Meet Galdino Molinero, master of tortas. His truck is Tortas Neza. Be intimidated by his torta of infamy, the Pumas.
Just outside the 111th street station in Corona, under the shade of the tracks above, Tortas Neza has been around for twelve years. Mr. Molinero has always had a loyal following which grew with long deserved recognition as a 2012 Vendy Awards finalist. He’s a charming, laid back guy who exudes that feeling of someone actually enjoying what they do and where they are.
He also makes tacos, quesadillas, cemitas and soups, he’s got fresh cut watermelon, but truly tortas are his path. All eighteen of which are named after each of the major Mexican soccer teams.
At $14, give or take a dollar, the Pumas is twice the price of the other human-sized tortas on the menu. This is what is within:
Fresh chorizo on the griddle, chopped, whisked up with a couple of eggs and omeletted,
Breaded chicken cutlet,
Salchichas, also known as hot dogs, two of them, split down he center and deep fried. They emerge in the shape of a pair of talons which clip onto the sandwich, lettuce tomato,
Ham and head cheese. Yes, head cheese. The name makes it sound bad. Not even Spanish will save you: queso de puerco. It has nothing to do with cheese. If you’ve never tried then try. It’s a whole lot better than regular ham as you get tender bits of pork cheek in there.
One whole avocado, one whole pickled jalepeno
and queso fresco.
A squeeze of oil onto the griddle from a mustard bottle, the torta goes on, both sides are pressed down turning crispy, the queso fresco stops being aloof and melts.
Summer is usually associated with high energy. Summer in New York City seems to do the opposite, citizens become more relaxed, sociable. A visit to Corona in summer feels like the area is a shrine to the season. People out on their stoops with beer and barbecue, if you’re on the street, you’re hanging around a food truck brown bagging it with your food. No one bothers you. Corona holds the most densely packed area of food trucks I’ve ever seen. In any direction, there’s several filling the air with grilled meat along with that heated metal on metal roller coaster scent from the 7 train.
It is done. The weight of the bag was unexpected. I had seen photos of the Pumas prior, but in my first time holding one, photo and video are nothing compared to experience.
Close to three pounds of food. It certainly rivals Parisi Bakery’s Dennis, another sandwich that has quantity and quality.
At first, I would have called this the Pee Wee’s Playhouse of sandwiches, but it isn’t ADHD, it actually feels focused. It’s certainly decadent, the only thing I’d consider so on his menu, but it’s still not some obnoxious, sweaty Guy Fieri peanut butter and jelly flavored bacon cheeseburger waffle sandwich with Tabasco sauce-banana spread. It’s not an everything sandwich either.
Unexpectedly, this is nowhere near as greasy as I thought, which edges it even more away from decadent food eating contest and closer toward a sandwich which is big. There are no ‘secret sauces’ on here, so you are able to cleanly taste every ingredient. The buttery, crispy bread makes this an environment of textures among relevant Mexican ingredients.
The cinnamon slight sweetness from the chorizo, contributes to the sandwich as a whole, but with all the porks and chicken, it seemed in place. It really didn’t stop me in interest until I tasted it up against the avocado. Meaty, sweet and spicy into creamy, nutty and cool and that combination moves back around the sandwich and brings everything together.
This is a sandwich with purpose.
A quarter of the way through, I couldn’t eat anymore. I had others help me out while I sat in my chair such like Marlon Brando in that interview with Larry King when he wore the grey sweatpants, having the dog take treats out of his mouth.
Get some friends together if you can and share this with some Negra Modelos.