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What makes the Philadelphia Italian Hoagie different from the rest?

I'm doing a little research into Philadelphia-style hoagies. Chime in on your iconic sandwich and why it's different than New York, Maine or Subway sandwiches. I'm not interested in the best sandwich shops, but I would like to learn about the construction of Philly's hoagies.

Here's my questions:

1. Yes, I know it's about the bread, but this is for the rest of us in the world that can't get Amoroso's in our home town. I've heard it's not as crusty as New York grinders, and a medium-soft texture to the inside that lies somewhere between NY and the pillow-softness of New Orleans po' boys.
2. This is NOT about the cheesesteak!! I'm talking specifically about the ITALIAN cold hoagie.
3. Mayo... yes or no?
4. Vinegar... yes or no?
5. Favorite cold cuts?
6. Is salami a must?
7. How about capicola?
8. Spice blend... is it just salt, pepper, basil, oregano?
9 Peppers.. yes or no? Chopped in a relish or whole? Hot or sweet?

Go ahead you Philly experts! Break down you Philly favs for me.

Thanks a lot for your input.

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  1. -The roll is key and yes, it's sort of semi crusty on the outside but with a softer texture than a baguette.
    -NO! NO MAYO! That will get you shot, just kidding. Oil is what is used and not even olive oil in most places
    -NO VINEGAR, not authentic
    -Hard salami, cooked salami, capicola, that's about it for a standard run-of-the-mill hoagie. Provolone cheese is a must, no others.
    -Salt, pepper and oregano
    -Lettuce, tomato, and onion
    -Peppers can be hot or sweet. The hoagie "sweet peppers" in the Philly region are sort of a pickeled sweet and sour type that you really can't find outside the area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 94Bravo

      THIS is the Phila. hoagie. Best quality meats and provolone.

    2. Just fair warning that this thread will soon degenerate into the caliber of "Cheesesteak wars." Everyone has an opinion. From my understanding, the hoagie was originally a loaf of Italian bread generously lubricated with high quality olive oil, laden with sliced Italian meats and cheeses and generously sprinkled with oregano. This was the original Hogg Island sandwich that the shipbuilders took to work. Tomatoes, lettuce, onion and peppers came much later.

      Bread is very important. Amoroso's is not the be all and end all. Its good but I prefer Conshohocken Italian Bakery. Mayo makes a submarine or whatever else you want to call it. Its blasphemy on a real hoagie. Vinegar on a hoagie is unknown to me. Meats must be high quality Italian recipe. If you have salami, it should be Genoa, not German hard salami. Capicolla is great. Mortadella, too. Provolone but never Swiss or American cheese. Shredded lettuce, tomats and onion if you like. Garnish with top quality olive oil, sliced pepperonici and oregano. That's my take on a real hoagie. I'm sure to get broadsided for this but let's rock and roll!

      9 Replies
      1. re: Chefpaulo

        Agree with a lot of what Chef Paul says... It is interesting Sarcone's includes vinager on their Italian Hoagie. For me oil vinager salt pepper oregano are good.. especially if the oil is not top notch olive.

        If you want to start another war about bread... sesame seeds or no sesame seeds.

        Conshohocken Bakery, or Sarcones rolls make the best hoagies IMNSHO.

        1. re: Chefpaulo

          Ya got it! Don't forget the high concentration of Ital. immigrants, and their great crusty breads, and high quality lunch meats and cheeses. This Italian immigrant population is the crux. In Maine , the hoagie is the "Eye-talian and is inedible. In the southwest they don't have the Ite. pop and don't have a clue.
          While in college in Allentown, I played for George's Hoagie Shop in intra-mural sports.
          Give me 9th Street or give me....

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            Yeah, I lived in SE Ohio for a few years--pitiful. Even the places that had "Italian subs" could not produce oil without vinegar. It was apparently premixed for them and so there was no actual olive oil in the place. Between that and the tasteless bread and meat, why bother?

            1. re: gaffk

              Food is like real estate: location, location, location.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Tell me about it. I go to school around DC and I recently tried out their prized possession Italian Hoagie shop. My local Wawa puts this place to shame. A hunk of random lunch meats(i think including bologna) and mayo. Mayo? Really?

                I know it's not necessarily authentic, but Primo's hoagies in Marlton hits the spot for me. They throw a bit of a spin on it(it's called the Italian Diablo) with some Paprika and some other stuff. Good though.

                1. re: tzanghi

                  If the franchisees are anything like the Primo's "mother ship" in South Philly, they are absolutely authentic. I think in this quest for authenticity, people sometimes conjure up an ideal that cannot be achieved.

            2. re: Passadumkeg

              Love George's hoagies, with vinegar! Do you know where they get their rolls?? In my opinion(humble that it is) it is the best-------of course i am a no seeds person.

              1. re: bonappetite

                Sorry, I left the area a looooong time ago.
                Send me Jacco's, please!

            3. re: Chefpaulo

              CP pretty much has it down pat!
              and I'm with you on the rolls, Conshy bakery or Sarcones really are the best
              (I know the o/p said to not make it about the rolls, but really how can you NOT make it about the roll?)

