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A Gonella's dilemma: was I a cheater or a genius? (DTW area)

So I had work in Dearborn at Fairlane Town Center today, which took me near enough to Gonella's that I wanted to grab one of their Italian subs today. Unfortunately for me, it was kind of mid-afternoon (well after 2PM, that's for sure) when I was on my way down there via I-75, and I started thinking to myself, "Well, am I going to be happy if I get there and the hard rolls are gone?"

The answer, of course, was "Absolutely not.", especially when taking into consideration that I was going to be driving right near Bucharest Grill where I could get a chicken shawarma sandwich which would also have done the trick.

So what did I do? I used my smartphone to call Gonella's and asked if they had any hard rolls left. The answer? Yes, they did: exactly *one* left. I asked if they would hold it for me if I could be there in 20 minutes. "Sure, buddy, what's your name?" I gave them my name and continued on to Gonella's bypassing Bucharest. Sure enough: when I got to Gonella's I was able to get my sub sandwich with the last hard roll.

I'm pretty sure that, even though the 2-3PM hour is pretty dead around there, that within 20 minutes there's a good chance that someone else may have asked for a hard roll (perhaps not, though), and because of my call, they didn't get one.

Make the call, people: industrious, or evil? Genius, or conniving? Beater-of-the-system, or Cheater-of-the-system? Defend.

One more thing: I was told that it's always fine to call ahead and check, and if they have them, they'll hold them. I'm sure that if you ever *failed* to pick it up, of course, they'd never do it for you again.

Still: that's one sandwich where the hard roll raises the grade at least a half a letter grade, and possibly one full letter grade. Worth the extra dime, for sure.

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  1. I say Genius! Something I wouldn't hesitate to do myself. If you don't get there often then you have to make yourself happy and get the sandwich you want.

    1. It is okay to call and reserve; but, if you have
      Gonella's on speed dial, we are gonna have to consider
      an intervention.

      Note to self: Whenever Gonella's claims they are
      sold-out of hard rolls, I will simply tell them that
      my name is Aron. <g>

      1. Haha, I just joined CHOW and I think I'll fit right in!

        First World Problems FTW!

        To answer the original question; nothing wrong with putting dibs on a bun! You're more on the genius side, IMO. Not quite a 10 on the geniusomometer just for calling and reserving a roll, though... XD

        1. Calling dibs on a Gonella's bun may not be cheating. But, phoning-in a Bucharest Grill order from your Tigers seat during the 8th inning is downright devious!

          1. But, don't they take custom sandwich orders by phone all day?? I've seen DTE guys go out with 20 in a box already made. Conventional is ordering the whole sandwich on the phone 5x5 is a pretty good start, and only making one transaction, plus it's ready when you arrive.

            Genius is when you told us about the Jeremy burger at the bar.

            Calling ahead for bread without filling... to a sandwich shop..not so much. Just adding noise to the system.

            Put them in your speed dial and order a sandwich next time. It will be waiting for you with a smile.

            1. Why not just go to the one in Dearborn????

              12 Replies
              1. re: momskitchen

                A little birdie (who we'll call "rainsucks" here...for anonymity, dontchaknow) told me that the Detroit location is superior to the Dearborn one, so I've never been.

                1. re: boagman

                  Never been to the Detroit one, in all my Dearborn years, the Dearborn one is very good. And then never run out of hard rolls. My guess is that they do way more business....the line is always out the door and they are only open at lunch time.

                  1. re: momskitchen

                    Can you please define "only at lunch time"? I tend to eat late lunches (due to my job) and if they're closed by 2PM, I'd like to know that.

                  2. re: boagman

                    Being a woman of science, I had to conduct my own test to determine if the Detroit location was better than the Dearborn one. And when I say Dearborn, I mean V. Gonella's on Outer Drive (the son) vs. the original one (owned by the father)on Oakwood Evidently there is now a satellite location in La Cantina Market on Telegraph. I didn't taste that. I brought a colleague familiar with both locations, and he said he original owner isn't there any longer in the Detroit location. Maybe he retired? Anyway, I tasted both sandwiches (6 and 1 on hard) back to back and they tasted exactly the same. The only difference was the price - the one on Outer Drive cost $6.75, on Oakwood it is $4.50. Outer Drive location had many, many more customers than Oakwood, which is to be expected, given the reconstruction of the Oakwood bridge and the lack of businesses nearby. Al in all, I probably spent $1.25 in gas going to the Detroit location, so I will stick with Outer Drive. Hope this helps!

