Submarine sandwich

Submarine sandwich
Submarine sandwich
Hoagie Hero Sub Sandwich.jpg
A Submarine sandwich.
Alternative name(s) Multiple
Place of origin United States
Region or state Northeast
Dish details
Main ingredient(s) Multiple
Variations Multiple

A submarine sandwich, also known as a sub among other names, is a sandwich that consists of a long roll of Italian or French bread, split lengthwise either into two pieces or opened in a "V" on one side, and filled with various varieties of meat, cheese, vegetables, seasonings, and sauces.[1] The sandwich has no standardized name, and many U.S. regions have their own names for it;[1] one study found 13 different names for the sandwich in the United States.[2] The usage of the several terms varies regionally but not in any pattern, as they have been used variously by the people and enterprises who make and sell them. The terms submarine and sub are widespread and not assignable to any certain region, though many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeast United States, where the most Italian Americans live.[3]


History and etymology

The sandwich originated in several different Italian American communities in the Northeastern United States from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. The popularity of this Italian-American cuisine has grown from its origins in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to spread to most parts of the United States, and with the advent of chain restaurants, is now available in many parts of the world.[4] In Europe it would simply be known as a baguette, or a ciabatta, named after the type of bread being used. Both types of bread are traditional breads in use in France and Italy for centuries.


WWII submarine—US Navy

The use of the term submarine or sub is widespread.[3] One theory is that it originated in a restaurant in Scollay Square in Boston, Massachusetts at the beginning of World War I. The sandwich was created to entice the large numbers of navy servicemen stationed at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The bread was a smaller specially baked baguette intended to resemble the hull of the submarines it was named after.[5]

Many say that the name originates from Groton, Connecticut, where there is the largest United States Submarine factory. The sandwiches were commonly eaten by workers in the naval yard.[6] Another theory suggests the submarine was brought to the US by Dominic Conti (1874–1954), an Italian immigrant who came to New York in the early 1900s.[7] In 1910 he started Dominic Conti's Grocery Store on Mill Street in Paterson, New Jersey and named the sandwich after seeing the recovered 1901 submarine called Fenian Ram in the local Paterson Museum in 1918. His granddaughter has stated the following: "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)."[8]


Workers read the Hog Island News

The term hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. Domenic Vitiello, professor of Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania asserts that Italians working at the World War I era shipyard in Philadelphia, known as Hog Island where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort, introduced the sandwich, by putting various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread. This became known as the "Hog Island" sandwich; hence, the "hoagie".[9]

The Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen's Manual offers a different explanation, that the sandwich was created by early twentieth century street vendors called "hokey-pokey men", who sold antipasto salad, along with meats and cookies. When Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta H.M.S. Pinafore opened in Philadelphia in 1879, bakeries produced a long loaf called the pinafore. Entrepreneurial "hokey-pokey men" sliced the loaf in half, stuffed it with antipasto salad, and sold the world's first "hoagie".[10]

Another explanation is that the word "hoagie" arose in the late 19th-early 20th century, among the Italian community in South Philadelphia, when "on the hoke" was a slang used to describe a destitute person. Deli owners would give away scraps of cheeses and meats in an Italian bread-roll known as a "hokie", but the Italian immigrants pronounced it "hoagie".[11]

Other less likely explanations involve "Hogan" (a nickname for Irish workers at the Hog Island shipyard), a reference to the pork or "hog" meat used in hoagies, "honky sandwich" (using a racial slur for white people seen eating them) or "hooky sandwich" (derived from "hookie" for truant kids seen eating them).[4] Shortly after World War II, there were numerous varieties of the term in use throughout Philadelphia. By the 1940s, the spellings "hoagie" and, to a lesser extent, "hoagy" had come to dominate lesser user variations like "hoogie" and "hoggie".[12] By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term "hoagie", with many selling hoagies and subs or hoagies and pizza. Listings in Pittsburgh show hoagies arriving in 1961 and becoming widespread in that city by 1966.[12]

