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Jersey-style Italian Hero (AKA Sub)

I've had the Godmother at Bay Cities, and Sorrentos' version too, and both left me thoroughly unimpressed.

I’m looking for a solid east-coast style Italian hero, piled high with ham, salami and good provolone, plus shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and oil and vinegar on a crusty (not limp) Italian roll.

I’m open to other interpretations, if they improve not detract. And while I’d prefer places located between Beverly Hill and Silver Lake, I’ll certainly consider all LA County comers.

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  1. A-1 Italian Import Market in San Pedro. They make a proper Italian sub without mayo or any other extraneous junk on fresh bread

    1. Dave's Chillin-n-Grillin in Eagle Rock (on the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado) has the best Italian sandwich I've had on this coast, and one of the best I've had, period (and I'm from New Jersey). Dave is from Boston, has the best ingredients, and is a really great guy to boot.

        1. I think your nostalgia may be getting the best of you. I've eaten subs from east to west, and I haven't found many that beat Bay Cities. I'd try it again if I were you.

          12 Replies
          1. re: soccerandlost

            Not at all. Bay Cities doesn't even approach what I grew up on in Jersey. A whole other animal.

            Heros out here seem to be made by layering 1 or 2 slices of a few kinds of meat together with 1 or 2 slices of cheese. And they're served on these limp, spongy rolls. Bay Cities is a perfect example.

            Back east they START by piling about a half-pound of shaved ham onto a solid, crusty roll and then add about 3 times more meat, cheese and fixings than anything I've found here yet.

            The sandwich I'm talking about could be used as a weapon. Whereas Bay Cities' might be good to steady a wobbly chair.

            1. re: wutzizname

              The bread is a bit of a problem, but Mario's deli in Glendale is way above average. Larchmont Wine and Cheese has great sandwiches, but they could never be called Heroes. The little Italian bakery on Colorado in Eagle Rock has good Mortadella sands, super fresh bread, but again, it ain't Jersey.

              1. re: wutzizname

                I, too, grew up in New Jersey, but a standard 10" or 12" sub has about eight to twelve ounces of meat and cheese in it, not two pounds. :)

                That said, honestly, the closest I've come is Togo's (sob).

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Hey, no reason to sob about Togo's. Except for me here in Westwood, where both the branch on Westwood Blvd. in the village and also the one in Brentwood on Wilshire between Barrington and Bundy both closed a couple of years ago. Now the closest one is all the way down on Venice Blvd. across from the Wendy's or all the way in MDR near the Costco. Togo's does a solid sandwich, not too chintzy with the meats, and good follow-up with the condiments, including pepperoncini. Good value.

                  I went to college in CT where there were small groceries selling grinders. Rolls were shorter with harder crusts. Big difference as I remember was the Italian dressing they would put on. Good, very solid sandwiches for a tasty filling lunch, but the meat and condiments were contained within the bun and certainly not mile-high. They were balanced -- bread vs. meat and vegies, meaty/spicy vs. tart/fresh/crunchy, salty vs. tangy.

                  1. re: nosh

                    Togo's does my favorite cheap pastrami sandwich...love those pepperoncini!

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      Just be sure the sandwich-maker slices them up before putting them on the sandwich. If not, all of the brine inside the pepperoncini will squirt out and wet down your sub too much.

                2. re: wutzizname

                  >>And they're served on these limp, spongy rolls. Bay Cities is a perfect example.<<

                  Bay Cities rolls are limp and spongy? I can say that has NEVER been true in the 12 or so times I have had a godmother.

                  1. re: wutzizname

                    You're right -- Bay Cities subs are not served on bread that could be used as a weapon. But to say that their subs are limp and springy is flat out ridiculous. I'm Italian myself and from the east coast, and I can tell you that Bay Cities is among the best Italian sub shops around, and BETTER than the vast majority of them, east or west.

                    I will admit that I have never gotten a sub at your place in NJ, or anywhere in NJ for that matter. And now, given your description, I know not to.

                    1. re: soccerandlost

                      OK, I finally tried the (small) Godmother at Bay Cities today and was really impressed. That's one seriously delicious sandwich served on crisp and tasty bread. I was a major skeptic, but consider me converted -- this was better than most subs I had back east. Reminded me just a bit of Italian delis like Genova up north in the SF Bay Area. Only downers were the bland potato salad and marinated mushrooms...I like the latter more garlicky.