              I also found it funny that Sarcones does the oil & vinegar thing, but they also use a generous amount of oregano.

              there's different ways of putting the sandwich together taht I've noticed too,

              some places do cheese and some meat, then lettuce tomato, more meat and then onions on top
              I don't really care whether the roll has seeds or not, I like both as long as it's a good quality roll

              I am stealing a quote from another person on another thread (who I wish I could remember the name so I can credit)

              I Only Eat food that is delicious... so I've sworn off Wawa hoagies. I can get better at any local pizza joint so bye bye Wa-wa for hoagies

              (and my own personal preference is to put a fried long hot in there between the cheese and the roll.. HEAVEN)

            4. Not necessarily Amoroso's, but definitely a good Italian roll delivered fresh every morning (and at busier spots morning and noon). And to kick off cwdonald's war--please no seeded rolls.

              Good olive oil--Bravo is correct that mayo will get you shot ;), but I disagree that there are good places that use anything but olive oil. And I would add that vinegar would also be an executable offense for me.

              Quality meats: cappicola (or gabagoo as my BIL says), Italian hard salami, provolone. Shredded lettuce, tomato, onion. Salt, pepper, oregano and a final squirt of olive oil. Hot or sweet peppers are optional, but whole--not relish.

              1. 1. Sarcone's without a doubt
                2. The South Philly Italian in Sonny's (Limerick) is the BEST!
                3. Mayo - NO WAY
                4. Vinegar... could go either way, but I think the better the bread and cuts of meat, it's a no...so @ Sonny's NO, @ Wawa YES
                5. the best Italian cold cuts
                6. Is salami a must? not really
                7. How about capicola? yes
                8. Spice blend... is it just salt, pepper, basil, oregano? Basil, no way
                9 Peppers.. yes or no? Chopped in a relish or whole? Hot or sweet? I prefer hot cherry peppers

                1. Love this thread.I'll bite!

                  1. For me its not so much about the bread its what's inside. and don't like seeds
                  2. I love Italian hoagies so much more than cheesesteaks!
                  3. Mayo... NO
                  4. Vinegar... YES don't forget the OIL
                  5. Favorite cold cuts? SHARP PROVOLONE CHEESE
                  6. Is salami a must? YES
                  7. How about capicola? YES
                  8. Spice blend... is it just salt, pepper, basil, oregano? SALT< PEPPER< OREGANO
                  9 Peppers.. yes or no? Chopped in a relish or whole? Hot or sweet I LOVE THE PEPPER SPREAD AT SALUMERIA- but if elsewhere i order HOT peppers to give it a little BITE!

                  OTHER HOAGIE FAVS: Turkey/cheese/roasted peppers. Roast beef/cheese/sweet peppers. I'm also a WAWA fan.

                  1. Great thread and fun to read! Thanks for starting it scotdc! So glad to see the universal vote for NO MAYO thus far. Where I live, in a suburb of philly, some of the places will put mayo on hoagies and even cheesesteaks automatically. Even if you tell them no mayo but oil please. The best places in my opinion give you chopped raw onions when you ask for onions, not those days old string like onions from out of a food processor that make me gag.

                    1. Fantastic response from everybody!! Thank you for stepping up to the plate Philadelphia!

                      Obviously, mayo is out of here, and an interesting minority for vinegar. Thanks for throwing basil out of the equation, I had read on someone's "official" hoagie page that basil was important. Maybe I can find a recipe for the sweet and sour Philly style peppers that 94Bravo is talking about.

                      Capicola, Mortadella, Italian salami and sharp provolone. Do I need to tell you all what's on my Super Bowl plate this weekend?

                      Thanks again to everybody!

                      1. Great, now I need a hoagie.

                        1. While not in Philly, my favorite, in the general area, is White House Subs in Atlantic City. I've been going there since the mid-sixties. They compare favoriblly to the Italian essence of the hoagie. Same sandwich, different name. No bricks and bats please.
                          white house sub shop menu

                          White House Sub Shop
                          2301 Arctic Ave, Atlantic City, NJ 08401

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            The two bakeries that are each 100 yards from White House make the difference, you may like it, as l do, or not but most sub shops in AC use the bread of these bakeries.

                          2. The use of vinegar prevails on the Eastern side of the Delaware River. Mayo, on the other hand, seems to be more readily used to foul sandwiches to the North and West of the City

                            As an aside, I remember my first week in college in Reading. I ordered an "Italian," from a nearby sandwich shop with "everything." In Jersey, that's a sub (likely, a "Number 4") and it would be dressed with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, onions, etc. A burst of Mayo hit my tongue upon the first bite and by reflex I spit it on the floor. I had never even imagined such a thing could be done. Thankfully, Lord Chesterfield was cheap.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: MGZ

                              It doesn't sound too "Albright"!

                              Keg Berg

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Carefully placing an order could salvage a sandwich. There was, however, never any hope for the pizza.

