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Subs vs.hoagies

  • s

Coming from Philly, the home of the hoagie, I have a question about subs that natives to this area may be able to answer.

I went to have an Italian sub at Santoro's Sub Villa. I was surprised because it did not come with lettuce on it. When I brought it back up to ask for lettuce, the guy said, "You're not from around here, are you?" He told me that subs traditionally do not have lettuce on them. That got me thinking...

Now, I always thought that subs were the New England version of a hoagie (although I must admit that hoagies are in a class unto themselves)in terms of your basic ingredients.

Any comments?

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  1. I always say what I want on a sub, that way I don't get any surprises. I'd assume there would be lettuce on an Italian sub, but maybe I'm wrong. I think most places will ask what you want if you don't specify.

    1. Depends on where you get your Italian. Try Angelina's on Broadway Everett. Good sub, great bread, and lettuce.

      1. I have had the same thing happen. Also, am confused about something called a "bomb"? Have you encountered that and what is it?

        16 Replies
        1. re: Coyote

          As Alan said, I think you have to specify what exactly you want on it altho lettuce is a staple of Italians I thought. And a Bomb to me just means loaded with everything. As in a steak bomb has cheese, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Are there other kinds of bombs?

          1. re: Joanie

            Not quite but damn close. A proper steak bomb has steak, cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and *Genoa salami*.
            Best cure for a hangover I have found sofar in Boston (Assuming I don't wake up till 11 or later;)

            1. re: Josh

              I've also seen steak bombs with sausage in place of the salami-- I think Carl's makes tham that way, but I haven't been there in quite a while.

              1. re: AlanH

                Yikes, meat overload. Whether it's salami or sausage. Someone on ne.food was saying D'Angelo's makes the best steak & cheese, I'm gonna have to give it a try.

                1. re: Joanie

                  Beware, Joanie, those who call a place "the best"-- especially if the place in question is a chain. D'Angelo's isn't bad, but it is what it is.

                  1. re: AlanH

                    Oh I know about chains, as does the original poster. He was embarrassed, this is how he put it:

                    Ok, I will take a chance on ruining any credibility I have. You should know that I am currently living in NJ about an hour from Philadelphia so I have had many Philly cheese steaks in Philly from many different places.

                    Please give them a try before dissing--

                    The BEST Philly-style cheese steaks I have had are from...
                    O god, here goes...
                    D'Angelo's Sub shops.
                    There I said it and I mean it. They are excellent.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      I think he ruined his own cred. There's nothing "Philly style" about D'Angelo's steak and cheese, at least not in the Pat's/Geno's/Jim's vein. That said, it isn't all that bad, I'd give it a solid "B".

                      1. re: AlanH

                        I also have to admit it.

                        D'angelo's Steak and Cheese (the #9) is superior to any of the others that I have tried around here. Lately the sub shops near me have all been "grease bombs."

                        1. re: horrible

                          I have not had authentic steak n' cheese subs from Philly so I cannot comment on whether D'Angelo's can compete with the truly great, famous, philly steak sub shops....I can, however, say that around here, D'Angelo's gets a thumbs-up when it comes to steak and cheese subs. Fresh ingredients, great bread.

                          I will usually do my best to steer clear of chains but let's face it, sometimes they do the trick. Also, I think D'Angelo's offers one of the best turkey subs around. Real, fresh roasted turkey - not that pressed slimy stuff some places try and pass off as 'turkey'.

                          1. re: lori b

                            OK, here is my rant - but first my credentials: Born in raised in Boston Suburbs, 14 years in downtown Philadelphia, back in boston now.

                            1. A properly made philly cheesesteak is a thing of beauty. It requires a dedicated grill man who constantly chops the very thin sliced steak as it cooks with a pair of long spatulas. Mixes in grilled onions at the end and applies cheese to the top of the stack, allows it to melt slightly, then lays the bun over it and flips the whole stack up with the spatula. It SHOULD be a "greasebomb". If you try to eat it with a suit, plan on a large drycleaning bill. D'Angelos is the closest thing we have here.