                    1. re: momskitchen

                      That's...not a small difference to me. Were it a buck, I'd be right there with you. When it's over two bucks, for the *exact same thing*, I'd rather drive a few extra miles to go to the place that's offering me the better value. I might be spending the extra buck in gas, but it's the principle of the thing to me.

                      The only part of your description that makes me hesitate partially is the "And then never run out of hard rolls." thing. Also, I like the 8-layer, and if there's a $2.25 difference between the two on the 6-layer, I shudder to think of what the difference between them on the 8-layer would be.

                      Thanks for the comparison, though! I plan to try out the La Cantina Market to see if it's the same there, too, since that place and the Detroit location are both linked on the website, while the Dearborn location is not.

                      Edited to add: I took a look at a picture on Your Easy Little Perspective (link to the picture: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/v-gone...) of the "6-and-2" from V. Gonella's, and based on that picture, there is *no stinking way* that the sandwiches they serve at V. Gonella's are the same size as those at the original Gonella's on Oakwood. When I get the 8-layer (NO CHEESE!) at Oakwood, it's absolutely more than 1/2 an inch of meat...pretty darned big if I do say so myself. This picture, showing a sandwich that's a couple bucks more expensive, is far smaller in size. Not exactly a draw, in my opinion.

                      1. re: boagman

                        I took pictures of my identical 6 and 1s on hard - but I don't have time to upload them now. Eventually I will but they were indistinguishable. Maybe your 8 layer is different.

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          Okay picture time! Can you tell a difference? I can't! Except the price.

                          1. re: momskitchen

                            The Oakwood one looks super way better!

                            1. re: momskitchen

                              So what was the actual difference in the two, price-wise?

                              I agree that they're hard to distinguish one from the other, visually. There's no taste difference, eh?

                              1. re: boagman

                                No taste difference, and the price difference was $1.25....$4.50 vs. $5.75 at the Dearborn location.

                          2. re: boagman

                            I fat fingered the price - it's $5.75. The price difference is $1.75, Sorry for the cornfusion....

                            1. re: momskitchen

                              Oh! Well, that's a horse of a bit of a different color, then, isn't it? Now I'm a bit concerned about your math: according to your figures, the difference is either $1.25 or $2.25. If it's the latter, it's still *close* to two bucks, but were I in a hurry, that amount might be worth it for the quality without the extra time/drive. If it's the former, I could probably live with the $1.25 difference if it did save me 10 minutes of driving and the gas associated with it.

                              Of course, the menu price online might not be accurate, either. Your point is far more valid now, though. If the difference isn't as large as I thought it was at first, maybe it's worth going there, or at the very least, trying once.

                    2. Am not sure if you are a cheater or a genius but I need to know which location is better or are they the same? are there 3 or 2 locations? I'm confused having never been to any of the locations!

                      quoting momskitchen
                      1- V. Gonella's Outer Drive
                      2-original one on Oakwood
                      3-La Cantina Market on Telegraph

                      I only saw 2 locations listed on web:

                      is there some dramatic family feud going on or interesting story here?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Michigan Mishuganer

                        A poster on Yawn mentions that the father sold the Oakwood store to non-family member.

                        I also saw a post, I forget where, that mentioned the Outer Drive location was a franchisee/cousin of the original Oakwood Blvd store. Another post says it is his son.

                        I don't know which story to believe! <g>

                        I have eaten at both; but the visits were separated by many months. In my memory, I prefer the subs from the Oakwood Blvd location. Perhaps my memory is faulty. Perhaps it is the neighborhood charm. Perhaps it is the perfume from the nearby refinery.

                        Being a man of science, the only way to settle this is another head-to-head comparison of all three Gonellas' counters ... should we include Alcamo's in the mix? It is nearby and has at least one ardent supporter here.

                        Who wants "in" on this comparison?

                        1. re: rainsux

                          Is this the answer to the bad media Detroit gets?
                          Instead of stories about 50,000 dogs and a big cat roaming the streets,
                          Why not Gonella vs. Gonella?

