Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A submarine sandwich by any other name, in any other town...

Apparently, one of the writers of Rizzoli and Isles is actually from Boston, because in the last episode,  Rizzoli said to Isles "next we'll have you eating a spukie".

The only place on the planet where a sub style sandwich is called a spukie (or a spucky, or a spuckie, or a spuky) is Boston... In particular Chelsea, Charlestown,  the North End, South Boston, East Boston, Roxbury, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Readville, and Dorchester.... and Revere, Milton, Quincy, and Brockton (where those Italians moved to when the Jews and the blacks took over their neighborhoods... It's a Boston history and culture thing... look it up you'll see what I mean).

Basically anywhere there were a lot of poor Italians living and working from the late 19th century, 'til the late 60s.

Boston as a whole has raised the sub to an art form. Subs are better in Boston than anywhere else on this planet.

Yes, I mean that. And yes, I've been to New York, New Jersey, Philly, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New Orleans, Italy, France, Argentina... and Groton, New London, and New Haven Connecticut (where in theory the "Sub" sandwich was named... because that's where actual submarines were made...) and just about anywhere else they have good sandwiches (good sandwiches require GREAT bread. If a place doesn't do great bread, they don't do good sandwiches never mind great ones)... There are better sandwiches than a Boston sub, but there are no better subs.

To my mind, the very best cold sub you'll ever have, is from Green Gardens Liquor and Deli in Hyde Park. Imagine a whole pound of rare roast beef, with thinly sliced colby cheese, a little bit of red wine vinegar, oregano, black pepper, and extra light olive oil, and a microthin shmear of horseradish, or stone ground hot mustard (all on the bread, with the cheese in between, never touching the meat) on a soft but crusty and chewy 16" italian loaf... and yeah you get the whole loaf. That way you get two heels, wet with the vinnaigrette...

Oh my god it's good... and it's two meals in one (you can't eat a whole Green Gardens sub. Too much good meat and great bread).... and the Italian is just as good (supposedly the prime rib is even better, but I've never had it).

Now, that isn't to say Boston always has the bust sub sandwich of every type there is. New Orleans in particular has their Mufalatta, which is a lot like an italian cold cut sub in boston, with the addition of a ton of olives; and they've got their PoBoy, which comes in many varieties, but the most famous are the fried seafood versions.

Now I might be a bit biased against the Mufalatta, since I don't like olives, and as I understand it, the thing just isn't the same without; but yes, a good Boston sub is a better cold sub than a mufalatta is. Italian cold cut, American cold cut, roast beef and cheese, smoked turkey and bacon... all on that bread...

As for a po-boy... well we don't fry up clams, oysters, softshell crabs, shrimp, or mussels for subs like that up in Boston, so if that's what you're looking for, the PoBoy is king. But if you want a hot meatball sub, or chicken parm, or sweet italian sausage... Boston can't be beat.

I use to love getting a sausage egg and cheese sub from a place that makes their own great italian sausage... Damn, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Then there's the pastrami subs, with the pastrami boiled in mustard water (about 1/3 mustard, 2/3 water... plus the drippings of all the rest of the Pastrami they'd boiled in it since they changed the water) and served on that same crusty italian loaf... And in Boston they use the pastrami from the thinner point of the brislket, which is a little tougher (thus the boiling) but has more flavor, more smoke, more pepper... SO GOOD.

...I mean, I love the New York style braised and flat topped pastrami on rye (Pastrami Club, Katz's, and Carnegie), but the Boston Pastrami sub is a whole different beast entirely (the mustard and pepper flavor infuse everything), and I love it even more.

Or a New England style steak and cheese (not a cheesesteak, that's Philly)... In Boston they still used shaved rib eye, but it's shaved strips not slices. They use more cheese (usually American, but provolone is also common), and they chop it in and mix it in with the steak on the flattop so that you barely need to chew the steak (but you always need to chew the crusty bread) and every bite has a lot of cheese all through it (and onions, peppers, and mushrooms if that's your thing).

In Boston even our chain subs are better than the corner shop subs in other towns. D'Angelos, makes pretty damn good subs for a chain; or at least they did before they were bought by Pepsicos "yum" brands ( the same as pizza hut and taco bell). I heard they got "not as good" during that time... But they were bought by Papa Ginos (THE best chain pizza in the world... one of the very few chains that make actually good pizza) a few years back, so maybe they got good again.

D'Angelos has their normal small, medium, and large sizes... which are pretty good sized already, the large is a 14" sandwich... but the big daddy is "the great divide", which is 29" of meat, cheese, and bread.

...GOOD meat, cheese, and bread (at least compared to every other so called "sub" chain).

Trust me... Boston subs (even D'Angelos) are NOTHING like Subway or Blimpies, or Quiznos, or Port'o'Subs... so unlike as to be a completely different sort of thing really... And far as I'm concerned those chains shouldn't be allowed to call what they sell subs.

You may hear them called subs, grinders, hoagies, and heros... and in Boston you'll hear them called all of those things (though usually not a hero; and grinders and hoagies are usually reserved for hot subs on toasted bread... the hoagie is more of a Philly thing, and the hero more of a New York thing), but Boston is the only place you'll find the spuckie.

There aren't a LOT of places that call subs spuckies anymore, but you go anywhere it was common at one point, and ask for a spuckie, and they'll probably give you what you want.

Ask for a tonic at the same place, you'll get a soda too.

I grew up buying my subs from Spukies & Pizza, in Lower Mills, Dorchester; exactly .9 miles from my childhood home (thankyou google maps).

I still go back there whenever I visit Boston. They aren't the best subs in the area ( not even close. Green Gardens is only 4.5 miles in the other direction), but they're home.