                              2. re: MGZ

                                Traveling thru the Reading area I have also stopped for an Italian Sandwich on occasion. While I have never been mayo-ed I have had some disgusting sandwiches. However one spot I have found sandwiches to my taste is the V&S shops. I think the original is between Reading and Shillington on Lancaster Ave. I would NEVER suggest it is the equal to the best of philly hoagies but caught upstate it is quite Albright, ahh alright.

                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  When we lived there many years ago there was a shop near W. Oley where we lived that did a very good hoagie. In other places in the region you could order a ham hoagie or ham zep but the same thing in Reading was always called "ham on roll."

                                  1. re: RC51Mike

                                    Ham on Roll, yes indeed. Seen though out the Berks area.

                              3. 3. Mayo... yes or no?


                                4. Vinegar... yes or no?


                                5. Favorite cold cuts?


                                6. Is salami a must?


                                7. How about capicola?


                                8. Spice blend... is it just salt, pepper, basil, oregano?


                                9 Peppers.. yes or no? Chopped in a relish or whole? Hot or sweet?

                                depends. depends. depends.

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    I thought the same. But I was going to be more polite and ask if she was born\raised in Philly, where nothing depends as we are so poised.

                                    1. re: gaffk

                                      Good 'un. I'm just a NEPA coal miner Pollack.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        Good question Pass! Sharp wit like sharp provolone is always a treat.

                                1. "Yes, I know it's about the bread, but this is for the rest of us in the world that can't get Amoroso's in our home town."

                                  You're not going to be able to replicate the sandwich without the right bread. I don't really know what to tell you but a supermarket "Italian" roll will not make a Philadelphia hoagie. As others have indicated it is *the* most important part. There are all kinds of hoagies, even turkey and American cheese, and what makes them taste like home is the bread.

                                  There are exceptions to this but most places put the cheese down first, directly on the bread. This makes a difference to me, the way the cheese combines with the bread. I never really noticed it until I started getting crappy sandwiches when I lived in Ohio, and realized I missed that gluten+fat combo of the cheese on bread.

                                  Also you may want to try regular provolone as well as sharp, IMO sharp only works with certain meats/veggies and bread that isn't too bready. Mild provolone (not totally bland supermarket stuff) gives a very classic hoagie taste that is foolproof.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: barryg

                                    I agree that good bread is key to any sandwich. Here in Vegas we do have one pretty good bakery that makes rolls that are not too crusty (like NY bread tends to be) and soft in the middle. It's world's away from supermarket bread and fairly close to the Philly ideal, with that most important "chew" factor still intact. That's what I'll be using.
                                    The only bread that I use from supermarkets is hot dog rolls and the occasional potato bun for hamuburgers. Trust me, I'm a bread junkie and I understand how important the bread is.

                                    1. re: scotdc

                                      scotdc, sounds like you get it. The chew is crucial. Let us know how it turns out.

                                  2. Damn you! Now I want an Italian hoagie.
                                    I like the bread from Sarcones. No Mayo. Olive oil. Basic cold cuts are capicola, genoa salami. Must have provolone. Salt, pepper, oregano. Sweet peppers for me. Shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions.

                                    1. speaking as a former Philly guy, now living in Florida, the Italian Hoagie is a Philly institution as is the Cheesesteak and roasted pork sandwich. Sarcones defines the Italian Hoagie, oil and vinegar, the amazing seeded roll, aged provolone... can't say anymore. There is nothing, and I mean nothing in Florida that comes close. Coming home next week just to visit Sarcones!!!!!

                                      1. My favorite hoagie is from Lenny's in Roxborough. The "Godfather" is a family favorite.

                                        Sarcone Italian roll with seeds (love the seeds) oil, sharp provolone and a variety of quality Italian meats.

                                        To me an Italian Hoagie (Philly style) is about the bread - you really have to rip into the bread with your teeth, so satisfying. Oil (never, ever mayo) some places use a hoagie spread which is herb infused oil and vinegar mix, I can get behind that. Otherwise, no need to add the vinegar, but I won't shun it either.

                                        As far as the meats go - as long it's high quality. Yes, salami and capicolla and sharp provolone are a must, anything else is a bonus. That said - I do like mortadella a lot.

                                        The only spice I need is oregano, plus the mandatory lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced onion. No peppers for me - but I do like one or two peperonchini on the side, for a little kick at the end of a delicious hoagie.

                                        1. You should live down here in Tennessee! Hogie? Whats that? I'm from south Jersey. Burlington. Big Ed's had the best damn hogies in the world. Man I miss 'em. I think vinegar was on those sandwiches. Whenever I get up home, the first thing I eat is a "HOGIE". I have to search now, don't live there, but know what to ask for. By the way, found this thread searching for hogie Recipe. Thanks to all for the input. Just gotta find some good bread somewhere.

                                          1. From my youth in Chester, Pennsylvania I recall a few details that are missing today:
                                            1) Meat was fresh sliced
                                            2) Tomatoes were fresh sliced as well (don't recall if the lettuce or onions were tho')
                                            3) Hoagie is finished w/ a last drizzle of oil
                                            3) The guy made it in front of you behind a low pane of glass (or was it plastic?)
                                            5) The price was totaled using long hand addition on the paper bag that your hoagie and chips were placed into.