                          if Oakwood is the original location, that's where I'll start!

                          1. re: Michigan Mishuganer

                            What is your general availability to participate?

                            1. re: rainsux

                              i dunno, not during the week maybe on a Saturday or next time I'm in the area.
                              web search brings this:
                              Ray Gonnella original owner of Gonella's Italian Foods and creator of Gonella's Subs died in 2010.

                              1. re: rainsux

                                I'm in...but then, you already knew that, didn't you?

                              2. re: Michigan Mishuganer

                                This is definitely *not* the answer to the bad media reports. Do you know how long it'll take for the national media to link "Stray Dog Packs Out Of Control In Detroit" with "Coney Dogs Are Detroit Institution...But What's A 'Coney Dog'?"

                                Yeah, they'll have us eating those stray dogs in *no time*.

                              3. re: rainsux

                                At work, we discussed adding Alcamo's to the mix to our tasteoff, but I've personally never been a fan and we didn't have enough time to hit all 3 places in one lunch hour. To be completely fact based, I am not sure if it is the son or the cousin that owns the one on Outer Drive, that is probably just rampant workplace rumor. If it works with my crazy schedule, I will join you for a tasteoff for lunch. Perhaps we all pick up one sandwich from each place and meet at Ten Eyck Park in Dearborn? That's where everyone I know goes to eat their Gonella's subs.... I am sure there's got to be an interesting Gonella's family story out there.

                            2. is it worth a long drive? are the sandwiches that wonderful?
                              made it to Cantoro in Livonia a few months ago, was very unimpressed by the selection, it was OK but not worth the drive & nothing like the Italian markets elsewhere.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Michigan Mishuganer

                                Michigan Mishuganer, I don't know where you live, but I can personally vouch that Ann Arbor doesn't serve a sub sandwich anywhere that rivals a Gonella's sub.

                                1. re: momskitchen

                                  I'll change that to "Washtenaw County." A real weak spot in the area.

                                  1. re: Jim M

                                    Someone on Yawn was bragging about Vinnie's (Michigan Ave location)

                                    1. re: rainsux

                                      In't Canton in Wayne County? I think JIm might be right - no good subs in all of Washtenaw County.

                                  2. re: momskitchen

                                    i am intrigued & will have to try Gonellas soon. I wonder if it's as good as east coast?
                                    they don't have spleen sandwiches on the menu either!

                                  3. re: Michigan Mishuganer

                                    Agreed that Cantoro is not that great compared to the Italian delis in NY, but for metro Detroit it's wonderful. The freshly baked bread is worth the trip there.

                                  4. Some more places to try. She does seem to urge the original Gonella's, with hard roll.


                                    Mangia, mangia!

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: Jim M

                                      She didn't even check out the other Gonella's, but it doesn't matter because they taste the same. How is Ventimiglia's? I went to high school with their clan, but never had their subs. There are FAR MORE ITALIANS on the east side than on the west, so I am thinking their sub must be better.

                                      1. re: momskitchen

                                        I'm checking out Ventimiglia's tomorrow, as I can get over there relatively easily with a job I have in Troy. I'll go to V's and eat first, and see what the what is. For $7.50, I'm expecting a darned tasty experience (I must admit that the picture in the paper looks fantastic), and I'm going to have it spicy and see how it goes, I think. Perhaps I'll try a sample of the spread first before I commit to having it on the whole shebang.

                                        On a side note, I went to La Cantina Market late last week to try the Gonella's experience there. Prices were exactly the same as the Oakwood location, and they can easily run out of hard rolls here, too. I have to say, though, that I liked it better here, and probably only because for some reason the hard roll seemed crispier on the outside (a bit more well done, maybe?) and maybe a tad bit fresher. I do know that the interior of the sandwich tasted exactly the same, but the hard roll that I had here was sublime. I even bought a second hard roll (not a sub, just the roll) for $.75 to go, and ate it later in the day. Good stuff, Maynard.

                                        One note about the Telegraph location: parking is an absolute *disaster*. The parking lot is too, too small for the way that they have it organized, and as a result, it feels really, really cramped and dangerous to be driving through, even when you're driving at 3 MPH. Plus, once you park, you honestly fear that someone's going to nail your car. It's quite bad...they probably should have just done two strips of parallel parking and been done with it.

