What: Crunchy eggplant parm sandwich

Where: Alta Strada, 465 K St. NW. 202-629-4662. altastrada-cityvista.com.

Price: $10

How can you not love a good eggplant Parmesan sandwich? Still, the versions that most of us know involve marinara sauce that drips with every bite, and equally challenging strands of gooey mozzarella cheese. Unless you are prone to carrying around a bib or have a warehouse-store supply of Tide to Go, this is typically an indulgence best enjoyed while wearing an old T-shirt.

Until now!

Alta Strada's eggplant parm sandwich, served only for lunch at Michael Schlow's new restaurant in City Vista, is the perfect workday solution for those of us who prefer our clothes not look like a tomato-based Jackson Pollock. Instead of a lake of marinara, here you get a tasteful yet restrained application of the restaurant's spicy tomato basil sauce, plus basil-marinated cherry tomatoes for some fresh, sweet and acidic pop. Thinly sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese -- on both sides of the ciabatta bread, huzzah -- stands in for gooey mozzarella.

Of course, without being drowned in sauce or cheese, the eggplant has a chance to shine -- and stay crunchy, as advertised. Coated in panko bread crumbs, the eggplant is sauteed and roasted until it's a beautiful, crisp golden brown.

Apologies to your dry-cleaner, but this sandwich is a keeper.

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