                            2. With the exception of water ice, which I miss, and cheesesteak, philadelphia does not have any regional cuisine worth emulating. Hoagies are horrible in almost every case. Actually, on second thought, the south-philly practice of placing cooked spinach inside sandwiches is great, and they also make great broccoli rabe. But Hoagies suck.

                            3. Italian subs, IMHO, include shredded iceberg lettuce. I would complain if I didn't get lettuce, and I am from here. My understanding of Sub vs. grinder is hot vs. cold filling. Meatball grinder, italian sub. I virtually always ask for a toasted italian sub (meat and cheese are added, then slid into the pizza oven. cheese melts, meats release grease and juices, bread crisps, then lettuce, tomatoes, etc. are added). It remains a sub, though.

                            4. Nobody makes a italian sub like a new england pizza shop. I have a pavlovian reaction to signs saying "_____ house of pizza"(insert town name of your choice). Don't bother with the pizza, but stop in and order a toasted italian with extra hot peppers and say yes to every other choice they offer you. It will be great.

                            Sorry if I offended you hoagie fans, but tastycakes also suck.

                            1. re: tdaaa

                              tdaa- that surprises me about the lettuce. I can honestly say, that I don't remember ever getting lettuce in Italian subs when I was a kid. I will, say, I have not ordered one in ages- we usually make them at home. I think I will have to try my local sub shop soon, and see what happens!

                              1. re: macca

                                i'm a lynn rat from way back. if my eye-talian ever came with lettuce i'd be all WTF! no, no lettuce on an italian sub.

                                1. re: ScubaSteve

                                  Admittedly, my childhood italian experience is based on Wayland house of Pizza and little else, but I believe I remember lettuce on them way back when. I could be wrong. The most important parts are the toasting and the oil on the bread before the meat.

                                  1. re: tdaaa

                                    well- you are right the "house of...." does serve lettuce. I am remembering the small sub shops- no toasting of the rolls, no lettuce, no greek pizz- just good cold cuts, good fresh rolls ( lots of sub shops in my area used Piantedosi's in Malden, olive oil, a bit of oregano, and pickles, hots, onions and tomatoes. Heaven on a rolol.

                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                      Well ScubaSteve & tdaaa,

                                      I'm also from LYNN & have lived in WAYLAND for a couple of decades!. No way Jose, nuh uh, ixnay on the lettuce! The late, much lamented Sam's on Lewis Street in Lynn is still my benchmark. God I loved their subs!

                                      The only places I'd expect to get lettuce on an Italian cold cut would be off a roach coach, a vending machine or by guys named George or Spiro. Btw, macca's version/vision below, except for the pickles, (my own personal quirk)
                                      is absolutely correct. Also, nothing's chopped, except for the hots, sliced please.You might like it toasted, tdaa, but that makes it a different animal entirely.


            2. Growing up in NJ, I called them hoagies, too. Grinders are what they're called in central PA, and subs up here, Po' Boys down south. I also called them heroes when I lived in NJ.

              But they're all essentially the same thing - a long French or Italian-style bread loaf, filled with meats and cheeses, topped with an assortment of lettuce, peppers, pickles - whatever - with a vinaigrette dressing or mayo.

              What the sub guy told you (IMO) is a regional opinion re: lettuce - I've always thought of them has *having* lettuce.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Linda W.

                Hi everyone. I'm a longtime lurker, first time contributor. Funny that this of all topics got me to participate. There's something about the new england sub shop that keeps me coming back. They seem so generic and unimaginative and non regional (sorry, my hyphen is not working) yet they actually are quite unique and sort of lovable in their stubborn resistance to change. (But can't they toss a little fresh herbs on the pasta?)

                Anyway, I always thought that in New England we basically don't use the term hoagie. We have subs and grinders, grinders being a sub that's toasted in the oven. Am I right?

              2. You would not believe what some people put in a 'Submarine Sandwich' In Ohio, they tried to serve me
                Pressed Ham and Baloney. A sub is a poor 'sub'stitute for a Hoagie. It's the roll. No place but Philly.