                    2. re: wutzizname

                      Not that I am a Bay Cities lover, their bread is anything but limp & spongy, they do a great crusty roll. Now Eagle Rock Itaialn Deli does a great sandwich on a great roll, but it is no way loaded with that much meat, they will add extra meat for $1 or so more. You might want to try Eastside Deli near Chinatown, they make a huge sandwich, but the rolls as I recall are the softer variety. Good luck on your quest! Wait Wait, there is De Francos in the Valley near the Flyaway, just get it with out the pickles.

                      1. re: wutzizname

                        completely concur re: the bread served at Bay Cities.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Are you agreeing with wutzizname that (for example) the Godmother is served on "...these limp, spongy rolls."? Because, if that is the case, I can only conclude you must have something akin to the dental work and mandibles on the bad guy that Richard 'Jaws' Kiel played in the Sean Connery/James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me."

                    3. This really is a burning question, I made a search a couple years ago and gave up. But I've driven by a place on Jefferson near the freeway in Culver City, anyone been?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rancherostyl

                        There's Sorrento's on Sepulveda near Jefferson in Culver City. Is that what you're thinking of?

                        1. re: soccerandlost

                          I think that is it, looks god from the outside, have you been inside?

                          1. re: rancherostyl

                            ElJeffe is right. Sorrento's doesn't hold a candle to Bay Cities in any respect. Not with regard to the subs. Not the other food. Not the pastries. Not the imported goods. None of 'em. I know of no reason to go to Sorrento's.

                      2. Don't know which part of the city you are in, but out in Agoura Hills you'll find Italia Deli. It's the closest thing I've found to the heroes I grew up eating on Long Island. Specify a "hard roll" when you order and I guarantee you'll be in heaven. So delicious.


                        4 Replies
                        1. re: foodieqt

                          Thanks for the tip, I'm there on my day off. I got it bad, so I'd drive to Red Hook if I had to.

                          1. re: foodieqt

                            Boar's Head meats, fresh baked bread. Sounds like Bay Cities. I like Bay Cities quite a bit but they are held back by Boar's Head. They're good in the lunch meat world but they seem to have processed the flavour out of their meats and try to add it back with salt.

                            1. re: Wolfgang

                              that happens when the formulation consists primarily of trimmings and chemicals.

                          2. Try Matt & Tony's in the SFV. They make a great sub, eastcoast style. They put at least 2 inches of meat on their subs and they let you pick from a soft or hard roll. Nice Philly Steak as well as a M & T special that I think will be what your looking for...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: BBQ101

                              I'm going to have a fat and happy weekend, gracias...

                              1. re: BBQ101

                                To BBQ101, Excellent suggestion with Matt & Tony's! Nice hard roll, quality meats, and I love the way they offer tons of diced tomatoes, onions & pickles on top, making a big sandwich even bigger.

                                1. re: foodhappy

                                  Matt and Tony's isnt bad but if you want to upgrade, just a 5 minute drive away is one of the SFV 's best hole-in-the-wall delights, Italia Bakery & Deli on San fernando Mission and Balboa. The bread is made fresh, you won't regret it.The best subs in the valley !!
                                  11134 Balboa Blvd
                                  Granada Hills, CA 91344
                                  (818) 360-2913

                              2. I love Bay Cities, but agree with OP that it is a different animal than a NJ style or Philly hoagie. Haven't been able to find a great hoagie yet myself, but I'm sure our Hounder friends will uncover one.

                                Sorrento's doesn't hold a candle to Bay Cities, as I saw it referenced below.

                                1. At White House Subs in Atlantic City I order “double meat / double cheese” and eat for two days in bliss wit da bess sub in the USofA.. In L.A. try these places. Nuff said.

                                  Big Mike's Philly Steaks (Maybe the biggest sandwiches in L.A. and made with very good meats)
                                  507 Main St El Segundo CA
                                  (310) 726-9638

                                  Original Rinaldi's (Large sandwiches & good meats)
                                  323 Main St, El Segundo, CA 90245
                                  (310) 647-2860

                                  Eagle Rock Bakery (The BEST fresh baked Italian sandwich bread rolls (East Coast style) and top quality Italian meats and cheese. Best to buy it all and make it at home)
                                  1726 Colorado Blvd.
                                  Los Angeles, CA 90041
                                  (323) 255-8224

                                  1. I haven't been there in some time, but I remember the Italian market, Domingo's, in Encino making very good sandwiches.

                                    17548 Ventura Blvd
                                    Encino, CA 91316

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: pinpei

                                      Used to go to Domingo's a lot too, but recently I went and the shelves were pretty bare, and the sandwich, while OK, was a little haphazard. I think it's sliding.

                                      1. re: rancherostyl

                                        I used to buy my pancetta at Domingos but the last time I was in there, a friend of mine came along and decided to order a sandwich. The guy rang her up, took her money, then made her sandwich. No gloves, no handwashing, nothing.