                                            16 Replies
                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              DiCostanza's in Marcus Hook, Pa. still makes them that way. Supposedly his great-grandfather was the guy at the Navy yard who coined the term.

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                I posted on the other hoagie thread about Ricci Brothers. They have the low pane of glass and use this method almost exactly, the only difference being that the tomatoes and other veggies were pre-sliced. I guess it's possible in tomato season they slice to order, it wouldn't make a difference for the pale winter tomatoes they had in February. The guy slices the meat directly onto the bread. They write the price of each hoagie on the wrapper and the cashier rings it up. I didn't get anything besides the one hoagie, so I'm unsure how multiple items are added up.

                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  When I was a kid, one of favorite things was going to DiCostanza's when it was on 3rd street in Chester... back when Chester was actually a CITY. Older lady (Grandma Di??) often made the hoagies and always sliced off something as a treat for us kids as we waited... my favorite was the provolone cheese.

                                                  They moved out of Chester as it became a WAR ZONE. Spent some time in Claymont, DE, I think. Now only a couple hundred yards off I95.

                                                2. re: Chinon00

                                                  My observation is that people tend to prefer the hoagie they grew up with and hold that as the standard of excellence. I grew up in Delaware County, which I always considered hoagie heaven. We had Buono rolls, which I believe were superior to Amaroso's and others. Chester (Stackey's), Marcus Hook, Eddystone (Sue's), Linwood (Reavy's) and Folsom (Anna's) were where we always went for our hoagies, which was many years ago. Chinon00's post is right on the money.

                                                  1. re: iamzorba

                                                    When you talk about Chester in the past you can't forget about the guys that started Hoagies there John LaSpada's Original, on Edgmont Ave by Chester Park!

                                                  2. re: Chinon00

                                                    In Chester nowadays he'd have to make your sandwich behind a high pane of bulletproof glass.

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                      Sorry to hear Chester has gotten in that condition. Sounds like you need a new police chief and mayor.

                                                          1. re: barryg

                                                            My dad would drive across town for Morrianni's cheesesteak at the shipyard.
                                                            There was a time when Sun Ship employed 40,000 people. Those kinda job losses will change the population.

                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                              following this thread is a kick - but it also points out the "ain't so such thing as one authentic"

                                                              born at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, grew up in the Philadelphia area, went to college in Philadelphia, son born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, worked in the city.....you know, I might be a Philadelphian.....

                                                              since the 50's - oil&vinegar was the liquid applied to the roll. oregano etc sometimes steeped in the liquid, sometimes sprinkled on later.

                                                              meats were cut to order. big hunk, on the slicer, cut&placed on the roll slice by slice. none of this 'insert meat pack from the wax paper bin' nonsense....

                                                              some joints went heavier on the 'this' cold cut meat or 'the other' cold cut meat. we called it "I like theirs better."

                                                              in the day, there were only two questions:
                                                              big or small?
                                                              hot or sweet peppers?

                                                              so far as authentic Philadelphia goes, Broad Street is supposed to be the longest straight street in any world city.

                                                              from the main gate of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, one can - in theory - peer through the arches of City Hall and further northward for some 13+ miles - and it's still in the city limits. it's in theory because the curvature of the earth limits the distance you can see to less than the length of the street.

                                                              China may have built a longer straight street, just for the brag . . . . dunno.

                                                              this "size" might possibly explain why all authentic Philly hoagies are not the same. many ethnic neighborhoods - take an Italian sandwich concept into a Polish area - the Poles by the way do not lack good cured meats..... and it may not be the same but it's still darn good.

                                                              the bread / roll is indeed very important. the right combo of crunchy crust and softer interior is not duplicated in most areas. Amoroso likely set the standard, but they are not the only ones.

                                                              note that soft pretzels on the street have not tasted the same since they outlawed leaded gasoline.....was 6 for a buck, then four, then down to three.

                                                              once upon a time I was flying to the mid-west, meeting up with a college buddy - so he asked me to bring along a couple hoagies. which I got enroute to the airport; carried on board and into the overhead bin. and people were sniffing the air for the whole flight looking for my goodies.....

                                                              what amuses me the most tho, the "Philly Cheese Steak" variations outside of Philadelphia..... it was Indiana (I think) where I ordered a Philly Cheese Steak - it came out as a roughly 1/2 inch thick steak - yes a thin hunk of beef steak - on a roll, with something that was supposed to be cheese (I assumed.....) and raw onions. this.......I would opine, is not authentic.

                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                          Chester hasn't been remotely "safe" in YEARS! Sad, cuz I remember it being JUST LIKE that department store in "A Christmas Story"... Stotter's, I think.

                                                          1. re: kseiverd

                                                            Yes, Stotters. Also, could have been Speare's, right across the street from that little trangular shaped news stand where Market St. crossed Welsh and 7th. Chester was a great little city back in the '50s.

                                                            1. re: iamzorba

                                                              News stand maybe a block from "John's Doggies"... he's been out on 322 in Chichester for years. Wish I had recipe for his "special sauce"!?!

