Don't be put off by a long line, their large and speedy staff cranks out sandwiches fast! This long-time family business slings huge portions to make great Italian hero sandwiches and has its own Red Hook WaterStories.
Defonte's Sandwich Shop.
379 Columbia Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231
Monday to Saturday
6 am to 4 pm
The business began to feed dock workers "shaping up." The "shape up" was the old, corrupt hiring system where longshoremen waited daily for work and were picked by a gang boss, a system people gamed with bribes and one that did not give dockworkers predictability about when they'd get work. The shape up is depicted in the movie "On The Waterfront." For more of Defonte's history see the home page of their newer Staten Island location https://www.defontesofbrooklyn.com
Defonte's celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1922. They did not throw a party then, but on June 17th . 2023 the street that they are on was officially co-named Daniel Defonte's Way in celebration of passing the century mark. An article about their long history appeared in the October 4, 2022 issue of Brooklyn Magazine.
The website the Infatuation has a nice writeup about Defonte's history and menu.
"… My father (Irish + German) pointed out to me that his Waterfront work group, on the docks, was strictly for his type. He meant that Italians were excluded from his part of the ship… After playing at Coffee Park, if we had the money, the next stop was always: DEFONTE'S. Mangia! Ham, Provelone, and Peppers on a full Hero. Later on, with a little courage, Eggplant & Peppers. OH, MAMMA!" Joe Ross October 15, 2004
"Several times a year I stop for a hero at Defontes (Nick's or the American House to some) and go down to the docks and think back to "the Glory Days".......When you drive around you see a lot of abandoned houses, vacant lots and very few people on the streets. The areas around the waterfront have all been cleaned up.....a nice concrete dock to view the Statue of Liberty from the foot of Coffey St....and the Long Dock has become pretty scenic, if you consider the Gowanus and Erie Basin scenic? I think that some folks consider Carroll Gardens and Court Street as part of Red Hook....unfortunately they are not. i returned to the hook to see the sons of Nick Defonte at the "CRUSHER HOUSE ''without success. But the crushers were still great. I hope to visit again soon... so long for now." Pete Viegas Sr. November 19, 2002