Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Today we stop into one of the oldest restaurants in Sheepshead Bay – Delmar Pizzeria (1668 Sheepshead Bay Road). Delmar has been in business since 1957, which makes it older than even your illustrious food reviewer. And, as Ned would be quick to tell you, “That’s old!”

Delmar has been serving Italian-American classics for 54 years, so they must be doing something right. With their chicken Parmesan on a roll, they’re doing something very right. For only $3.50 at lunch ($7.50 on a hero other times) Delmar’s serves up a very tasty and very filling sandwich.

I was served two, all white meat chicken cutlets, that were lightly breaded and fried. The cutlets were then placed on a Kaiser roll, topped with Delmar’s marinara sauce and covered with mozzarella cheese. The sandwich was then placed in a salamander (no, not the amphibian, but an oven) where the cheese is melted and the roll lightly toasted. And finally it was delivered to me as I waited impatiently in Delmar’s nondescript dining room.

This is a very good version of a staple sandwich. The chicken is moist and tender. The breading is light and grease-less. The tomato sauce is sweet and still slightly tart, as all good marinara should be. The cheese, smooth and velvety. The roll light and crunchy, but strong enough to hold up to the fillings. At full price, this sandwich is worth every penny. At the lunch time bargain price of $3.50, it just may be Sheepshead Bay’s best lunch deal.

One thing always confused me. Why was this dish called chicken Parmesan when it doesn’t use Parmesan cheese, but mozzarella? A while back, I was told that “Parmesan” is just a generic term for cheese in Italian. I was young. I was naive and I accepted that explanation. Oh, how wrong I was.

According to The Food Timeline

Chicken Parm (Parmigiana, Parmesan) is a modern American favorite. Where did it originate & when was it introduced? One of the best ways to uncover the origins/history of a specific dish is to examine the ingredients within the context of the country of origin.

Chicken dishes have been enjoyed by people since prehistoric times. Breaded/fried/baked chicken dishes were prepared by ancient Roman cooks and very popular in most European countries during Medieval times. Similar recipes were often made with veal. Cheese is ancient; Parmesean cheese is Medieval. Tomatoes are a “New World” food first introduced to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Prior to this time Italian food had no tomato sauce. “Alla Parmigiana,” known in America as “Parmesean” means the recipe originated in the Parma region of Italy. In sum, chicken parmesean (as we know it today) can’t be older than the 16th century. The precursor was veal parmesean, a preferred meat in the “Old Country.”

Delmar Pizzeria, 1668 Sheepshead Bay Road, (718) 769-7766.

Del Mar Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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