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Tommy DiNic's... disappointed! What happened?

I am a long time fan of DiNic’s… maybe I should say I WAS a long time fan… going back YEARS… love the seasonings on their roast pork… love the roll, love the ‘just right’ sharpness of the provolone… love the SIZE of the sandwich) always shared… so save room for dessert.

I took my daughter to the RTM this weekend, I hadn’t been there in far too long, it seems.

We waited for a couple of seats at the counter and were waited on immediately.

The servers seemed to be mostly young, cute college girls… VERY friendly
Which was nice… but I suddenly started to feel like a tourist
Roast pork, rabe, provolone, we’re sharing, two drinks

First impression: not as big as I remember
Second Impression: Did I forget to ask for the extra ‘jus’, did I forget that? Was I supposed to ask? Clearly I don’t remember and this was… well kinda dry

Third: broccoli rabe was basically raw… so was the garlic on it… which due to the fact that there was very little meat on the sandwich totally overwhelmed the flavor of the whole thing

My daughter pushed the broccoli off her half of the sandwich, took a few bites and asked if it was okay that she NOT finish, so that she can save stomach room for "something better"
(shock/horror rushed over me!)
she was right though... the meat was as good as I remember, but the whole experience was disappointing.

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  1. I dunno, I've had that sandwich once years ago and my experience was pretty similar to yours. I've never felt the urge to repeat it.

    1. I had that sandwich a couple of years ago and while mine wasn't at all dry, the rabe and garlic were just as you described. The meat portion was fine. I have no desire to repeat that lunch.

      1. +2 on disappointing DiNics! With many comments here suggesting the pork sandwich instead of a Philly steak I was curious and gave it a try. It must be said this was not done in defense of the steak sandwich which i can take or leave depending upon how it hits my taste. My two a year will not make or break any sandwich shop or give me the credibility to have my comments strongly considered. Interestingly I found the same issues as posted here. I like pork, so the pork was ok the rest of the sandwich was discarded. Oh well perhaps too much hype and too little attention to what got them where they are in the Philly food pantheon.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bacchus101

          I was thinking that maybe the "Best sandwich in America" award was something of a detriment to the place. I don't ever remember raw garlic/broccoli on mine and they were always dripping wet and overflowing with pork.

          I hope the same hasn't happened to John's Roast Pork
          I think this calls for a visit to teach my daughter what a good roast pork sandwich really is (aside from home made anyway)

          1. re: cgarner

            I definitely have heard the dry complaint before and always suggest you order it wet or extra au jus.

            The raw garlic/rabe there is no excuse. My only comment might be that they are not as good at consistency during periods of higher volume. No excuse, but perhaps it might be better during the week?

            1. re: cgarner

              Can't comment on the DiNic's, it's been too long since I had one. But, rest assured, John's is as good as always. It's walking distance from my house, so I'm there more than I should be.

              1. re: SP1

                Sometimes I think it's probably a good thing that I live in the 'burbs... otherwise I'd be as big as a house

          2. A couple things- "Best Sandwich in America" caused the popularity to skyrocket to lines wrapped around the place like I'd never seen before.
            The bread changes, but I've never had a bad roll.
            No excuse for the rabe and raw garlic.

            John's is a wetter sandwich, but I'd never expect DiNic's to be dry.

            Not good!

            1. Ugh, raw garlic...nothing I hate (and can't digest) more than that.

              Sad to hear. It's been a few years since I've been to DiNics myself so I guess I'll just take note to avoid in the future.

              1. l always get the pulled pork not the sliced pork, get it 'wet, wet, wet' as Tommy's kid taught me and get spinach not rabe as felt rabe was as you described.
                Good sandwich but nowhere near my fave in Philadelphia.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  I too always order it wet and with spinach, and if I do so it's really good. Admittedly the rabe is an acquired taste.

                  1. re: bluehensfan

                    When the roast pork first came onto the scene in Philly, oh, about 20 years ago, it came with spinach.
                    Not many people even knew what rabe was, certainly not me!
                    I prefer rabe, because I can eat it for breakfast, but enjoyed the heck out of my John's pork with spinach last time I was there.

                    1. re: monavano

                      I grew up eating rabe... I never heard of having roast pork with spinach till these sandwich shops started doing it
                      LOL
                      Next think someone’s going to tell me that the chicken cutlet Italian at Tony Luke’s on Oregon avenue isn’t as good as I remember either!

