A few weeks ago I wrote about my inability to find a banh mi on Long Island. One of the happier results of the French occupation of what was then called Indochina, this Vietnamese sandwich is a sort of Southeast Asian version of pâté on baguette.
Soon after my article ran, I got a call from Tony Bellucci chef and, with Mary Ellen Lambertson, co-proprietor of Winnie’s Coffee Shop in Bay Shore. “We’ve got a banh mi,” Bellucci told me. “It’s a special every few weeks.” I asked him to let me know the next time the banh mi surfaced, and today I found myself having lunch at Winnie’s, which is much more than a coffee shop: Bellucci is a master chef and a culinary instructor whose menu ranges far beyond eggs and burgers. (Although I must say that the burger I saw, 10 ounces of beautifully seared sirloin, looked especially fine.)
Bellucci’s banh mi, pictured above just before it was folded together, is made on a seeded hero roll rather than a baguette, but he enhances the bread’s crustiness by toasting it once he’s laid on the Asian-inflected pork pâté and crumbled Laotian sausage (both homemade). Next come romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber, fresh basil and cilantro, pickled daikon radish and pickled carrots. It is very fresh tasting and delicious. Also delicious was a cup of Bellucci’s billi bi, the classic French cream-of-mussel soup.
Bellucci promised to let me know next time banh mi is on the menu, and I’ll pass on the good word.