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The decline of the Italian Hoagie

Just came back from a few days in Philly, and I don't have too many good things to say about the hoagie scene! One would think the quality of hoagies in the vicinity of the Italian Market would be outstanding, but it seems that Philly hoagie makers dislike rain (or something) because when I went last week, Sarcone's was sold out, and the one I purchased from DiBruno's was substandard at best. I was also told that Primo's on Chestnut was outstanding, but I discovered otherwise. I must say that I was impressed by the quality of the mass-produced sandwich I got from WaWa in Horsham (I even got to play with their brand new Hoagie Computer!)

Maybe I'll have to try Ocean City next time I want a really good Italian hoagie?

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  1. What time did you go to Sarcone's? They sell out of rolls pretty early. I can't vouch for Primo's on Chestnut, but I love the original Primo's in South Philly on Ritner St. Chicken cutlet, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, mozzarella. Yum.

    1. It's true, I was a bit late at Sarcone's (about 3pm), and it was raining hard that day. I also managed to get over to Salumeria in the RTM, and while their hoagie was good quality, it was hardly stuffed, and the roll was nothing special! I know good hoagies (my uncle used to have a place in Flourtown years ago), and when I lived in Ocean City, the hoagie there was so stuffed I had trouble eating the whole thing. DiBruno's managed to forget the hot peppers, and halfway through the sandwich I complained! I know I'm demanding, but come on, when you travel 3,000 miles for lunch!!!

      7 Replies
      1. re: daawgon

        You mentioned you went to Wawa in Horsham. Since you are in the vicinity, how about Silvio's in Hatboro? They make excellent hoagies and bake their own rolls on the premises.

        1. re: YoccosFan

          Silvio's offers the best hoagies in the area, bar-none! I've heard lots of praise for Primos, but I have not been impressed, at least with the Glenside location. And you know, you ruin your hoagie cred with your assessment of Wawa hoagies....blech... ;)

          Altomontes in Warminster has excellent hoagies and other Italian sandwiches.

          1. re: YoccosFan

            Actually, I was looking for Silvio's, but could not locate a phone book, and I was really rushed (only 2 days for the area!)

            According to the guy who owns Apizza Shoals in Portland, he's opening an Oregon location of a new upscale, sandwich/hoagie place soon. He's trying to develope a recipe for the right kind of bread/roll to use.

            As for my "assessment of Wawa hoagies", I was so frustrated at not being able to find Silvio's or anything else on short notice, that I went into Wawas out of desperation, G Goo!

            I must say that I find friendliness to be utterly lacking in Philly folk.

            1. re: daawgon

              FYI Silvio's is across the street from Wawa in Hatboro. The rolls made in house make for a mean hoagie. Nice and crusty, and on occasion you'll get a hoagie on a roll that's still warm from the oven!!

              And, um, this ;) means I was joking....get it, wink, wink......Funny thing, I find Philly folk to be quite friendly. Maybe its just you ;)

              1. re: G Goo

                I'm proud to say I used to eat Silvios hoagies when they were in the small store 20 years ago....then they were really good. But thanks for the nice memory.

                Sarcones--great bread--hoagies...I du no.

          2. re: daawgon

            Is being, 'stuffed' a requirement for a Philly-style Italian hoagie? I didn't think that was necessarily the case.

            That said, I'm lately pretty monogamous to the 'Crusher' at Primo, the peppered turkey w/sliced pepper shooters (w/provolone and prosciutto) and swiss cheese. Excellent bread.

            1. re: joypirate

              Ahh...the Crusher, very good indeed

          3. The original post must have been a joke. I know that most of the posters here are from the suburbs and rarely get into the city, but to suggest a WaWa hoagie from Lansdale or someplace in Ocean City as opposed to a Primo's hoagie is preposterous. For those of you are afraid to come into the city and prefer to eat in Ocean City, there really is little difference between a Primo's and a Sarcones. The rolls are the same and if you deconstruct the hoagies, the meats and cheeses are the same. This reminds me of all the suburbanites who love a Genos/Pats Cheesesteak. Sad.

            3 Replies
            1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

              I would go out of my way for a good hoagie, any other suggestions besides Primos and Sarcones? Ya know, when you need a hoagie and you are not familiar with the area, sometimes you gotta go to WaWa.

              1. re: Hammie

                I swear by the hoagie (and cheesesteak) at the Italian Villiage on rte 73 in Maple Shade, NJ. They use to be in the old Pennsauken mart and still have a loyal following.

              2. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                Well said on your observation, Older. Agreement here on all but your casting "all suburbanites" from the same mold. Absolutes when referring to large groups of people, as in "all", are usually not only a misrepresentation but most always incorrect.

              3. Hey now, lay off the wawa hoagies. I agree that compared to a legit Italian hoagie or any other gourmet hoagie, they are wanting. But for what they are, wawa hoagies do a fine job. More importantly, with a wawa hoagie you have unprecedented levels of control, so if the thing is no good you most likely have yourself to blame.

                As for finding a good hoagie (I’ll probably get flamed for this, too), why not drive just a bit farther and head to Princeton’s Hoagie Haven. Amazing bread, great fillings, fast, reliable service, and unbeatable tradition. Hell, the last time I was there I had them put a piece of pizza in my hoagie. You wouldn’t believe how good it was.

                1. If you want a great hoagie, go to Taste of Italy in Springhouse or Altemonte's in Warminster. If you want to try a zep, the only place to go is Eve's Lunch in Norristown.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Den

                    I would also suggest Lou's Steaks and Zeps in Norristown for a good zep.

                    1. re: Philly

                      Lou's Zeps are wonderful. Had one a couple years back. Would definitely return in a heartbeat.

                    2. re: Den

                      Can someone tell me exactly or roughly what a ZEP is? Never heard of them until I moved to the area.

                      1. re: modbetty

                        Growing up in Norristown and eating many zeps at Eve's Lunch on Main St (before the move to Sandy Hill), the ingredients for a standard Norristown zep are:
                        salami (preferably genoa), provolone cheese, onions, tomatoes, oregano, oil, peppers (optional) on a round or cheesesteak roll. No lettuce; no mayo.

                        1. re: Philly

                          Eve's uses mortadella I believe. It's definitely not Genoa salami.

                          1. re: Den

                            Genoa is my personal preference, although any hard salami will work in a zep.

                            1. re: Den

                              Pretty sure it's cooked salami at Eve's. Not a fan of Mortadella- I like my fat evenly distributed throughout so I can pretend it's not there. I didn't recall if they even had hard salami, my preference on a zep and what I grew up on.

                          2. re: modbetty

                            Zep is another name for a hoagie (named after the Zeppelin aircraft - Zeppelins and Submarines were the namesake for the long rolls.) Hoagie is VERY Philadelphian, and I expect the apocryphal story about Italian workers on Hog Island is probably true.

                            For some reason, Norristown "Zep" was popular.