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Feb 3, 2012 09:49 PM

East Coast Subs - Where to Find or How to Recreate

I lived in NJ for a while, enough to discover all their treasures (subs, bagels, great chinese, etc.). I was reading Super Bowl food recs and got a hankering for a East Coast type sub. I remembering not being able to eat Subway for 10 years after I had relocated from NJ. I'm wondering if there is a place where you could get NJ/NY type subs in the Bay Area, preferably the East Bay. If not, how would you recreate one. I think I remember shredded lettuce and then oil and vinegar w/ salt & pepper. Where would you get the right bread and where's a good deli for meat? Help me with this craving!

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  1. Grinders Submarine Sandwiches in Oakland's Montclair district is said to have East Coast type subs. it is on my to try list, so can't say The owner is suposed to be a sub nazi which is why they yelp reviews only give it 3 1/2 stars. He gets marked down for attitude

    I think that Rotten City Pizza does the closest to an East Coast meatball sub than anything else i've tried.

    i had a lovely sandwich in Napa at the Crossroads Chicken truck that reminded me of an East Coast sub because it was nicely toasted in their wood oven ... the ingredients though had nothing to do with the East Coast. I tried to talk him into making meatball subs because in that oven, I bet they'd be wonderful.

    But I digress. For cold cuts i'd go to an Italian deli such as Geneva or Zarri's. Roll ... can't think of a good East Coast type.

    11 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        You mean Genova in Oakland, right? They'll definitely do an Italian-style sandwich with shredded lettuce, oil and vinegar, but I'm not sure if you can get a soft roll.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I've found their sweet, wheat, and Dutch Crunch to all be soft rolls. The sweet roll is probably closest to the East Coast sub roll.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I love Genova and they do have soft rolls, but their sandwiches are a different breed of animal from a Philadelphia hoagie. To me the big difference is that the provolone we have out here is no where near as sharp.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              100% agree. I've never had that sharp hard provolone outside of Philly, and it's key to some of their best sandwiches.

              1. re: sugartoof

                I have only tasted sharp provolone here to rival what I had in Philly once. They added a similar provolone to a sandwich (brisket?) and it came from somewhere in the Midwest (Wisconsin?).

                I'm thinking you could approach the sandwiches I had from Rocco's? at the Reading Public market with Piave though.

              2. re: chocolatetartguy

                We have both sweet and sharp provolone in our supermarkets in CT. I'm surprised they're not both available out there. It does make a difference in the sandwiches as others have said.

                1. re: DavidA06488

                  You can get sharp Provolone around here, but most sub shop-type places have only the mild industrial stuff.

                  1. re: DavidA06488

                    I'm sure you can find it for sale, but when you say provolone in the Bay Area, it means slices from a round log.

                    Places like Dinic's in Philly will hand carve pieces from a hard crumbly brick, that melts into a creamy cheese, almost like something you would put into a fondue.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Yes Dinic's is exactly like I mean. After returning from my Philly trip, I tried to find a like cheese at Cheeseboard and Genova Deli and then gave up.

            2. Boccalone Salumeria in Ferry building has decent meats and bread, cheese at Cowgirl next door, vegetables on site as well. Buy a crushed hot pepper spread, lettuce tomatoes, onions, and good olive oil and you should be good to go.

              1. Gambino's, Embarcadero Center.
                My choice #19. If I remember correctly it was fresh mozzarella.

                15 Replies
                1. re: wolfe

                  Fresh mozzarella automatically disqualifies it. it might taste great but it is Californication.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Nothing against mozzarella. I'm just saying you are not getting the fresh type of mozzarella in an East Coast sub.

                        1. re: stanbee

                          Boy I hope that white stuff isn't fresh mozzarella.
                          Piccolo's Pizza and Liquors, 913 Main St, Paterson NJ 07503
                          Oh and i think those are seeds on top. Never say never.

                        2. re: rworange

                          Being an east coaster that is not always the case. The finer Italian shops use fresh mozz on the subs or grinders if you ask for mozz. Your everyday pizza shop might not use it, but a quality Italian deli, panini, sandwich shop is. Especially a parm wedge, sub, grinder, hero whatever you call it. :)

                          But I hear what you are saying, that great sub from your local shop has thinly sliced sharp provolone.

                            1. re: AdamD

                              My East Coast days predate the finer Italian shop trend. It was just the Italian families in town using humble ingredients and achieving grinder greatness. They served working class families and the food had better be tasty or there would be none of those hard-earned dollars spent.