Former Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell declared the hoagie the "Official Sandwich of Philadelphia".[13] However, there are claims that the hoagie was actually a product of nearby Chester, Pennsylvania.[14] DiCostanza's in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania claims that the mother of DiConstanza's owner originated the hoagie in 1925 in Chester. DiCostanza relates the story that a customer came into the family deli and through the series of the customers' requests and the deli's offerings, the hoagie was created.[15]

A local Philadelphia variation on the hoagie is the zep made in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It is a variation on the traditional hoagie, with no lettuce and only one meat. It is made on a round roll, with provolone cheese covering meat, chunks of raw onion, and slabs of tomato. It is dressed with oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil, and hot pepper relish.[16]


The New York term hero is first attested in 1937.[17] The name is sometimes credited to the New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford in the 1930s, but there is no good evidence for this. It is also sometimes claimed that it is related to the gyro, but this is unlikely: heros are invariably associated with Italians, not Greeks, and gyro was unknown in the United States until the 1960s.[4]

"Hero" (plural usually heros[18]) remains the prevailing New York City term for most sandwiches on an oblong roll with a generally Italian flavor, in addition to the original described above. Pizzeria menus often include eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, and meatball heros, each served with tomato sauce. Pepper and egg heros and potato and egg heros are also popular.[citation needed]

Other names

  • Barb Mills (ham and provolone cheese, baked)—North Central Pennsylvania, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania in the 50's and 60's
  • Blimpie (shaped like a blimp)—From the Hoboken, New Jersey–founded chain, Blimpie.
  • Bomber (shaped like a bomber plane)—Upstate New York
  • Continental Roll—Australia[19]
  • Cosmo (cosmopolitan)—North Central Pennsylvania near Williamsport: a hot hoagie or a grinder
  • Filled RollNew Zealand
  • Grinder (Italian-American slang for a dock worker)—New England, Inland Empire of Southern California.[4] Called grinder because it took a lot of chewing to eat the hard crust of the bread used. In Pennsylvania, the term grinder refers to a sandwich that has been heated. In eastern Massachusetts a grinder is a toasted sub, for example the sub is toasted in a pizza oven.
  • Hoagie—Southern New Jersey, and South-East and Central Pennsylvania—usually denotes lettuce, tomato and onions included.
  • Italian SandwichMaine and other parts of New England.
  • Poor boySt. Louis
  • Po' BoyLouisiana
  • Rocket (shaped like a rocket)—various areas.
  • Sous-marin—a variety popular in Montreal (also a literal translation of "submarine" into French)
  • Spuckie (Italian-American slang for a long roll)—Boston, Massachusetts (used particularly in Italian immigrant neighborhoods)
  • SubNew Jersey, Massachusetts
  • Torpedo (shaped like a torpedo)—New York, New Jersey, other areas.
  • Tunnel—Various New England areas.
  • Wedge (served between two wedges of bread)—Prevalent in Yonkers, New York and other parts of Westchester County, New York, The Bronx, lower Fairfield County, Connecticut, and portions of Upstate New York.[20]

Ingredients and preparation

Submarine sandwich based on a Ciabatta

All varieties of this sandwich use an oblong bread roll as opposed to sliced bread. The traditional sandwich usually includes a variety of Italian luncheon meats such as dry Genoa salami, mortadella, thin sliced pepperoni, capocollo or prosciutto, and provolone cheese served with lettuce, tomato and onions seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil. American bologna is sometimes used in place of mortadella and ham is often substituted for capicola, with prosciutto frequently omitted.

Many locations that provide catering services also offer very large 3-foot and 6-foot "Giant" sandwiches. Crusty Italian breads are preferred for the hearty sandwiches.

Vegetarian and vegan versions stuffed with soy-based ersatz meats are also popular.

Regional variations


Roast Beef grinder
  • Grinders are sometimes made with toasted focaccia bread and melted mozzarella cheese.
  • Both hot and cold sandwiches have been called "grinders", though the term usually refers to a baked or toasted sandwich with sauce.


  • Tomatoes were not a historical ingredient of the hero, but are often included in today's heros. Baltimore has usually preferred the term Hero, to nearby Philadelphia's Hoagie and Washington DC's Gryo. Italian communities existed in these cities.


