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Jun 16, 2011 06:29 PM

Constructing an Italian Sandwich

I'm going to sound like an old fogie but here goes ....

When I was young an Italian Sandwich had all the toppings (along with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano) nestled BETWEEN the cold cuts and the bread. Some times the cold cut rounds were cut in half, so they'd fit better, The cut edge of the bread sort of held the diced tomatoes, etc, in place and absorbed a bit of the 'juice'. The sandwiches weren't meant to travel far, perhaps a quick trip for the shop to home .... if you carried them too long they got mushy.

NOW ... it seams no matter where I go, they slice the sub roll, lay the full circles of meat and cheese across the roll and then put the toppings on the coldcuts, so when they close it up, the toppings are surrounded by cold cuts and they slide out when you bite into it. And the juice pours out and makes a mess. I guess they are good for the "long haul" but they're no fun to eat.

Even on a braided roll, the top is rarely separated from teh bottom, it's side-sliced (like a non-New England style hotdog roll) and the toppings are cradled by the cold cuts.

It doesn't matter how high quality the bread and fillings are, if they all fall out, in my opinion it's NOT a good sandwich!!!

Am I the only one who feels this way? Can somebody tell me where to get a sandwich made the "old fashioned" way?


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  1. was the roll maybe scooped out a little like VN Banh Mi? and the roll softer? I hate things served on a kaiser for this reason. personally I think the oil and vinegar needs to be near the bread to absorb and don't mind mushy one bit.

    1. Gosh, thanks for this. Totally on your bandwagon. The vast majority of any kind of place slinging subs take little to no care in construction. It's just a total afterthought, if that. My friends think I'm OCD, but I think the whole world basically has absolutely no idea how a sandwich ought to be constructed. This is practically the most important part fer crying out loud and nobody cares ! /rant

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nab

        Right there with you. The bread->meat->toppings construction leads to the tragedy of topping slippage and is unsatisfying to eat. It's a broader sandwich construction issue, I think, not just italian subs - lots of places don't realize that the purpose of the *spread* (mustard, mayo, whatever - of course I'm talking about a turkey sub here, not an italian sandwich) is to hold the toppings in place, not to sit idly next to the meat. I do wonder if it is a regional thing - I grew up in NY and went to school near Philly and never encountered this issue until I moved to Boston.

        One place that *may* do it right - though I haven't been for a while and haven't had a sandwich there where this would be an issue - is Domenic's Paninoteca in Waltham. They use their own (fantastic) ciabatta rolls, which are flatter and more suited to a proper construction anyway, so I'd say they have potential.

      2. I understand and share your obsession, however I disagree with your construction preference. And it's likely the way each of us was introduced to it. To me, the colorful array of diced pickles, onions, tomatoes, hots, olive oil & oregano are visually appealing where I can see them, in the middle, on top of the salami slices. Then that fresh combination of flavors is the first to hit your tongue. There's an art to eating the sub so you retain most of the innards, the head tilt, etc. But if you really prefer it your way, can't you just ask them to put that stuff on the bottom? I don't see why that would be a problem. Gawd, now you have me craving an Italian.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Niblet

          Thanks to all for the responses. It's nice to know I'm not alone ....

          Niblet, I agree with the visual you present. For some reason a lot of places construct tuna subs with the 'toppings' on the bottom. Does that make them 'bottomings' rather than 'toppings'?

          My preferred Italian subs will show the toppings, think of it this way ... open the sub roll, put the coldcuts on one side (if you slice them in half so they aren't folded, and put the straight side to the middle of the sandwich, you'll get a nice 'scalloped' edge, and then put the toppings on the other side and close .... voila! toppings visible and nestled between the bread and the coldcuts.

          1. re: SPBoston

            You might like the version at J Pace & Sons near the old Martignetti's in the North End.

            1. re: Niblet

              I do like J. Pace's Italian sub. I think the meat there wraps halfway around to the top part of the bread so that there is at least partial contact of the oil/vinegar-soaked veggies with the bread itself.

        2. Folks, SPBoston is looking for a place to find this type of sandwich in Boston, so we'd ask everyone to keep general conversation about what an ideal Italian sandwich should be over on the General Chowhounding Topics board (feel free to start a new thread there) and focus here on where to find this kind of sandwich locally. Thanks!

          1. YES ... The Italiano @ Casa Razdora is made old school .... Mortadella, Soppressata, Genoa Salami, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles, Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Hot Peppers ... The coldcuts are sliced to order and the bread is homemade ... it is on 115 Water Street in the financial district. You will not be disappointed !

            Casa Razdora
            115 Water St, Boston, MA 02109