I grew up in Claymont, Delaware just 20 miles south of Philadelphia. Long before fast food became popular, subs, meatball and cheese steak sandwiches were the staples of the day. My favorite sub shop, as they were called back then, was “Sharpies” on the Philadelphia Pike. A sub sold for about $1.00. Add a Tasty Cake, Grape Soda and small bag of Wise Potato Chips and you had a great meal.
After my service in the Army, I moved to Taft to teach food services (ROP) for the Taft and Maricopa school district. In 1973 my cravings kicked in for a good east coast sub. I invited eight of my closest friends to the house for a sandwich tasting party with the sub shop favorites I grew up with. My mom shipped a dozen rolls to me from Phili so that the finished sandwiches were as authentic as possible. The party was a huge success with everyone encouraging me to open a shop in Taft. In August of that year, Gentieu’s Pantry was born and launched my restaurant career. After an investment of just $7,000 with our opening day sales of $128, we were off and running. The little 800 sq. ft. shop on the corner of North and Third Street serving these east coast delights was an immediate success. Our six foot sub, delivered on a motorcycle, was the talk of the town. Two years after opening, we made the world’s longest sandwich listed in the 15th edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. The mammoth sub, 464 feet long weighed in at over 1600 pounds. Watch Video on You Tube: search World’s Longest Sandwich 1975. The rest is history.
PREPARATION KEY POINTS FOR THE ABOVE VIDEO
1. Very important — the roll: Purchase rolls or french bread wrapped in paper or sold loose. NO cellophane or poly bag packaging. For this demo, I purchased individual Mexican Torte rolls at Albertsons. If using a whole french loaf, scoop out some of the inside after slicing open as it usually is too much bread.
2. Meats and Cheese: All sliced very thin but not shaved. Provalone cheese, Cotto or Genoa Salami, Capacola and boiled ham. Have the deli person give you a sample slice to determine thickness.
3. Other ingredients: Thinly shredded Iceburg lettuce and brown onion. Sliced dill pickle, Pepperoncini, Roma Tomato, Oregano, Olive Oil, dill pickle vinegar and salt and pepper. NO MAYO OR MUSTARD! Never used on authentic east coast sub — it would ruin it.
4. Very important: Cut the roll 3/4ths through hinged at the back. This allows meat and cheese to be placed on both sides with the rest of the ingredients in the center. It creates better texture and mouth feel when eating. This simple step makes a huge difference compared to what many sub sandwich restaurants do by cutting the roll totally in half. They place the meat and cheese on one half with the rest of the ingredients on the other. When taking your first bite, the layer of meat and cheese don’t mix well with the other ingredients and often times will cling to the roof of your mouth. The results are not a good texture or good mix of all the flavors in the sandwich.
CHEF’S NOTES: Prepare your subs as close to serving time as possible. Better yet, set up a prep station with all the ingredients and make a party out of it. Make them to order with your guests. Subs should not be made more than 15 minutes ahead as the bread will begin to get soggy (not a good texture). If you want to have the best outcome, make them to order then serve. It’s worth it! Good eating – yumm!