                1. Ah, one of the only things I miss about Boston is the Italian Subs. I was so dissapointed the first time I went into a pizza/sub place in NYC and asked for an Italian Sub and they didn't even know what I was talking about. I walked the guy through it but it wasn't the same. In six years I have yet to find a good ol boston Italian Sub.

                  1. With all of this talk I'm getting hungry. I will again mention Angelina's in Everett (if they are still open). But I also want to add the sandwiches at Botegga Florentina in Brookline, made to order and they do put lettuce in their Italian (called the Primo).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chuck s

                      Second on the Florentina. I like their bread.

                      1. re: chuck s

                        We used to go to Angelina in Everett ( right near McKinnon's, if I remember), and I remember they used to have three foot long subs, and their bread was always so fresh. I went back a few years ago to try them again, and unfortunately- not the same. The fillilngs were stingy, and the cold cuts were not too good. Some things are best left in my memory, i guess.

                        1. re: macca

                          My dad used to bring subs home from Angelina's in Everett on pay day!! It was such a treat for us. Simple things that bring such warm mems. I agree - Angie's for me doesn't cut it any longer.

                      2. Thread from the dead...

                        I grew up in CT and grinders are what we had - invariably Italian, hot and toasted under the broiler, invariably with roasted red peppers, then with tomatoes and lettuce added later.

                        Nothing in Boston even comes close. I have grown to enjoy pickles, but for several years, I yearned for roasted red peppers - I eventually stopped asking for them. I still get a cross-eyed look when I ask for my Italian sub to be toasted. Invariably, it gets a spot in the pizza oven, which is "ok" but the broiler treatment with crisping the lunch meat and cheese is key to a great grinder.

                        I would award extra points if someone could point me to a Boston area spot that makes a sub in this way.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          Try any of the Greek pizza places (the numerous <Foo> House of Pizza ones.) I grew up here in Boston and regretted the invasion of toasted grinders almost as much as I regretted the Greek-style pan pizza when it made its first inroads in the 70s.

                          1. re: Allstonian

                            I'm not a fan of the "Houses" either but I think the toasted Italian (grinder) really redeems a lackluster sub.
                            Pretty much all I'd order at an unknown House of ... I used to find myself at.

                        2. Going to throw you all a curve - grew up in New England (Lynn and Andover) but spent 7 years in New Orleans and sorry but a Po-Boy wins hands down!!! :-) ask for it dressed - maybe I'll open a po-boy shop up here and see what happens. I still love our subs but ya put a po-boy shop next door and I'm moving over.

                          1. NJ native here. My Boston sub experiences vary wildly quality-wise depending on where I get them, but I've never come to a place that looked at me weird for ordering lettuce on one. The kind I grew up with in NJ have a definite consistency which I never seen here. First off, a huge menu over the counter lists all subs with meat/ingredient combos. You order the sub by the number next to it (1-25+). You can order a "half" or "whole", meaning the loaf of bread, which they cut then and there. A classic "Number One" is sort of an "Italian Sub" (ham, salami, provolone). All sandwiches come (by default) with iceberg lettuce shredded on the meat slicer, tomato, thin sliced red onion, oil, red wine vinnegar and spices. Also, the meat is sliced by the guy right when you order. Asking for mayo or mustard, instead of oil/vinnegar, would be a special order, as would adding hot peppers or pickles, which is not generally done unless you ask. Other thoughts: I never heard the term "Italian sub" in NJ, always thought of it as a "Number One". The Italian at Panino Express comes closest to what I'm talking about. Pinnochio' s in Harvard Square makes a credible south NJ, Philly style cheesesteak, which is great after a night in a bar.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wontonton

                              Can still get a sub with the meat cut as you order. Anthony's in Stoneham square. They do not use the traditional sub roll- they use braided rolls.