                        3. re: rworange

                          Depends on the sandwich. Philly goes for hard sharp provolone, but in NY it's common to see fresh mozzarella. A Jersey sandwich would probably be in between those two traditions.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Fresh mozzarella is popular nowadays, but it's not a common part of a hero in NY. I'd never heard of fresh mozzarella until the mid-90s. It's still common to get a caprese salad in NY that's served with Polly-o cheese.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              It only became a food trend in the 90's, but Dipalo, Joe's Dairy, Russo's, Alleva, Casa Della Mozzarella, Caputo's Mastellone's, Esposito's and an endless list of others have made fresh mozzarella as long as they've been open.

                              Defonte's, and Parisi didn't just add it to sandwiches in the 90's.

                              Many places use Polly-O curds as their preference to stretch into Mozzarella balls.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                I'm not saying fresh mozzarella didn't exist in NYC's specialty shops and the places with more traditional Italian ingedients. The best of the best in NY might have had fresh mozzarella on their menus for decades, but this was and still is hardly the norm, especially outside NYC proper.

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  On an old school Italian sandwich like a grinder/hoagie/hero?
                                  Fresh Mozz has always been an option.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    Where, outside of NYC, did you get a grinder/hoagie/hero with fresh mozzarella on it before it became popular in the 90s?

                                    I checked the websites of a few places I used to get sandwiches at on Long Island. All are closed but two, and neither have fresh mozzarella in their hot or cold heroes. And that's within 50 miles of NYC. Go further away, and it's less common. You won't find it on the menu at Dibella's (founded 1918) in upstate NY, arguably the best sub I've ever eaten, and now a small chain:

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      We're getting off topic for this forum, but New Jersey has some of the freshest mozzarella in the US, where they will roll it to order, and hand it to you before it's cooled. Despite your own personal exposure they didn't wait until the 90's to add it to sandwiches.

                                      Also, we're talking about different sandwiches.
                                      SF has some sub shops.

                      1. I grew up in northern delaware. We had subs. My high school had a sub fundraiser - subs were the local food. The closest you'll get around here is going to an italian deli (which have been closing, but there's still some of the old ones left - Genova on Telegraph) and get oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, on an "italian" (god forbid, no mayo, mustard is suspect). Especially if they add peppers ("pickled" peppers, not green peppers). A subway sub asked for the same way is not entirely out of the question, and what I order when I'm in that mood. There used to be an italian deli near the corner of 40th and Piedmont where the guy would light up when I ordered that, and make a good one, but that deli's been gone over a decade. The bread is essentially the same as you'd use for a cheesesteak, and the old italian delis have it as the default bread. Good luck!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: bbulkow

                          I agree with the old style Italian deli being essential. Places likee Boccalone Salumeria might have fabulous cold cuts but the taste profile is different.

                          Now depending on where you were on the East Coast, I don't think the bread is the same here. The good places in Connecticut often had a denser crumb to hold up to the olive oil and vinegar,.

                          The bread here is made for mustard and mayo type condiments.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Boccalone's Italian sausage panino with onions and pickled peppers might hit the spot for someone craving a grinder, but I think that's a different East Coast regional tradition than the cold cuts with lettuce, oil, and vinegar. Cosentino's from Rhode Island. Pastore's also from New England.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              God no ... grinder to me is Connecticut and for that region ... no.

                              A Connecticut grinder is different from a Massachusets sub.

                              The NJ version has a variation too, but I found it close to CT.

                              Boccalone' sounds good though. Will give it a try.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                The OP is talking about a “Jersey-style” sub, and though I’d gladly trade a few of the best of them from here at the Shore for a trip to Boccalone’s right now, rw’s correct* – that ain’t the meat your looking for on a sub. Frankly, most of the better Jersey shops use Boar’s Head which might even be available at a Safeway or other supermarket (at least they are on the East Coast).

                                bbulkow seems to have identified the correct bread – it’s a bit soft. As to toppings, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomatoes and onions, ground black pepper, thin red wine vinegar, and inexpensive olive oil are the standards. Pickled, sliced cherry peppers would have to be requested.

                                (It’s sort of funny to be longing for what I’d be eating out there and stumble upon someone there longing to eat something so easy to grab here.)

                                *rw’s also correct about the mozzarella – provolone would be the proper cheese, and not a very sharp one either.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              From the menu, I’d say that ham makes it a bit fancy. Without the roasted red peppers, however, it’s close.