                                        I haven't been back.

                                    2. Just wondering if ex-pats from Los Angeles ever post something on the New York boards asking for a place where they can get a sub like the one they get in Santa Monica at Bay Cities Deli.

                                      Bay Cities is the ultimate sub for me (although I prefer the Poor Boy over the Godmother). The bread is so fresh and good and the additions to the sub are fantastic.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: FKA Andrew


                                        I've been curious about the Poor Boy for along time now, but its been to hard to give up a Godmother or Meatball Sub. Why did you like it better? Sell me:)

                                        1. re: ElJeffe

                                          ElJeffe, I love the meatball as well, but it doesn't travel. Bay Cities recently changed their policy on the takeout meatballs -- they now charge $1.75 apiece, unless you get six where the price goes back to the old $1.25. I guess they got wise and tired of patrons like me who would get a few meatballs and sauce, some of their amazing rolls, and make them up at home with provolone and parmesan cheese.

                                          The Godmother has just a few thin slices of very piquant proscuitto and other Italian meats. Sharp flavors, toothsome textures. The Poor Boy has softer, meatier(?) meats with more volume, less salty and spicy. There is a case to be made for the latter -- indeed, I've been known to enjoy a turkey and cheese with all of the condiments for a different Bay Cities deli sandwich experience.

                                          Anyhow, love the place. And their hot daily specials (right hand side counter near the window and checkout lines) have no wait and are wonderful, satisfying meals with an entree and two sides for like eight bucks.

                                          1. re: nosh

                                            Nice, I'm sold. Funny about the meatball pricing. I've heard you don't need to wait in line for a meaball sub as its considered 'Hot Bar'. That's a huge deal on the busy days. Hmmm.....I think I found my lunch plans.

                                            1. re: nosh

                                              If the prosciutto is "piquant" it's probably been left out in the sun too long...

                                            2. re: ElJeffe

                                              I really like the meat combination on the Poor Boy and I think that the swiss cheese adds a lot more flavor than does the provolone on the Godmother. I also take the almost $2.00 I save on the large Poorboy (versus the Godmother) and spend it on some of their treats that you can find in the market.

                                              Good point below by Nosh. The hot specials are a real treat. Be careful because the specials tend to be a bit salty but you can always ask for a taste of whatever they are selling. A not so secret time saver at Bay Cities is knowing that the wait for the hot specials (and hot sandwiches) is much shorter than the wait at the sandwich counter.

                                          2. Eastside Market on Alpine, north of Sunset, downtown. Not only real-deal east coast heroes (#9 -- combination cold cuts & cheese fits your description), but very NJ-tasting meatballs & sausage as well.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Mr Grub

                                              I love Eastside Market for their hot roastbeef sandwich but, have found their cold sandwiches lacking and not worth the $.

                                              1. re: JAB

                                                I like the eastside market but not the tomato sauce they put on some subs.

                                            2. you are looking for Cardone's. it's located on Sunset. it's the real real deal.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. DeFranko's on Woodley Blvd. just south of Saticoy in Van Nuys (just east of the VN airport).
                                                Had a sub there last week and I thought I was in Asbury Park. Get the medium as the large is to big and the small is to small. First bite and NJ here you come.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: mjalz

                                                  Did you get the hard or the soft roll, I find the hard to hard for the coldcuts, but enjoy it with the hot sandwiches.

                                                  1. re: Burger Boy

                                                    I got the soft as I had a Philly Cheese hot sandwich. Piled on onions and chopped pickles. Wow, like being back east.

                                                2. In the San Fernando Valley, the best sub I have had is at La Italia in North Hills at the corner of SFMisson and Balboa. It is truly old school and they bake their own bread there daily. My son still says if he can't ever have another sub in his life, this will be the ONE! I agree. The capiccola, finocchio salami, the amazing bread and the gracious people at La Italia make it worth the trip. Get in line, though...It is hardly ever NOT crowded, unless you are there first thing in the morning for the capuccinos and biscotti.

                                                  1. Try the Old World Restaurant/Deli in West Covina. (Citrus Ave. exit)
                                                    good subs and Italian.
                                                    Features a lot of imported and local meats, sausages, cheeses, breads, etc.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                      I like Old World, but their sandwiches seem kind of small for the price compared to some of the other places mentioned here. But they do have some great soups to go with their sammies.

                                                    2. I'm a grad of Ridgewood High in Jersey and miss Brothers up in Midland park...


                                                      but I always enjoy the subs at Monte Carlo on Magnolia in Burbank. Fresh, cheap and piled. Wuth a cold beer, I'm back in my element, waiting for someone to say, "What're you looking at - you got a problem?"

