Our local Tour De Italian Deli 2.0 happened the other day, and I will refer you to the excellent and very detailed write up on the Fussy Little Blog with analysis of the sub sandwiches we tried. But here’s what that post doesn’t mention: only six tasters showed up for our Italian subs, compared to two dozen or more for other Fussy tours, and one of them didn’t really count because she had no teeth and couldn’t talk.
I had already sensed a worrisome trend when I was unable to find a jar of Pastene Crushed Peppers to bring to the event (local brand Casa Visco was a fine substitute, except that the jar was smaller and more expensive). Could it be, for health reasons or some other ridiculous excuse, these behemoths of the deli counter are declining in popularity? Is something terribly wrong in Italian Sub Land? Let’s hope not.
I wanted to calibrate my tasting experience against the best local submarine sandwich, so a couple of days after the tour I stopped by Roma Importing in Saratoga Springs for the Italian Mix shown above. The ingredients are nothing special. Cittero Genoa Salami, Boar’s Head (sic) Capicola and BelGioso sharp provolone on a nice puffy roll. But the assembly and the good Italian dressing bring it all together.
Note the multilayered presentation of the meat and cheese. Roma’s thin-slices the ingredients (each from a roll perhaps six inches in diameter), stacks them up on a plastic sheet, then rolls up that sheet to the width of the sandwich which means each product is doubled for a more profound eating experience. So much better than random meats poking out the sides of the sandwich, as its done at most places.
This October I will be across the continent in Los Angeles for a conference, and I plan to hightail it to Giamela’s in the Atwater district for their Italian Combo. It comes on a sesame roll and the meats are covered with chopped pickles, onions and tomatoes and you get spicy peppers and carrots on the side. (Read my Yelp review for essential advice on how to mod this sub to perfection.) It’s as different from Roma’s as Giotto is from Michelangelo, yet both Roma and Giamela are masters of their craft. Like the Medici, we need to cultivate them so they can continue to practice their art.
Made properly, an Italian style submarine sandwich is an everyman’s treat that should be enshrined, not eschewed. The balance of roll, protein and vegetable add up to a complete meal in your hand. Hopefully our hot summer is responsible for the hiatus of sub lovers. I am counting on a redolent, cappy-filled fall.