I’m pretty sure that ordering the 28-inch giant pizza from Manhattan Giant has been a request of every school-age kid in Encinitas.
The question is always, who has a vehicle big enough to hold the box? I always found that my pickup truck did the best job, with tie-downs of course — and they do deliver.
And while yes, the 28-inch monster of a pizza gets most of the attention, and I will get back to the pizza options shortly, there is a big menu full of great values, including my go-to favorite of late, the Chicken Parm sandwich.
I will freely admit that I’m partial to a veal parm but those have become extinct in coastal North County, but if prepared correctly, chicken parm can be a perfectly acceptable substitute.
The art of applying fried chicken, tomato sauce and cheese to bread is not easy. First, you have to decide what to call it. Is it chicken Parmesan, Parmigiana, or just Parm? Is it a hero, a hoagie, a sub, grinder or simply a sandwich?
Once you’ve made those decisions, the really hard part begins. What kind of bread to use? With or without sesame seeds? Do you use chunky or smooth sauce? Fresh mozzarella or another cheese, like provolone? Manhattan Giant uses mozzarella and it works just fine.
Like most great sandwiches, this one originally started as a plated dish. Parmigiana is actually a Southern Italian dish (having nothing to do with the city of Parma, unlike the cheese or ham), and was originally constructed with pan-fried layers of sliced eggplant, a sprinkling of cheese, and tomato sauce. It wasn’t until Italians immigrated to America that chicken or veal replaced eggplant, and then it finally found its way onto a roll.
How it’s served is also important: if being taken to go, the whole sandwich should be tightly wrapped in waxed paper and aluminum foil to compress all the ingredients together, then sliced right through the center. I’m of the opinion that even if you are eating at the restaurant order it to go, as the experience of opening the foil and the waxed paper is half the pleasure.
I’ve also taken to ordering it with extra cheese and well done at Manhattan Giant, which can stretch it into two meals and give the bun an extra crunch. I’ve been able to do the two-meal stretch maybe twice, and when I do, I eat the second half cold, which is almost as good.
Besides this fabulous sandwich, they have nine other solid hot sandwiches all served on a 10-inch roll and are only $6 each. I’ve had the Meatball Parm and the Italian and both worked very well for me.
OK, enough of my parm obsession, pizza is king at Manhattan Giant and besides the 16 options they are also known for their huge slices. Seriously, one of these can easily make a meal and it is not uncommon to see the place filled with hungry surfers on a budget chowing down on a slice or two post surf session. Their slices have always been considered one of the best values in town.
The big values continue in the pasta portion of the menu with lasagna, spaghetti with meatball and cheese manicotti only $5.50 individually or $10.99 with a salad and garlic bread.
There are five classic salad options including a house, Caesar, Antipasto and Greek and they all come in under $10. Hot wings are also on the menu and you can get 10 for $6.99, which again would fall into the big value category.
Besides the solid food/value combination going on at Manhattan Giant, it is just one of those super casual old school beach joints where you find an eclectic mix of surfers, students, office workers and tourists. It’s also a treat to watch them toss the 28-inch pizza dough to create one of their giant pies. They have tables outside on the sidewalk or dine inside in a booth. Either way, Manhattan Giant is a slice of old Encinitas that should be experienced.
They deliver to limited areas and are open seven days a week. They’re located at 143 W. D Street. Check them out at manhattanpizzaencinitas.com or (760) 632-0107.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.