                                                              1. re: kseiverd

                                                                Yes, same John's Doggie Shop. Best hot dog sauce I've ever tasted, assuming it hasn't changed in the 50 years since I last ate it. Gotta get out there and try it. It's always reassuring to see the old places still in business, albeit perhaps in different locations.

                                                                1. re: kseiverd

                                                                  I was a kid when they opened a new John's Doggies shop "over town" in Chester (1980?). At the grand opening it was all the dogs you wanted for FREE. WHAT a GLORIOUS day that was.

                                                        2. Somewhat off topic: I love to eat hoagies when I get them, but to me, there is nothing better than a good hoagie which spends the night in my refrigerator and gets eaten the next day. The cold seems to firm everything up and gives the oil time to soak deep into the roll. Is it just me, or do others like hoagies that way?

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: iamzorba

                                                            I do enjoy a cold hoagie, however I don't know that I prefer it after a day in the fridge. The main problem for me is the bread gets a little too hard, and it's a little dry from any toppings that were wet. It's definitely not enough to ruin the hoagie for me, however I think I slightly prefer it fresh over one day in the fridge. Just my opinion.

                                                            1. re: tzanghi

                                                              Not a day in the fridge -- just overnight.

                                                              1. re: tzanghi

                                                                I guess I'm pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to great hoagies. I think they are at their best as soon as they are made. Refrigerating them will bring the temperature down to 37-39 degrees. At that temp. the ingredients are not a peak flavor and the individual flavor of meat and cheese tend to marry. Also the veggies are no longer at peak. As I got older I would watch carefully the assembly of the best hoagies. Invarible, some bread was torn out of the roll and some EVOO sprinkled on.Just my opinion. Remember when the Hog Island shipyard worker at these it was lunchtime so the hoagie was at room temp. That's when one of those puppies was unwrapped the aroma of all that good stuff would fill the area. A cold sandwich does not relese much aroma. That aroma is what got the attention of my Irish ancesters (and the the non Italian worker) attention.

                                                            2. I was born in Philly 71 years ago. Grew up in Fishtown on Mercer St and played in string bands. I grew up on hoagies. When I was a kid most of the older adults (grandparents) still called them Hoggies after the Hog Island shipyard workers that brought the sandwiches for lunch. Here is what an authentics hoagie consists of: Great Italian rolls, good quality extra virgin olive oil, good red wine vinegar, oregano (sprinkled on the onion that is added last with salt and pepper, then the oil then vinegar) meats all thinly sliced--prosciutto, capicola, genoa salami, then provolone cheese. ripe tomato preferable roma. Then lettice 1/4' shred,then, yellow onion sliced paper thin, piled high. I was so young when I first started eating hoagies I don't know if the hoagie peppers were offered or not. I like them (Haddon House is good). If used they go on the tomatoes. Usually some bread was torn out of the inside of the roll so you could get you mouth around it. I you plan to research the original cheese know that it was NOT made with Chez Wiz.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                Thanks for the great memories.. I can almost taste the sandwich as you describe it. It is interesting to see how some tastes have changed, most notably vinegar being the exception on the rule.

                                                                1. re: cwdonald

                                                                  From Fishtown (Kensington) we moved to Haverford Twp. My Dad got the hoagies out there from a shop on Manoa Rd named Joe's Hoagie Shop. I can still remember how great that place smelled. Olive oil, vinegar and freshly sliced onions. Years later I attended the Restaurant School on Walnut Ave just up from the U. Penn campus. A little shop names Lee's, he had many stores in and around Philly, made authentic hoagies. Man could I woof one down now.

                                                                  1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                    The Lee's on Walnut St in West Philly is still there. These are franchises, but the original location on Cheltenham Ave is still there, albeit under different ownership I believe.

                                                                    1. re: barryg

                                                                      Lee's on Walnut is a gold mine. While attending the Reataurant School (Walnut Hill College) I would go there at least twice a week. There was a Wawa in Cherry Hill that had great hoagies. When I played in the Dick Crean-Joe Burke String Band we would always have a cooler full of hoagies. Not sure where they came from but it would have been in the Bridesburg area.

                                                                      1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                        Not sure when you moved from the area, but Wawa hoagies have gone way, way downhill. Avoid on your next visit. Lee's hasn't changed much that I can detect in the past 15 years but there is variation by location.

                                                                        1. re: barryg

                                                                          As the old saying goes, "Nothing stays the same, it gets better or worse". Sorry to here about Wawa but I'm sure there are many great places to get REAL hoagies. I left the area in 1993 and now live in SC almost into Ga. The bread situation in the South is grim. Very hard to get authentic old world bread. The Philly foods I miss the most are the hoagies, chesse steaks and great fried oysters like Kelleys on Mole St. had. You have to have Count size oysters and they are very hard to come by in these parts.

                                                                      2. re: barryg

                                                                        My fave used to be Lee's "Cheltenham", that we'd pick up from Lee's in Cheltenham on the way downna ball bark. Made a tremendous mess in our laps when we sat in our seats and ate 'em -- you probably could smell those suckers 3 rows back, and even on our clothes on the subway ride back to Fern Rock. We have a Lee's franchise near us now, and it just ain't the same.