                                        1. re: boagman

                                          Follow-up: went to Ventimiglia's today, and believe it or not, it was worth every darned cent of my $7.50 (price includes tax, by the way). I fully expected it to be quality (it definitely was), but I really didn't expect to embrace it as much as I did. I hate to say it, but I think it's appropriate to say that I've found a new high water mark for Italian subs with this sandwich, and you all *know* what a frugal twit I am.

                                          The bread on this thing (talking about the hard roll, now) is just top-notch. There's just no getting around that part of it. Apparently, it gets delivered daily from an Italian bakery somewhere in Windsor, and let me tell you: if this is an example of this bakery's abilities, I need to get myself to freaking Canada and seek this place out (they didn't do me the honor of telling me the name of the bakery, though...nuts!). Marvelous. Don't get me wrong: Gonella's hard roll is nothing to sneeze at, but this one trumps it good and proper. It might not have as crunchy an outer layer as the Gonella's hard rolls sometimes do, but the chew and the toothsome tear and the soft inner layer...yeah, this bad boy hits me where I live. Bonus: unlike the Gonella's hard roll, this baby *contains* the ingredients extremely well. No more stuff getting "pushed" back toward the outside end of the sandwich as you're eating...this puppy keeps things in their proper place. Monstrous thumbs-up for the hard roll. Worth every red cent of the $.50 upcharge for it.

                                          The ingredients themselves were also very good. In fact, I could be persuaded that if they're not even better than Gonella's, they certainly deserve to be in the same rarified air as the stuff Gonella's uses. I honestly found the meaty flavors to be a bit more pronounced, but that may be because of the spice I asked for. I chickened out a bit: I asked for a sample of the spice spread, and she gave me a bit. By itself, it was *quite* strong, and I kind of thought better of going Full Monty with it. I asked for "light spicy spread", and next time I may go for the full treatment, given that I liked the thing so well. Either way, the spiciness *does* enhance the meat flavors well, and it really does help the sandwich come together as a whole.

                                          The vegetable ingredients were fresh and lovely, just like at Gonella's. It was also put together well, by my standards. I ate it there at the patio tables on the spot, in the outdoors, and while I could have stopped after eating the first half and been plenty satisfied, I ended up eating the second half, too, since I knew it'd be sitting in a hot car, probably (turned out to be the correct move). Considering that I really was pretty satisfied with the one half of a sandwich (and I was *hungry*, folks), as well as the very high quality of the whole sandwich stem-to-stern, the $7.50 price tag isn't at all a deterrent to me, as I know that quality costs, and I'm completely willing to pay for it when it presents itself.

                                          Totally worth the trip in my estimation, and I'd drive for this thing, too. It is *so nice* to have another east side destination for lunch. This place kind of surprised me a bit, in the best possible way.

                                          1. re: boagman

                                            Saturday is "errand" day ... and I got
                                            the passport stamp necessary for a trip
                                            to the east side.

                                            Ventimiglia's makes a darned tasty
                                            italian sub. I had Gonella's sub on
                                            Monday ... so the comparison is not
                                            two-up, but at least semi-recent

                                            Hard roll: Ventimiglia's, by a small

                                            Giardiniera: Ventimiglia's has it,
                                            Gonellas does not. Not a deal breaker
                                            for me.

                                            Meats & cheese: My vote is Gonellas,
                                            by a small margin. Perhaps the
                                            Giardiniera muted the meat & cheese

                                            Bottom line? Both are darned good
                                            sandwiches. Short of doing an italian
                                            sub-crawl ... I don't think we'll ever
                                            settle this matter. <g>

                                            The errand? A trip to Nitsche's to
                                            replenish my dwindling supply of smoked
                                            tube steaks and pork chops.

                                            1. re: rainsux

                                              Next stop at Nitsche's, rain, burrow further into the near east side and sample an italian sub from Bommarito Bakery. Won't disappoint.

                                              1. re: RedTop

                                                So, I took a look at the website for Bommarito. I specifically looked at the ingredients of the Italian sub, and I've gotta tell ya: considering that the only two meats are salami and ham, I'm going to raise a bit of an eyebrow, here. Sure, there's provolone as well as the typical veggie ingredients, but two very typical-and-not-at-all-interesting meats? And that's it?

