The hoagie is a regional name for a long sandwich filled with Italian meats, lettuce, cheese, and the works; different names include submarine sandwich, rocket, torpedo, po-boy, grinder, dagwood, and hero. The original recipe supposedly began in the Philadelphia area. The inhabitants of the area (mostly Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) are very proud of the sandwich, holding it in high regard along with the famous cheesesteak. In 1992, the hoagie was named actually named the “Official Sandwich of Philadelphia” by former mayor Edward G. Rendell.
There are many different stories in regard to the creation of the hoagie. The one common factor is that they all take place in or around Philadelphia. I’ve included a number of different legends surrounding the hoagie. The first story is the most common and widely accepted, but the others are not to be ignored.
During the Great Depression, workers at the shipyard on Hog Island in South Philadelphia all carried extremely long, over-sized sandwiches to work with them each day. A man named Al DePalma came to the area in order to find some sorely-needed work. When he arrived, the massive sandwiches the workers would eat during their lunch breaks fascinated him. Inspiration struck; instead of applying for a job in the shipyard, DePalma hastily opened a luncheonette shop that sold sandwiches similar to the ones he saw the workers eat. He listed them on the menu as “hoggies,” most likely as a reference to the name of the area. A similar theory is that when DePalma beheld the workers voraciously eating their sandwiches, he thought to himself “Those fellas look like a bunch of hogs,” and he named it after the workers.
The second story also takes place in Hog Island. An Irish worker, who brought a simple American cheese sandwich with him everyday, became jealous of his coworkers, who carried monstrous, meaty sandwiches. Fed up with his measly lunch, the Irish man told one of the workers that if his wife would make him the sandwich also, he would pay her for it. The next day, the Irish worker made the same request, except this time he also requested one for his friend Hogan. The sandwiches then became known as Hogans, which was later shortened to hoagie.
A third story takes place in Chester, Pennsylvania. Augustine and Catherine DiCostanza owned a grocery store in the area, called A. DiCostanza’s Grocery. The store was also host to a number of late night gamblers, who would often pour in from Palmero’s Bar down the street. One such customer, stricken by the midnight munchies, came in and asked for a sandwich. When Catherine inquired as to what he wanted on it, the man simply waved his hand and told her to use everything in the display case. The man took the sandwich and went back to the bar. Soon afterwards, hungry men began pouring in asking for similar sandwiches. DiCostanza’s ran out of lunchmeat that night, and the hoagie soon became a popular addition to their menu.
Regardless of which story is true, DePalma was the first person to become famous for selling the hoagie. In the late 1930’s, DePalma and Buccelli’s Bakery began producing the modern hoagie roll to use in his restaurant on Hog Island. An entire room had to be devoted to making and storing hoagies and the ingredients by World War II, and the hoagies had to be made around the clock to fill demands. Around this time, DePalma earned the title “King of the Hoggies.” Within a decade, the sandwich became a common, yet delicious, item in local bakeries and delis. The hoagie business thrives more than ever today, with around 100 different hoagie shops in Philadelphia alone.
How to Make a Hoagie
There is no doubt that the ingredients of hoagies have changed over the years. Today, they are highly customizable and can change every time you eat them; this is probably the reason why they have remained so popular. The most popular types of are Tuna, Turkey, Roast Beef, American, and Italian hoagies. American hoagies use American cheese and usually have ham, salami, and/or bologna. Italian hoagies use Provolone cheese and often have a wider variety of meats, including Capicola and Genoa Salami.
I’m not exactly sure how many regions in the United States have hoagies or hoagie clones (and I’m pretty sure that other countries don’t have them), so here is a recipe for an Italian hoagie (taken loosely from a recipe at www.teriskitchen.com). I’ve decided not to include ingredient amounts because they seem pretty unnecessary since you are just putting things on a roll. The meats used below could be substituted for roast beef, turkey, or whatever other lunch meat your little heart desires.
Thinly slice every ingredient (except the spices and the roll, obviously), especially the meat. The order in which you add the ingredients to the roll should be: cheese, meat, tomato, lettuce, onions, peppers, vinegar and oil, and then the rest of the spices.
There you have it, a true taste of Philadelphia cuisine