  • Philadelphia-style hoagies should have bread that is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.
  • Quite often, much of the roll's inside will be removed to allow for the ingredients to fit.
  • Hoagies often have more than one deli meat (never fish or chicken).
  • Mustard and vinegar were not traditionally used in hoagies. The traditional dressing was olive oil.


  • A standard zep contains only cooked salami and provolone as the meat and cheese, and includes no lettuce.

Other variations

Vietnamese Bánh mì đặc biệt
  • Bacon—bacon and provolone cheese, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, raw onions, and sometimes sweet peppers
  • Bánh mì—Vietnamese baguette with pickled carrots and daikon, onions, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeño peppers and meat or tofu
  • Breakfast—generally consists of bacon, eggs and cheese
  • Cheese—white American or provolone or both (mixed), sometimes also Swiss cheese
  • Cheeseburger—hot, with cut hamburger patties and melted yellow American cheese. Additional common burger toppings, such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and mustard, are optional.
  • Cheesesteak—thinly sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese (American, Provolone or, as is common in the Philadelphia region, processed cheese such as Cheez Whiz) on a long roll
  • Chicken—depending on the deli, this can be a cold cut of sliced chicken, a fried chicken finger or breast, chicken salad, or a variation on a local speciality as in the below "chicken cheesesteak". In recent years, the expansion of buffalo sauce–flavored chicken has drastically increased the number of chicken variants available, and many restaurants and delis offer a variety of chicken sandwiches.
  • Chicken Cheesesteak—thinly sliced pieces of chicken and melted cheese on a long roll
  • "Corned Beef" served hot (with or without cabbage) or cold (as a sliced deli meat)
  • Fish—some variety of whiting, breaded and lightly fried, typically with tartar sauce
  • Gyro with the traditional pita being replaced with a sandwich roll.
  • Ham and cheese—hot or cold with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayonnaise or oil, hot peppers and ground pepper
  • Italian beef, or simply "beef sandwich"—Italian beef, au jus, sweet peppers and often cheese and marinara. Popular mostly in the Chicago area. Also available as a "combo", which is an Italian beef and an Italian sausage combined.
  • Meatball—meatballs in marinara sauce often with green peppers and onions and covered with American or provolone cheese
  • Po' boy—Louisiana creole style usually containing fried seafood on baguette-like Louisiana French bread.
  • Puritan or Pilgrim—turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Mostly found in sub shops around New England. Also known as a Christmas Sandwich in the United Kingdom. Also known as a "Bobbie" in some localities.
  • Roast beef—as lunchmeat, with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, raw onions, and mayonnaise or a vinegar and oil sauce
  • Roast pork—hot or cold
  • Sausage sandwich—German, Italian, Polish, or Andouille sausage with peppers, onions, sauerkraut or marinara. Popular at carnivals and fairs.
  • Tofu—Tofu, often lightly fried, with cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño, onion, and carrot.
  • Tuna—either tuna salad or (especially in more ethnically Italian shops) Italian (canned) tuna in olive oil
  • Turkey—hot or cold with provolone cheese
  • Veal Parm or Chicken Parm—filled with deep fried veal or chicken cutlet, marinara sauce, mozzarella and occasionally onions and peppers. Almost always served hot.
  • Veggie—vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli rabe, or even vegan versions with no meat or dairy products

Popularity and availability

From its origins with the Italian American labor force in the Northeastern United States, the sub began to show up on menus of local pizzerias. As time went on and popularity grew, small restaurants, called Hoagie shops and Sub shops, that specialized in the sandwich began to open.[4]

After World War II Italian food grew in popularity in the US and started to become assimilated. This brought the use of other meats to the sandwich including turkey, roast beef, American and Swiss cheese, as well as spreads such as mayonnaise and mustard.[21]

Pizzerias may have been among the first Italian-American eateries, but even at the turn of the century distinctions were clear-cut as to what constituted a true ristorante. To be merely a pizza-maker was to be at the bottom of the culinary and social scale; so many pizzeria owners began offering other dishes, including the hero sandwich (also, depending on the region of the United States, called a 'wedge,' a 'hoagie,' a 'sub,' or a 'grinder') made on a Italian loaf of bread with lots of salami, cheese, and peppers.

