“I love a sandwich that you can barely fit in your mouth because there’s so much stuff on it. The bread should not be the main thing on a sandwich.” Adrianne Palicki
Little did John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-92) realize that his “sandwich” invention would become even bigger, longer and filled up with more varieties than before. Known popularly by the name of sub, hoagie, hero, grinder or Italian sandwich, the “submarine sandwich” has become one of the fastest growing sandwiches, adapted by many into a complete meal for the busy days or a healthier diet. Consisting of a length of bread or roll split lengthwise, filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables and condiments, this sandwich has no standardized name and has a dozen varieties and combinations globally. In fact those submarine sandwiches longer in length or filled with greater quantities of ingredients than usual, are known as battleship, flattop or destroyer sandwiches.
This sandwich is believed to have originated in the various Italian American communities from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. The most widespread term of term “submarine” or “sub” is believed to have been after the resemblance of the roll to the shape of a submarine. Various theories have been put forward to the origin of the name. While one theory states that “the submarine” was brought by Dominic Conti (1874–1954), an Italian immigrant who came to New York (1900s) named it after seeing the recovered 1901 submarine called Fenian Ram in the Paterson Museum of New Jersey in 1928.
As per his granddaughter had accounted : “My grandfather came to this country circa 1895 from Montella, Italy. Around 1910, he started his grocery store, called Dominic Conti’s Grocery Store, on Mill Street in Paterson, New Jersey where he was selling the traditional Italian sandwiches. His sandwiches were made from a recipe he brought with him from Italy, which consisted of a long crust roll, filled with cold cuts, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, Italian herbs and spices, salt, and pepper. The sandwich started with a layer of cheese and ended with a layer of cheese (this was so the bread wouldn’t get soggy).”
Eventually while the “submarine” had caught on; it would seem that the “hoagie” was already in vogue. Originating in the World War I era shipyard in Philadelphia known as Hog Island, where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort; Italians working there introduced the sandwich by putting various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread. This later was known as the “Hog Island” sandwich; shortened to “Hoggies”, then the “hoagie”.
“It’s like making a sandwich. I start with the bread and the meat. That’s the architecture. Add some cheese, lettuce and tomato. That’s character development and polishing. Then, the fun part. All the little historical details and the slang and the humor is the mayonnaise. I go back and slather that shit everywhere. The mayo is the best part. I’m a bit messy with the mayo.” Laini Giles
However, the Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen’s Manual states attributed this creation to the early-twentieth-century street vendors called “hokey-pokey men”. They had sold antipasto salad, meats, cookies and buns with a cut in them. When bakeries produced a long loaf called the pinafore(1879); Entrepreneurial “hokey-pokey men” sliced the loaf in half, stuffed it with antipasto salad, and sold the world’s first “hoagie”. Whereas another explanation is that the word “hoagie” arose in the late 19th to early 20th century, among the Italian immigrant community in South Philadelphia. Deli owners would give away scraps of cheeses and meats in an Italian bread-roll known as a “hokie”, but pronounced by the Italian immigrants as “hoagie”. After the WWII, the term “hoagie” had caught on and stayed.
There are numerous variants of these “submarine sandwiches” which have been named so based on the mix of ingredients or bread type like the New York “Hero”, New England “grinder” (a hot submarine sandwich (meatball; sausage; etc.) or a oven toasted hoagie) or Gatsby of Cape Town, South Africa. Come by whichever name, “submarine” or “hoagies” are here to stay. With National Hoagie Day (May 5th), it would be a time for some food fun.