Gut Instinct: Flour Power

It’s a two-handed adventure: from fried-chicken sandwiches to pig-cow heroes

Sandwiches are the most fun I can have with two hands.

“In public,” my girlfriend would like me to add.

Lately, I’ve experienced a sandwich deficit. Too many sit-down dinners, liquid dinners or no dinners at all.

“Except for bags of Zapp’s chips,” my girlfriend would also like me to add.

“Quiet, you,” I muttered, eager to embark on a bread-chomping flurry. “Grab your bike, hon—it’s eatin’ time.”

“Where are we going?” my girlfriend wondered, as we left our house and pedaled to Brooklyn’s western edge.

“Shh, shh, don’t worry,” I said, in my coax-the-kid-into-the-van voice.

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m hungrier.”

“Don’t take me to another Chinese restaurant.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. We locked up at Ferdinando’s Focacceria (151 Union St. between Columbia and Hicks Sts., B’klyn, 718-855-1545), a century-old Sicilian joint situated where Carroll Gardens kisses Red Hook. Don’t expect herb-slathered chunks of pizza-like bread; instead, this earlier-era eatery specializes in arancina—breaded, deep-fried rice balls stuffed with spiced ground beef and peas—and rarities like cow-spleen vastedda sandwiches.

“You know I’m a vegetarian,” my girlfriend explained.

“Try the panelle sandwich,” singsonged the counterman. That’s a toasted semolina roll encasing fried chickpea fritters topped with creamy ricotta and pecorino ($5).

“So good,” she said, enjoying crunchy, gooey, greasy goodness.

I oozed indecisiveness: meatball or sausage hero?

“Get half and half,” suggested the newspaper-reading owner, Frank Buffa.

Compromise. How wonderful. Who knew? My hero ($9) was a marriage of spongy orbs relenting to a fennel-flavored sausage snap. I sighed with pleasure.

“That’ll put you one step closer to a heart attack,” my girlfriend reprimanded. “And how did you get sauce on your cheeks?”

I turned the color of tomatoes as we pedaled home.

Smartly, the next night I left my sweetie at home when I visited my favorite African-American motorcycle gang clubhouse, Imperial Bikers MC (652 Franklin Ave. at St. Marks Ave., B’klyn, 718-789-2451). It was a Friday night. I was shooting atrocious pool with my French pal Bati. We were wincing down 150 proof-plus rum mixed with 2 percent milk ($3).

“Do you even like this?” he asked, his right eye involuntarily spasming

“Not really,” I said, “but it makes me feel tough—or at least drunk enough to comfortably hang out at the biker bar.”

I took a deep glug and missed my shot. Bati missed his. I lined up for another shot when my nostrils flared: chicken, possibly fried. I dropped my cue and peeked around the corner. Jolly, rotund men with names like “Chaos” were chomping golden chicken.

“Is that the Crazy Chicken?” I inquired.

“Mmhmm,” a pro-wrestler-size man answered, ripping off a crispy chunk. Months before, I’d noticed a poster featuring a raw chicken encased in a straightjacket. “Call for Crazy Chicken!” the sign touted.

“Can you order me some?” I asked, like a kid begging for a Nintendo Wii.

“Sure,” he said, whipping out his cellphone. “How many sandwiches?” I turned to Bati.

“Are you sure it’s good? Or safe?”

“No and no.”


“Two,” I ordered.

Done. I acquired another OP and milk, feeling much like Superman, if Superman was one drink away from urinating himself. Thirty minutes passed.

“Cory!” screamed Crazy Chicken, toting black plastic bags. “Cory!”

I pointed at my chest.

He nodded.

“No, I’m Josh. Cory used to be my roommate.” I’m sure scads of flour-white crackers look alike, but not Cory and I: He’s far taller, with a lumberjack-quality beard. And he’s vegetarian, for Pete’s sake. I explained the mistake.

“Well, how about that,” Crazy Chicken said.

Bati and I unwrapped our fried chicken sandwiches ($4). They stretched the very definition of sandwich: two slices of Wonder Bread smooshily encasing a thigh and leg. I peeled off the soft bread and bit into the thigh. The skin was skillet-hot and crispy, the meat peppery and juicy as a ripe orange.

“You like it?” Crazy Chicken asked.

“Yesh,” I mumbled, tearing the chicken bones apart like an archaeologist searching for buried treasure.

“All right,” Crazy Chicken said, slyly sliding me his phone number. “You just call me when you want more sandwiches.”

Readers, do you fully comprehend that I possess a fried-chicken maestro’s home number? On speed-dial? The dangers shall be documented in full greasy detail.