                                                      1. I, too, am originally from N.J., but not for a few decades. I have eaten LA heros in lots of places, many of them listed in these posts. I'm looking for a crusty roll, not too much meat and cheese and a good dollop of oil and vinegar. I like Mario's and the Italian Bakery in Eagle Rock. It helps that I live in the neighborhood. But neither is exactly what I'm remembering or looking for.

                                                        Yesterday, I had the Italian Cold Cut Sandwich at Porta Via (1 West California in Pasadena). It was great. It wasn't large, it wasn't packed with meat and cheese, but it was what I remember and want to have again.

                                                        Hopefully, they can make it again. Give it a try, let me know what you think.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Jimblomquist

                                                          I have definite misgivings about this one, but I must admit I got a very good sub from a place called Jersey Mike's in Ventura while I was wandering about tonight. The roll was fresh, nice and crusty, fresh ingredients, nicely dressed and a very friendly staff. I asked for a menu to take with me and then discovered later it's a chain. It had a goodly amount of freshly thin sliced meats and cheese. Their website says they are opening ones soon in Santa Clarita, Burbank, Encino and Lake Forrest. The staff said their favorite and most popular sandwich was the #13 the Original Italian. I've yet to make it to Bay Cities, but I thought it was definitely better than the Italian Combo they sell at Rinaldi's which never claimed to be a New Jersey style sub. I do like the bread that Normandie Bakery on Jefferson uses on their sandwiches better but the roll was definitely okay. Here's the website for the chain for your information. I did a search and Jersey Mike's seems to do okay for a chain on Chowhound. I avoids chains normally because with so many indie eating places it's always an adventure, but it was (I thought) a pretty good sandwich. http://jerseymikes.com

                                                          1. re: Feed_me

                                                            I was shocked that nobody had mentioned Jersey Mike's until this far down the thread. Then I realized this reply was from 2007! I'm from New Jersey and no other sub out here evokes a taste of home like Jersey Mike's. Are there better subs than Jersey Mike's? Absolutely, and some are mentioned here. But for a taste of NJ, that's the one.

                                                            For the non-Jersey style sub, I have recently become a huge fan of Roma Deli in Pasadena, thanks to Will Owen's posts.

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              I made it into a Jersey Mike's today and I have to agree it's the real deal. Not perfect but very good, especially for a chain with 500 stores. This boy from Paterson will be back.

                                                        2. Finally made it out to try Eagle Rock Bakery, as a few here have recommended, and thought it was a real contender. Great crusty rolls. Solid ingredients. And low prices too. I neglected to ask what "everything" entailed though, so next time I would "hold the mustard and mayo" and just stick with the oil and vinegar (even though they used balsamic, when basic red would be better). But I'll definitely be back when I'm on that side of town. Baked goods looked worth trying as well.

                                                          Eagle Rock Italian Bakery
                                                          1726 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. Popa Jakes in Beverly Hills is outstanding.

                                                            1. I might get run off the board, but I thought Jersey Mike's was pretty good. I grew up on PA hoagies and subs. They have a branch in Westwood Village, next to the new Trader Joe's.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: NAspy

                                                                I'm thrilled to see Jersey Mike's getting some love here. I know it's a chain, but their cheese steak is my favorite on this coast. And their subs are damned fine too. I went to the one in Tarzana the other day, and was totally happy. There's also one in Burbank, near Ikea.

                                                              2. A friend took me to Cricca's Italian Deli in Woodland Hills and I have to say, it was outstanding! Nice meat portions, good fresh crusty roll. This is probably as close as you'll get in LA in terms of being comparable to a NJ style sub.

                                                                Cricca's Itailian Delicatessen
                                                                4876 Topanga Canyon Blvd
                                                                Woodland Hills, CA 91364

                                                                1. This may be the day when I miss my GIANT New Jersey hero the most. Hmm... Where to go, where to go?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: wutzizname

                                                                    Don't feel bad. I'm in Jersey right now and they're making party subs on blue—yes, really—bread. I do not eat blue bread no matter who won some football game!

                                                                  2. another vote for Claros

                                                                    1. Cricca's on Topanga in Woodland Hills Italian Sub with the works is as good as I've had in America. The bread is a 'weapon' and it's classic Jersey Style. If you really feel it get a double. It rivals most of what I've had in Jersey and NY, even Philly, but the crown still goes to the Basque in France and Spain because of the jamon or ham is just, well orgasmic. Cricca's aslo has a wonderful deli, super cost friendly.