America Eats Out, John Mariani [Morrow:New York] 1991 (p. 66)[21]

By the late 20th century, due to the rise of large franchisee chain restaurants and fast food, the sandwich became available worldwide. Many outlets offer non-traditional ingredient combinations.

Major multi-national chains that serve subs including the largest restaurant chain in the world, Subway,[22] as well as Quiznos and Mr. Sub, with other regional American chains including Capriotti's, Submarina, Jersey Mike's Subs, Charley's Grilled Subs, Blimpie, Jimmy John's, Lenny's Sub Shop, Port of Subs, Eegee's, Firehouse Subs, Planet Sub, Potbelly, Tubby's, Schlotzsky's and D'Angelo Sandwich Shops. The sandwich is also available from several supermarkets and convenience stores.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition]. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.
  2. ^ Edwin Eames, Howard Robboy (December 1967). "The submarine Sandwich, lexical variations in a cultural context". American Speech 42 (4): 279–288. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wilton, Dave. "A hoagie by any other name". Verbatim, Vol. XXVII, no. 3, Autumn 2003. Accessed 21 November 2008
  5. ^ Kelley, Walt. What They Never Told You About Boston (or What They Did That Were Lies). Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 1993.
  6. ^ "". 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "History of Hoagies, Submarine Sandwiches, Po' Boys Sandwiches, Dagwood Sandwiches, & Italian Sandwiches". 
  9. ^ "Philly Via Italy", thirtyfourthstreetmagazine, April 17, 2007, p. 9.
  10. ^ Kenneth Finkel, ed., Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen's Manual, (Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1995) p. 86.
  11. ^ "The Submarine Sandwich: Lexical Variations in a Cultural Context", Eames & Robboy, American Speech, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Dec., 1967), pp. 279–288
  12. ^ a b William Labov, "Pursuing the Cascade Model", in Peter Trudgill, David Britain, and Jenny Cheshire, Social Dialectology: In Honour of Peter Trudgill" John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2003, ISBN 1588114031, 9781588114037, 343 pages.
  13. ^ Philadelphia Visitors Bureau webpage
  14. ^ Ed Gebhart, "Hoagie, then known as Italian sandwich, got start in Chester", Delco Times, 02/09/2003
  15. ^ "1925: Hoagie Rolls into County History". Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  16. ^ Derrick Nunnally (2009-12-09). "Local hero: Norristown's zep sandwich". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  17. ^ The Big Apple: Hero Sandwich
  18. ^ Definition at
  19. ^ BigFooty
  20. ^ Bonar, Julia. "The good times are on a roll with this New Orleans classic". The Boston Globe, June 1, 2005. Accessed January 25, 2009.
  21. ^ a b Community Forums -
  22. ^ Subway becomes world's largest restaurant chain- MSN Money

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • submarine sandwich — sub ma*rine sand wich, n. A large sandwich on an elongated roll, usually incompletely cut into two halves, filed with various cold cuts, meatballs, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, olives, etc., and spiced variously, and often having oil or other… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • submarine sandwich — ☆ submarine sandwich n. HERO SANDWICH * * * …   Universalium

  • submarine sandwich — noun count AMERICAN a sandwich made with meat, cheese, tomatoes, etc. on a long narrow piece of bread: SUB …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • submarine sandwich — ☆ submarine sandwich n. HERO SANDWICH …   English World dictionary

  • submarine sandwich — n AmE a long bread roll which is split open and filled with meat, cheese etc = ↑sub …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • submarine sandwich — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms submarine sandwich : singular submarine sandwich plural submarine sandwiches American a sandwich made with meat, cheese, tomatoes etc on a long narrow piece of bread …   English dictionary

  • submarine sandwich — noun a large sandwich made of a long crusty roll split lengthwise and filled with meats and cheese (and tomato and onion and lettuce and condiments); different names are used in different sections of the United States • Syn: ↑bomber, ↑grinder,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • submarine sandwich — noun a sandwich made on a long roll split lengthwise Syn: sub …   Wiktionary

  • submarine sandwich — n. sandwich made with Italian bread sliced lengthwise, filled with cold cuts, cheese, and vegetables …   English slang

  • submarine sandwich — noun (C) AmE a sub 1 (5) …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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