                            2. I've lived in the Boston area most of my life and have probably eaten thousands of subs from dozens of shops (pre-vegetarian days, of course, and I miss them). In my experience, all subs come plain, except for meatball, chicken cutlet, eggplant, etc., which automatically come with sauce and cheese unless you specify otherwise. Ordering subs around here is like ordering eggs; you must specify how you want them, e.g., "Italian sub with lettuce, pickles and oil" or "American sub with tomatoes and mayo, toasted." If you don't specify, they'll almost always ask, "want anything on that?" and "you want that toasted?" It's safer to tell them what to add or subtract and not leave such a crucial matter to chance! (I'd usually specify what kind of cheese I wanted, too, like Provolone on an American sub instead of American cheese.)

                              1. Born and raised in Haverhill, MA. Italian sub always had lettuce on it unless you ask them to hold it.
                                I did notice a change 20 plus years ago that the lettuce went from leaves to shredded which I don't like.

                                1. No lettuce on an Italian sub!

                                  1. Like all things that can be ordered by numbers, these "long sandwiches" are no exception to the rule "I want it my way".

                                    Growing up in NJ, jfood and the boys would go to the sub shop (it seemed pretty logical to call them subs since they were shaped like a submarine). If it was early in the morning jfood would see one of the neatest inventions he could remember, an aotumatic slicer. This was basically a meat slicer that some modified to run automatically. Hey in 1967 this was a MAJOR switch. On the machine was a mound of iceberg lettuce being converted to shredded lettuce. What an idea. Fast forward a few hours to post HS. All the guys went to the sub shop. Yes they were called a "sub" in NJ if IT WAS COLD. Very rarely did a sub shop have a large selection of hot ingredients. Itf they did the this became a meatball HERO, or an S&P (sausage and peppers) HERO or a chicken parm HERO. So growing up in NJ:

                                    COLD = SUB
                                    HOT = HERO

                                    An Italian sub (see it's cold) could be dressed with lettuce, tomato, s&p, oregano or mayo. Rarely did you see mayo on an Italian. It was usually the most expensive "numer" so jfood could not afford it, so no frame of reference.

                                    Fast forward to the introduction of Mrs Jfood, who grew up in New Haven. She mentioned this thing called a "hot oven grinder." Hey sounded good, so jfood asked what it was. Well, it was a hero that was wrapped in foil and stuck in an oven. OK so a grinder is a Hero.

                                    Then the Jfoods move to CT and a new word hits, the Wedge. Now jfood's first day (moving day) and he calls a local deli for some sub sandwiches. Once jfood is informed that in CT they are called wedges, he got with the program. Now Jfood (being from NJ) is thinking, "Hmmm, a wedge is a triangular geometric shape. Wonder what this thing looks like." Off to the deli, pick up a bag of cold and hot wedges, go back to the house, open them up and what does jfood see? A bag of sub sandwiches and heros. What the heck do they call it a "wedge" for? But being new to town, he'll bite it, enjoy it and call it a wedge going forward.

                                    But when all is said and done:

                                    Cold = Wedge, Sub, Hoagie
                                    Hot = Hero, Wedge, Hot Oven Grinder, Hoagie.

                                    1. Having lived in both Boston and Philly, I can tell you what the problem is. The definitions of each as understood by the locals are:

                                      Hoagie: a long sandwich with lettuce and tomato
                                      Submarine sandwich (sub): a long sandwich

                                      You can see where the confusion comes from. In Philly a cheesesteak has no lettuce or tomato, while a cheesesteak hoagie does.

                                      FYI: Rhode Island has far superior Italian grinders. They are made with ham, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, provolone, SLICED tomatoes, SLICED onions, dill chips, hot pepper relish, oil and vinegar and they are ALWAYS toasted.

                                      1. Anyone here from Philly or NJ (or beyond!) familiar with Hoagie Haven in Princeton, NJ, or Steak and Hoagie (multiple locations in Jersey and Philly)?? I have yet to have a satisfactory cheesesteak (and NO, D'Angelo's does NOT suffice) since moving to Boston.

                                        Any suggestions? I've tried Cappy's by Symphony, and it was OK..

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: shih

                                          Haven't been to either of those places, but Pinnochio's in Harvard Square does a reasonable facsimile of the cheesesteaks I used to get during summers in southern NJ.

                                          1. re: shih

                                            There are no cheesesteaks in mass., only Steak 'n Cheese!