Nearly as soon as I walked through the door, one of my housemates was grilling me. “Sandwich trivia!” he bellowed. “I need sandwich trivia!”
“Whatever for?” I meekly replied.
“Why sandwiches?” I asked. His eyes gleamed maniacally, “Why not?”*
That got me thinking, and, like always happens when I think, made me hungry. For a sandwich. An old school sandwich. Not some vegetarian reuben or a gussied up grilled cheese. A sandwich that my Italian forebears would recognize. A sandwich from Salumeria.
One Sunday morning, while my companion snoozed, I researched. Chowhound readers raved about Salumeria’s hoagies (supposedly named after the sandwiches that Italian shipworkers would take to lunch on Hogg’s Island, a story that I find too tidy to be more than apocryphal) and I took their suggestions to heart. First, get an Italian hoagie, engorged with your best selection of deli meats–salami, of course, but also coppacola and mortadella. Add provolone and hot peppers. Ask for their house dressing, even though that’s less traditional than oil and vinegar. But get that final sprinkle of oregano. And than: Dive in.
The bread, from Philadelphia’s famous Sarcone Bakery, is perfect for this kind of sandwich. Toothsome and crusty, but soft enough to chew through. The meats and cheese blend with the house dressing (what is it? garlicky and good), with enough hot pepper snap to keep it interesting. My companion–ostensibly vegetarian–took two big bites and looked longingly as I devoured the rest.
Salumeria is more than simply a sandwich shop, though, but also a seller of Italian meats and cheese. I’ve gotten grated cheese and poached figs there in the past, but this time I only gazed at the selections while waiting on line–which was interminable on a Sunday afternoon. My favorite moment was when a Reading Terminal Market shopper passed by and, seeing the scowling faces of the people behind Salumeria’s counter, sang out “customers like to see smiles,” at which they scowled even more.
I even bought dessert–two small boxes of Torrone, the wonderful Italian candy, each $.75 and marked as not for individual sale. But what blackhearted person could possibly care about such legal details when you’re sated with meat and cheese and about to bite through a crisp wafer shell and into the pillowy sweetness of nuts-and-nougat?
* The events described may not be an exact replication of “reality,” whatever that is.