Friday, January 15, 2010

Sarcone's Old Fashioned Italian Hoagie

I am certainly one for cold hoagies. While the heroes and subs of other American cities may throw their hats into the ring, nothing beats the sandwich known by another name in Philadelphia. You can get a decent sandwich from just about any deli in any part of town, but for a true gourmet affair, most will agree that Sarcone's is king.

The little sandwich joint (now in the storefront right next to it's old front door on the corner of 9th and Fitzwater) isn't much to look at, but it's the expanse behind the counter that reveals a paradise of cured meats. Before I broke the pork barrier, my standby was the Booch: roast beef, asparagus, sharp provolone, and balsamic vinegar under a dusting of special herbs- a memorable sandwich. Though the Booch was a satisfying choice, I craved a side dish, and those prosciutto stuffed hot peppers were always there to entice me. My friend Brian would always get some behemoth sandwich piled with a rainbow of pork meats which I eyed curiously. I hadn't been to Sarcone's since last spring, and Brian currently works next door, which made it a good place for us to meet for lunch yesterday.

I came for the Italian hoagie only to find that there were three on the menu; the Italian, the American Italian, and the Old Fashioned Italian. All were nearly the same sandwich except slight variations in meat assortment. I went with the old fashioned; thin sliced prosciutto, hot sopressata, hot coppa, sharp provolone, oil, vinegar, lettuce, and tomato on a Sarcone's roll. I also got one red and one green prosciutto stuffed pepper. And an A&W root beer.

I started with the red pepper, expecting a slight punch. The smoky, slightly sour prosciutto took the edge off of the hotness and was as satisfying as i had imagined. Pickled things with meat stuffed into them don't occur often enough, particularly with non pork meats. This was one hell of a bite sized snack and I could eaten ten of them and skipped the sandwich. But then what kind of adventurer would I be?

The sandwich made it difficult to identify which meats I was tasting, leading me to inspect the culprits individually. The sopressata, slices of hot sausage, had far less chunky fat deposits in it than other salami I have had. It also lacked the overpowering saltiness I have come to associate with dry sausage. The hot coppa, or capicola was similar to the prosciutto in texture, but was a bit spicier. The balance of meats made for an intense mix of flavors yielding something that might even have been too strong for such a large sandwich if it wasn't for the provolone. Sarcon'e lays their sandwiches with thick slabs aged of provolone, the non-sharp variety unless otherwise requested, that tie together and sooth the volatile flavor mix of meats.

I have a mild complaint that is a controversial one in Philadelphia, and that regards Sarcone's rolls. Now, I don't mind a roll with some backbone, but there are days when the oven at Sarcone's bakery spawns bread that can ruin a sandwich, though never get called out for the love of an unquestioned Philly institution. All I'm saying is that I'd prefer a softer roll, one that would allow me to savor the mix of flavors occurring without placing cuts on the roof of my mouth through which they are absorbed.


  1. Totally. This is regarded almost as blasphemy in Philadelphia, but who wants to work that hard chewing a roll?

  2. I prefer to enjoy my rolls from Sarcones stuffed with the delicious goodness from John's Roast Pork, down on 14 Snyder Avenue. If you've not had pulled pork yet, that could be a fun introduction...and their cheese steaks happen to make a wonderful "side dish." ;) If nothing else, just visiting that restaurant always seems to be a bit of an adventure!

  3. dont be afraid to come to trenton, nj and get some pork roll. There are two pork roll companies, Case's and Taylor. Many North Jerseyans refer to it as Taylor Ham. But any self-respecting Trentonian knows its called Pork Roll.
    Pork Roll, American Cheese, Ketchup on a Kaiser Roll. Heavenly.
    Egg can also be added to the sandwich. Preferably fried, but scrambled is ok as well. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night, whenever.

  4. @Amber that sounds amazing. Haven't done a roast pork sandwich yet, and I think John's will be my first.

    @Carl A I lived in NJ for a while and witnessed the consumption of 'Taylor ham'. I'd forgotten about until you mentioned it. It is definitely on the list.

  5. John's Roast Pork may ruin you for all other sandwiches, ever. Fair warning.

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