                                                Where's the capicola? Where's the mortadella? The prosciutto? Heck...even a bit of pepperoni? To me, salami and ham just ain't gonna cut it. If I'm in SCS, I'll go to Noble Pig, I think. Unless it's Monday...then I might give Bommarito a chance.

                                                1. re: boagman

                                                  Monday won't work. Bommarito is closed that day of the week. (don't honestly know of an eastside bakery open Mondays).

                                                  But I do think that Bommarito's Italian sub can measure up with Vents, or any other sub in the metro. The hard roll-base for this sandwich is terrific. And the innards have been consistent for the past 50 years. Plus there is a huge "loyalty" factor in effect for customers buying the same sub for decades.

                                                  But, as they say, YMMV...

                                              2. re: rainsux

                                                I should follow up on this, as I found out today that I'm not making a true apples-to-apples comparison, necessarily.

                                                I went back to Ventimiglia's today in order to have another one of those oh-so-wonderful subs. When I ordered my Italian Sub on a hard roll, I was watching...and the woman making the sub grabbed a roll that looked very, very different from the one I'd had the previous time. I'm sure that my poker face was in full force as she turned to me and said, "What's that look for?"

                                                I told her that I'd asked for it to be on a hard roll, and she said, "That's what this *is*." I was pensive, as clearly it was not what I'd had the time before, which I explained to her. She asked me what kind of roll I'd had the last time, and I said that it kind of looked like one of the ones in the bins right in front of the deli counter. I pointed it out to her and she told me, "That's an artisan roll. They must have been out of the hard rolls last time and substituted an artisan roll in its place. Do you want that one instead?"

                                                The answer was an unequivocal "Yes." The artisan roll is what I had both times, and I think it's a piece of magic. So, my previous review was based on this artisan roll, rather than what their standard hard roll is.

                                                That needs to be mentioned, since I was under the wrong impression. It needs to be said that this roll is a-stinking-mazing for the Italian sub. It's what I'm going to have every freaking time.

                                                So, be sure that you try the artisan roll next time. I think it's terrific.

                                                1. re: boagman

                                                  Your comments warrant a trip for us to the MJR Theater complex in Sterling Heights. That way we can fit in a stop to Vents on the way home. Been too long!

                                              3. re: boagman

                                                The bread was probably from the Italia Bakery http://viaitalia.com/2012/italia-bake...

                                                Breads are great, Italian pastries are very Italian, others are kinda lame. If you get there at the right time (11:30am?) they have fougasse right out of the oven, which is a thing to behold. They also have a mighty fine carryout buffet at lunchtime. They only take CAD, no debit/credit/USD. There's an ATM in the store.

                                              4. re: boagman

                                                I am glad that you checked out Ventimiglia's....eventually, I will get back to the HOMELAND and try it myself.

                                            2. re: Jim M

                                              Sylvia visited the original Vinnie's location ... whenever it's my
                                              go-to place for lunch when traveling to:from DTW at lunchtime.

                                              Wonderful, subtly spiced itialian sausage. I'll have to give their
                                              sub a try when I return this week.

                                              1. re: rainsux

                                                That's interesting! Was Sylvia lurking CH?
                                                She owes it all to boagman's Gonella discussion!

                                                1. re: rainsux

                                                  I may have mispoken.

                                                  I do not know, for a fact, that Sylvia actually visited. With the
                                                  photos and text, it is merely a reasonable assumption, but not a
                                                  proven fact.

                                                  1. re: rainsux

                                                    byline "by Sylvia Rector Detroit Free Press Restaurant Critic" - this implies a visit, no? Has that job outsourced too? Does someone in Bangalore go out to eat & then write the article?

                                                  2. re: rainsux

                                                    I drove right by this place while going to a job today! Had I not had Ventimiglia's for lunch, I might have been tempted!

                                                2. Not sure how you could be considered a cheater in any form of thinking about it.

                                                  Industrious? Definitely. Beater of the system? Absolutely.

                                                  But to be fair, calling ahead to reserve a roll probably isn't genius caliber activity.

                                                  Let's just say it was a very good idea and leave it at that! And with that I have to go for now and make a call.......

                                                  1. Boag -

                                                    Thanks to your post, I have been on a sub sandwich tasting bender. I will post my findings on a new thread....