                                                                        Primo's is good, but I am not a fan of the seeded roll.

                                                                        NO MAYO!!! Sharp provolone, good thin-sliced Italian meats, O & V, with S,P & O. Onions, sliced real thin, tomato & shredded lettuce, maybe some pepper rings, but always the pepper relish, on the hoagie, with extra on the side. If the hoagie is wrapped really tight, the flavors get pushed into the bread, and that's heaven.

                                                                  2. re: captmorgan40

                                                                    God bless you, that is how ANY Italian submarine, hoagie, grinder...etc. should be made. Mustard, mayo, cheese whiz, in fact any yellow cheese, roast beef, turkey or any other non-Italian meats are all blasphemy. I never been to Philly, but I been to a bunch of sandwich shops, and all the greatest subs have the same stuff on them. There was an especially wonderful Philly style hoagie shop in Venice, CA when I was a kid, and their cold hoagies fit this recipe to a T. There was also a shop years later (the 1980's) who imported all their stuff from Philly, including some kind of potato chips (which I forget the name now) and their hoagies were almost identical. The place where most Kommiefornia restaurants mess up is using some local bakery''s foul example of a "hoagie roll". To dumb asses in CA, that means a sort of long shaped (but never more that 6") roll, with an artificial (dye?) brown outside, combined with a disgusting Wonder Bread squishy interior. Some places can take perfectly good ingredients, like nice, crisp fried oysters, put them on crappy CA bread and call it a po-boy. It's 99% bread, and the rest knowledge of what you are trying to make...Italian cold cuts can be had anywhere in the good ol' US of A.

                                                                    1. re: 7echo

                                                                      After all these blog I got so hungry for an authentic I just had to have one. That meant a 45 minute trip to Augusta Ga to a gourmet shop to get the imported meats and provolone. Boars Head is very good but I'm a perfectionist. Publix bakes some really good hoagie rolls so I bought them there. An authentic hoagie can be made anywhere but you have to follow the original recipe that has been given in the blog. Wash it down with a good beer. Heaven!!!!!

                                                                  3. I'm from South Jersey, 8 miles from Camden, thus about 10 from Philadelphia.

                                                                    My comment is that I don't understand how Subway stays in business in this area since their sandwiches in no way resemble a good hoagie.

                                                                    'Do you want bell pepper and black olives on that?'

                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                      I beleive the answer to that is the diversity of their menu. I don't know what Subway calls the sandwich there but here they call it an Italian Sub. Anyone in your area that would buy one really doesn't like a true Hoagie. I have not been in a Subway in years even though we have only 6 restaurants in our little town, 3 are chains and Subway is one of them..

                                                                      1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                        I know plenty of people that like and appreciate real hoagies but stil eat Subway. For most people around here, Subway is just a sandwich, not a hoagie. The reasons Subway is stil successful in the Phila area are:

                                                                        1) Their "healthy" campaign works. You can order a sandwich at Subway and be assured that the calorie count comes in reasonable, something that can be done at a mom and pop shop if you order carefully, but people associate Subway with healthy/weight loss due to the marketing. Even if they come into Subway and order something piled high with meat and cheese that is not on the low fat menu, in their head they are still at a "healthy" restaurant.
                                                                        2) Price: Subway is usually cheaper than a good local hoagie shop. Though often you are getting what could be two meals at the local place, and quality is usually higher, a $5 is still a pretty good deal.
                                                                        3) Speed/Convenience: No need to call ahead and the sandwiches are made fast. Too many mom and pop shops are slow to make a sandwich, don't have efficient customer flow, don't take credit cards, or close early.

                                                                        1. re: barryg

                                                                          You are 100% right about why Subway is so successful. On startup of the franchise it was one of the fastest growing in years. Getting back to the original question of what makes the Philadelphia hoagie different I've learned something after talking with folks from around the Northeast that have lived in Italian communities. What makes the Philly hoagie is basically the name. The Italian immigrants were making the sandwich where ever they lived. But we all know the origin of "hoagies" came out of Hog Island Ship Yard. The sad part is over the years outside of Philly (like by the time you get to Delaware or Northeastern Pa) It's hard to find an authentic. hoagie. I have eaten some pretty good Italian Subs in Northeastern WVa around the Fairmont, Clarksburg, Morgantown area. Way back, Italian imigrants came there to work in the mines. What they do have in that area is a fantastic sandwich called a Pepperoni Roll. It's made with Italian bread dough folled out, slices of not to thin pepperoni placed on the dough and then rolled up and baked. To serve, the roll is hinge cut, filled with roasted either hot or mild Italian peppers in marinara sauce (preferably Olivari brand) topped with a pile of good mozzerella cheese and popped in the oven until the cheese is completely melted. This seems to be a regional thing because your won't find it 30 miles out of the area. Ever heard on them in South Philly.

