Several years ago, when this eatery opened as an outpost of the Philly chain Tony Luke's, the interior was stark, white, and strictly a standup operation. No seats, just a narrow counter along each side wall and a window at the back. Only the handwritten "We Are Open" sign, and reports of one particular sandwich, encouraged me to step inside.
Tony Luke's is famous for cheese steaks, as well as chicken steaks and cutlets, but I had already settled on a triple feature called the roast pork Italian (above; $7.95), which partnered the juicy meat with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. Although my server wrapped it to go, I caught enough of a whiff that I just had to tear open the wrapper and grab a bite at the counter. The bite of the provolone and the tang of the broccoli were fantastic; the pork was just fatty enough; the bread, sufficiently crusty to cope with the juice. A winner, through and through.
On another occasion, a "green sandwich" with sharp provolone (not shown; $6.10) — a standard menu item that loosely translates as roast pork Italian without the pork — was nearly as good, and every bit as messy, once the butter (and perhaps garlic) used to sauté the broccoli rabe had soaked into the bread.
Since then the New York owners have broken ties with the Philly chain, and Shorty's has added seats, flat-panel TVs, and a liquor license that allows a fine lineup of tap beers including Victory and Captain Lawrence. However, on my one recent visit, what's now called the roast pork special (below; half-order, $5.50) wasn't quite the sandwich I remember. The broccoli rabe and sharp provolone seemed underrepresented, and they lacked bite; the spicy au jus soaked in so thoroughly that even my half-sandwich was falling apart by the time I finished. Be that as it may, I made sure to corral the stray fillings. Worth another go.
576 Ninth Ave. (41st-42nd. Sts.)