To relegate tuna to the lower levels of the sandwich totem is an easy thing to do: Tuna sandwiches are stinky, leaving your breath, your fingers, and the room they are made and consumed in reeking of tinned fish. More involved but less portable than the PBJ, tuna fish is a fussy sandwich that is open to endless interpretation but always requires the same level of attention. Where a PBJ can be slapped together, thrown haphazardly into a zip-top bag and shoved into a backpack, ski jacket, or lunchpail, the tuna sandwich demands gentle, precise insertion into a storage and transport vessel, constant refrigeration of some manner, and delicate nibbles to protect the integrity of assemblage.
Despite its particularities, tuna fish is sometimes an act of desperation. A can of tuna can be found in most home pantries for last-minute sandwich emergencies, and tuna or whitefish salad is often one of the cheaper options on deli menus.
Still, a good tuna fish sandwich is a thing to marvel at. The perfect mayo-to fish ratio, the inclusion of additives to the salad, the choice of bread... a good combination of those things makes all the downsides of a tuna sandwich completely worth it.
Little Pecks -- the offshoot of Peck's Arcade and Lucas Confectionery in the former The Grocery space in Troy -- takes the humble tuna sandwich and elevates it: Simple ingredients prepared in thoughtful, unexpected ways that make the eater reconsider the abilities of the item consumed. The menu listing does not allude to much more than some amalgam of fish, carrots, and celery, but the final product is certainly more than just the sum of parts.
The sandwich ($10) comes open-faced on a thick slab of toasted white pullman loaf. The bread is airy with a soft crust but still has a tight weave to its crumb that gives the bread chewy texture. A base layer of silky aioli is nestled between the bread and a heaping mound of oil-packed tuna. That tuna comes in big chunks, akin to a tuna steak more than canned meat, and is mixed with large, thin, biased-cut rainbow carrots and celery that seemingly have been run through a mandoline. A half-sour dill pickle tops the sandwich, which comes with a side of spicy giardiniera-style pickled vegetables.
This certainly wasn't what I was expecting when I ordered the sandwich but I was happily surprised based on appearance alone.
General satisfaction would be the best description of my experience with the Little Pecks tuna sandwich, but for 10 bones I think the execution could have been a bit tighter. The aioli (mayonnaise) served separate from the tuna was a playful spin on the classic preparation of the sandwich, and it did seem to be placed directly on the bread to act as a layer of protection against oil from the tuna seeping into the bread. In theory, that fat layer would help the toast retain its toasted, pebbled exterior, but unfortunately there was just too much oil on the tuna to make the concept work.
The addition of carrots adds a subtle sweetness to the tuna "salad" but overall the sandwich is a little flat and lacking in the nuance that the Peck's brand (courtesy of parent company Clark House Hospitality) is known for. Pairing bites of the giardiniera with the sandwich helps.
Overall, though, the hiccups in execution do not detract from the intention presented by Little Pecks: Thoughtful interpretations of standard fare or home-cooked classics that prove gourmet does not have to be synonymous with expensive ingredients or elaborate presentations.
A tuna fish sandwich can still harken to the sloppy version of our youth, except now you'll be eating it with a fork and knife instead of hunched over a cafeteria table. The Little Pecks menu demands you enjoy your food with intention. Maybe that's why you can't order a slice of pie until 11 am. Perhaps that's why a side of vibrant green Castelvetrano olives costs $3, likely a dollar more than it should. (Even for the best olives, that's quite a markup. The extra dollar might account for the separate pit bowl that is provided.)
And speaking of that pie ($4 per slice), pastry chef Greg Kern's deft hand with flour and butter results in a flakey dough that rivals the most perfect croissant. And a heavy addition of lemon and salt to blueberry filling makes for a not-too-sweet, crumble-topped pie that is worthy of its own Eat This edition.
Troy, NY 12180
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