                                                                          1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                            Captmorgan: I'll agree on one point: Philly owns the rights to the Hog Island hoagie (see my 2/2/12 post above). It is a regional specialty that cannot be duplicated elsewhere as the total exceeds the sum of its parts. All must be made here and only here by people who appreciate and understand.
                                                                            As for Subway, I have patronized once and only once since their funky smelling premier shop opened in the late 1980s in NE Philly. Using my introductory coupon, untrained teenage counter assistant put chunks of raw chicken in my sub and microwaved it for 15 seconds. I did not discover this until I unwrapped it at home. An immediate call to HQ got me a few more coupons for more of the same. No wonder Jared lost so much weight. He never went back. And neither have I.
                                                                            P.S. And I raise my glass to you, Captmorgan, and all who remember the exquisite oysters at Kelly's on Mole St. It was a frequent Sunday dinner destination of early childhood along with Hespe's, the John Bartram Hotel, the Warwick Hotel Sunday buffet, Fisher's (on N. Broad St.), the Pub Tiki and the Vesper Club. Memories.....

                                                                      2. re: FrankJBN

                                                                        I'd eat a Wawa hoagie before I'd get an "Italian" from a Subway again (and that's sayin' something because I'm no longer a fan of the Wawa hoagie)

                                                                        we were in the airport in Vegas two years ago, starved had to eat something quickly before the flight boarded so my husband and I split an "Italian" from Subway...
                                                                        Subway is exactly the opposite of everything that an Italian Hoagie from any decent sandwich or pizza place in Philadelphia is!

                                                                        1. re: cgarner

                                                                          Doesn't it boggle your mind that Subways survives in the Philadelphia area? I worked with a guy who ate Subway sandwiches at least three times a week for lunch. To get from the office to the Subway he passed at least three independent places with good to excellent hoagies.

                                                                          No accounting for taste I guess?

                                                                          1. re: gaffk

                                                                            My town is sandwich deficient. The chains--including Subway--are just about the only game in town.

                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                              But I'll bet you can get good chili and TexMex. Try finding that around here.

                                                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                                                Yeah, every place has its strengths and weaknesses. Every place but Duluth. ;)

                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                  Duluth: love it or loathe it, you can never leave it or lose it.

                                                                      3. Grew up in Delaware County.. extreme SE PA. Back when I was a kid (in 1492), Chester was actually a CITY... with businesses... now it's a battleground.

                                                                        Dicostanza's started on 3rd street. Remember going with Dad to get hoagies. Mama Dicostanza would always slice off something to snack on... I always hoped for a PAPER THIN slice of provolone. Remember her drizzling GOOD olive oil out of a gallon can with tiny hole poked in the corner... and a liberal shake od "dry" stuff... oregano!?! They moved to somewhere in the Claymont, DE area in 70's for a while. There's be a HUGE line of people waiting every weekend.

                                                                        Worked for a few years at an alternative school in Chester not long ago. EVERY Friday, as I was getting ready to leave school, would call Phil & Jim's in Parkside to put in my order for a "special, everything sweet, hot peppers on the side". After 2-3 calls, they started recogniziing/expecting my voice.

                                                                        Think one of the most important things in a good hoagie just might be the BREAD!?! Not too crusty, chewy center. They'd start by liberally drizzling bread with olive oi. Then piled high with VERY THIN slices of genoa salami, ham, cappicola, provolone. Topped off with TORN (not shredded) lettuce, THIN sliced tomatoes, Sweet peppers (San Del, I think from a huge gallon jar) and thin sliced dill pickles... that was the "everything sweet". A handful of hot San Del peppers wrapped up in a little hunk wax paper. NO mayo or vinegar, EVER! They'd do something on request called wrapped "to travel". All the meat & cheese on bread. Everything else laid out on foil and bundled up so it just sat inside sandwich. When ya got where ya wanted to be, ya just dumped all that goodness out onto sandwich. Vividly remember driving to VT/NH with friends to go skiing. I bought hoagies the night before... stashed in car trunk when we threw everything in to pack. We left WAY before dawn to miss the NJ Parkway traffic... hoagies would been GONE by 8am if they'd been IN the car. We get to our destination and meet other firends... you guys smell like HOAGIES!!

                                                                        Used to be a place in Toby Farms (Brookhaven, PA) called Wojies. Excellent hoagies and cheese steaks. This guy packed up and went to Arizona or Nevada and I understand he made a KILLING. Seems a LOT of transplanted/retired Philly area people out there who missed an area staple. He had THE bread shipped in daily.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: kseiverd

                                                                          What was "a special"? I remember capicola being the primary meat in one.

                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                            A "regular" pretty much just a ham sandwich on a long roll? At Phil & Jim's ya can even get proscuitto on a hoagie.

                                                                        2. The rolls. Every other ingredient can be had anywhere.

                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                            That sharp Italian provolone can't be had in California and elsewhere I suspect. I took hoagies from a place in Reading Terminal Market (Rocky's? Now Carmen's) to the suburbs where I was taking a class and on my flight out to Columbus, OH. The cheese made the sandwich for me.

                                                                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                              I did not know sharp provolone was a regional product. Maybe its there but just not being used in hoagies.

