast beef sandwich with house-made mozzarella or the Cuban sandwich with a twist on garlicky bread is just what the food doctor ordered.
Recommended for Deli because: This sandwich-heavy shop is well worth the trek across the river to Staten Island.
Maria's expert tip: Despite its misnomer of a name, DeFonte's is in Staten Island. Beware that it's closed on Sundays.
Set in the Lower East Side, Katz's has been a Manhattan mainstay since 1888. This kosher-style deli delights the cold, tired and corned beef-ready from its brightly lit corner on the Lower East Side. Once an immigrant neighborhood, the area is now populated by twenty-somethings, yet Katz's well-stocked meat counter and legendary gruff-but-kind service somehow feel timeless. The freshly carved corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are worth the hype, and more-than-large enough to share. Order a combination soup and half sandwich, or if you want to go healthy, ask for a half sandwich with the house salad. Make sure someone at your table orders an all-beef frankfurter, served on a soft roll with tangy mustard, and don't overlook the knockwurst with beans. Best of all, if you want to take a taste of East Houston home with you, Katz's ships nationwide.
Recommended for Deli because: This iconic Lower East Side deli has spawned countless imitators, but the house-cured pastrami and enormous half-sour pickles are the real deal.
Maria's expert tip: To beat the crowds, come by early for lunch during the week - if you arrive by 11, that should suffice.
By day, the classic booths are stuffed with suits, but by midnight, a smattering of clubby, hipster types clamor for a seat and the chance to take down New York's largest sandwich. Affectionately known as "The Monster," it's served on thick sliced rye bread with corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, fresh turkey, salami, sliced tomato, lettuce and coleslaw with Russian dressing. Opting for something less gut-busting? No worries. Sarge has you covered with plenty of other human-sized sandwiches, as well as an assortment of homemade cheesecake varieties, including peanut butter. Open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, this is one iconic spot to enjoy any time of the day or night.
Recommended for Deli because: Sarge's has been called "the promised land of delicatessen treats" - an accurate assessment.
Maria's expert tip: Sarge's offers all online orders 10% off and nationwide orders get a whopping 18% discount.
Cooks and diners alike come here for the most authentic and diverse array of Italian deli meats and cheeses, plus, come Advent, the arrival of panettone from Northern Italy sends regulars into a frenzy. Every Italian region is represented in this store: sardines from Sicily, pasta from Molise, cured meats from Tuscany, and more. Much is made right here: mozzarella, fresh ricotta, sausage, soppressata and cotechini, which traditionally is added to New Year's good luck lentil soup. Of course, you can also get sandwiches or paninis here - just choose your fresh roll or hero from the shelf, then sit back and watch the magic as the team lovingly layers your toppings.
Recommended for Deli because: This is the first place Lidia Bastianich of Eataly fame returns to every time she comes home to Astoria.
Maria's expert tip: Don't be shy to ask for a sample. The guys behind the counter are happy to oblige.
It may not be on Second Avenue anymore, but this timeless deli brings a Lower East Side vibe to a small but spirited space on East 33rd Street. The menu spans all the kosher classics. Start with the heart-stoppingly good gribenes, or fried chicken skin with onions, to get appetites going. Then, move on to a beef tongue and pastrami sandwich, covered in coleslaw and Russian dressing, double-decker pastrami on rye, or the hearty, oddly elegant chopped liver. Service can be spotty, and wait times considerable, but it's all part of the 2nd Avenue Deli experience. So sit back, sip your egg cream and bite into old New York.
Recommended for Deli because: This 62-year old kosher kitchen retains a classic Jewish deli vibe and promises customers an "authentic Jewish culinary experience."
Maria's expert tip: Order Passover Seder for 12 people for just $500. No one will know bubbie didn't slave in the kitchen all day.
Back in 1937 in a German neighborhood once known as Yorkville, Schaller & Weber opened a butcher or wurstmaker specializing in pork products. Eventually, it morphed into a German specialty store that continues to promise and deliver hard-to-find imported items and brands. Artifice has no place here as the younger generation follows the tradition of smoking their own meats and making high-quality meat products with hand-blended spices. What you will find are sausages stacked to the sky, an unbelievable array of weisswurst, knackwurst, bockwurst, and plain old weiners not to mention chocolates, special brands of Spaetzle, jams, cheeses, coffees and sweets, German of course. All the ingredients to have your own Biergarten party.
Recommended for Deli because: Schaller & Weber is a New York institution on the Upper East Side that knows a thing or two about making people happy.
Maria's expert tip: Schaller & Weber's 75-year-old ritual of offering every child a sample of their award-winning Bologna says it all. Online orders welcomed.
Small and unobtrusive with no flashing lights because Astorians know Sorriso's Italian Pork Store. Sorriso means "smile" in Italian and everything item here will inspire just that, not to mention diehard loyalty from New Yorker foodies and locals. From pasta of all shapes and sizes, including sans gluten, to sauces, oils, vinegar, homemade sausages and mozzarella, this is your one-stop Italian shop. A new face won't go unnoticed before a sample of homemade mozzarella is passed to you right over the glass cases jammed with delights: from microwaveable dishes like eggplant rollatini to marinated shrimp, to a gamut of soppressata and dried sausage.
Recommended for Deli because: Classic Italian dishes that still use fresh, high-quality ingredients are tough to come by, but not at Sorriso's.
Maria's expert tip: Sorriso's is cash only, but there's a street ATM right outside.
The original "appetizing store" debuted in 1914, and today stands as a throwback to a time when the Lower East Side was a neighborhood of new immigrants. The iconic storefront on East Houston Street stocks a broad selection of Jewish-American staples like hand-rolled bagels with cream cheese and lox, buttery pistachio halvah and unctuous, irresistible pickled herring. The renowned caviar selection spans Siberian and American roes, the bagels and bialys are made on-site, and pastries like cinnamon babka, raspberry rugelach and hand-dipped chocolates are the reason gym memberships exist. After 102 years on the LES, Russ & Daughters have opened a site at the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side.
Recommended for Deli because: Russ & Daughters is an icon of the neighborhood and has earned its spot as a nationwide name for its food.
Maria's expert tip: It used to be you would buy a piping hot knish and find a table or bench at the park between the basketball courts on Chrystie. But now you have a choice: the retail shop or Russ & Daughters Cafe. Keep in mind that it's walk-ins only at the cafe.