                      1. re: monavano

                        Roast pork sandwiches have been around MUCH longer than 20 years in Philly. According to their own website, DiNic's (in some form or another) has been selling sandwiches since the 1950s. And John's claims to have been serving it since the 1930's.

                        Personally, I remember eating roast pork (and beef) sandwiches out of Nicolosi's (Di Nic's) butcher shop on 7th & Reed when I was a child in the '70s and I'm sure my dad was eating them before that. After that, they tried a stint on Passyunk & Reed Sts (where Rita's is now) but it didn't last.

                        As for rabe vs spinach, I never saw rabe offered until Tony Luke started doing it in the 80s/90s. It was always spinach. Personally, I prefer it without any greens (or cheese) and take it with a few hot peppers.

                        1. re: Philly Ray

                          It was about 20-25 years ago when that sandwich came into the general zeitgeist.
                          It won Best of Philly at Frusco's.

                          I grew up eating roast pork and beef sandwiches, too.
                          Hot meat and jus on a kaiser roll can't be beat.

                          Did you really have roast pork with sharp provolone and greens way back then?
                          I must have missed out.

                          1. re: monavano

                            My memory (outside of home) was a window on the Italian Market
                            I don't recall the rabe being sold on the pork at the Italian Market, but I think they did have provolone
                            I have no idea whose sandwich shop it was, but I do remember them being delicious :-) and I think they also had soffrito and tripe there too

                            1. re: cgarner

                              Maybe it was there all that time in S. Philly and gradually made it up to the NE where I was!

                              To be honest, I bought this "Best of Philly" sandwich because it was... the "best of", and thought is was really weird- didn't quite enjoy it like a cheesesteak.

                              Boy, have I come around since then!

                              1. re: cgarner

                                That was probably Willie's, which I think was on Christian St.

                              2. re: monavano

                                I don't remember *anyone* having sharp provolone or rabe back then. It was only spinach and/or mild provolone.

                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                  The sharp was reserved for antipasti platters on special occasions.

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Exactly. I meant that I never saw it on sandwiches.

                                    My dad always kept a piece of sharp provolone around the house and he only ate it with pepperoni and lupini or fava beans. I never liked it because it smelled like feet. Even the sharp provolone you get today isn't the same.

                                2. re: monavano

                                  I'm going to derail my own thread, but what ever happened to those little taverns in the Northeast that used to sell RALLY GOOD roast beef sandwiches at the bar?

                                  1. re: cgarner

                                    I moved away quite a few years ago, but Nick's Roast Beef was a great dive.
                                    Hot roast beef on kaiser was everywhere growing up-bars, restaurants, diners, every family event and of course, "Beef and Beers"

                                    1. re: monavano

                                      'I moved away quite a few years ago, but Nick's Roast Beef was a great dive.'

                                      Still is.

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          The original at 20th and Jackson in South Philadelphia.

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            Oh, ok- I've only been to the Nick's in NE.

                        2. I'm probably in the minority, but I'd rather have the rabe and garlic closer to raw than way overcooked. I've been to a few sandwich places and had to pull the rabe off because it was cooked down to bitter brownish-green mush.

                          That said, I've always preferred John's to DiNic's. I think that the popularity explosion has hurt John's less and the quality hasn't slipped.

                          1. FWIW, I stop by DiNic's a few times a year and have never been disappointed, pre- or post-award, with the roast pork or brisket... it's always been the same guys working the prep area.

                            Call me nuts but I find John's to be really blah--too wet, too bland, large quantity but not worth eating.

                            Tony Luke's roast pork Italian is consistently delicious with bread that's just a tad crusty but not doughy, and plenty of flavor with the sharp and rabe. Spinach is the fallback there when the rabe runs out.

                            Maybe you could make a trip to Paesano's, that should cure the blues.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: SteveK

                              SteveK I'm not going to call you nuts, we all have different likes and dislikes
                              I like the meat at DiNic's but I do like the roll at John's better (Sarcone's roll maybe?)

                              I never knew Tony Luke for cheesesteaks by the way, I always knew TL's for either chicken cutlet (my fave) or the pork (which is good...)

                              1. re: cgarner

                                I'm fairly certain that John's uses bread from Carangi's Bakery (12th & Oregon).

                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                  Excellent bread-had it at Di Nic's once.