                                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                                How common are Italian salumi in southern California?

                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  I have never lived on the West coast so I don't know. I guess those of us near Philly & NY City just get used to great Italian food and think the ingredients are available everywhere. I guess "spoiled" is the word I am looking for.

                                                                              2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                Love the Reading Terminal. There is a difference between imported Provolone and domestic. The imported has a bit of an "edge" to it and a more robust flavor. I wouldn't call it sharp just more flavorable. Is Bassett's still serving great ice cream in the Terminal?

                                                                                1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                                  When I got back to Berkeley after my trip, I tasted provolones at The Cheese Board, which seems to have just about anything you would want, and my favorite Italian Deli. All paled in comparison to what I had in Philly. They just didn't have that tang and I have since given up.

                                                                                  The one comparable provolone I had was at a restaurant that "imported" it from Wisconsin.

                                                                                  If I ever get back to Philly, the 1st thing I will have will be a hoagie with that cheese.

                                                                                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                    As a little kid I remember going down to South Philly and walking down the streets off Two St. The stores had all thse meats and cheeses hanging in windows and often outside. The aroma was incredible. If you weren't hungry before you got there, it sure didn't take long to get hungry. Those days are gone. Sad.

                                                                                    1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                                      I never got further south than Gino's and Pat's (Passayunk?), but I thought there were still places like you describe in the heart of South Philly.

                                                                                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                        Not on "Two St" (2nd St) but on 9th St in the Italian Market, sure (north of Pats and Genos). Well nobody is hanging their meats and cheeses outside anymore. There are still some old school shops on the 1500 block of Ritner too.

                                                                                  2. re: captmorgan40

                                                                                    Yep, Bassett's is still churning it out.

                                                                                  3. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                    I've recently seen it in west Texas. Of all places.

                                                                                2. Anyone who answers question 3 correctly (hint: the answer is NO) and finds himself/herself in Providence should check out the Sandwich Hut on North Main St and order either the Allitalia or Deluxe Grinder. I think you will approve. Take a look at the pictures:


                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                                                    The Sandwich Hut looks like a great place to eat but they don't have an authentic Philly Hoagie. Neither the Allitalia nor the Deluxe Grinder are true Hoagies. The roll doesn't look right either.

                                                                                    1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                                      Sorry for not being clearer. Didn't mean to claim that these were Philadelphia-style hoagies, just great Italian sandwiches that connoisseurs would enjoy. One of my regular stops when I go home to RI.

                                                                                      1. re: Bob W

                                                                                        I looked at all the pics. Great looking subs and tasty sounding menu as a whole.

                                                                                    2. re: Bob W

                                                                                      If you order the Atilla Grinder, be sure to top it with lots of Hunny.

                                                                                    3. Mayo Never
                                                                                      Vinegar Yes Red wine vinegar
                                                                                      Mortadella ,Salami Sopersatta, capicola(hot or sweet)
                                                                                      salt pepper basil and oregano Italian blend
                                                                                      Cherry peppers sliced or chopped never sweet

                                                                                      1. I agree the BREAD might be the make it or break it ingredient... it's never sliced in half, just cut partially thru and kinda squashed open. Liberal oil drizzled and nice shake of oregano as a base. The meats and cheese HAVE to be ultra thin and copious... provolone cheese, Genoa salami, cappicola, pepper ham, etc. NO vinegar... that comes from the "sweet" pickled peppers (San del)... I always ask for some hot pepper rings "on the side" in a little packet of wax paper. If it has mayo... it's NOT a hoagie. Anything other than provolone cheese... NOT a hoagie. If it's just turkey or roast beef or tuna... it's NOT a hoagie.... just a nice sandwich on a long roll. Onions are diced... taken from same big container that can make their way onto griddle for a cheese steak. Tomatoes are thinly sliced & lettuce is NOT shredded. Once assembled the whole thing gets another drizzle of olive oil before it's cut in half and wrapped in "hoagie paper".

                                                                                        1. A good italiam hoagie must have Meats including capicola, helmans mayo, sweet peppers, oil, oregano, provolone cheese, black pepper along with lettuce & tomatoes on italian roll. I want one right now! I hate when I'm asked do I want lettuce & tomatoes....I want a hoagie, not a sandwich!

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: ruthjones

                                                                                            Welcome to Chowhound, however, if you want respect on this board get rid of your need for mayo on a hoagie.
                                                                                            it is anathema !

                                                                                            1. re: ruthjones

                                                                                              No mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, blue or cheddar cheese, aioli, basil leaves, cilantro etc

                                                                                              Add any of those and it stops being a legit hoagie.

                                                                                              Its a sandwich, maybe tasty, but not in the style of a Phila hoagie.

                                                                                              1. re: ruthjones

                                                                                                Obviously you are not a true Philly Hoagie connoisseur. A jar of any mayo should be kept a block away from a real hoagie joint. GO EAGLES!!!!

                                                                                                1. re: captmorgan40

                                                                                                  Lord NO, little oil & Vinegar to draw down the S/P/Oreg but never Mayo.