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Old 09-04-2019, 09:09 AM
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What Makes An Italian Sub Authentic?


In a nostalgia group on FB, someone talked about their favorite Italian restaurant and how it made the "most authentic" Italian subs.

As a southern WASP, I have no idea what makes an Italian sub authentic. Can someone explain it to me?
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:15 AM
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In a nostalgia group on FB, someone talked about their favorite Italian restaurant and how it made the "most authentic" Italian subs.

As a southern WASP, I have no idea what makes an Italian sub authentic. Can someone explain it to me?
"someone told me once it was authentic and I believed them."
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:31 AM
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"someone told me once it was authentic and I believed them."
"All the lunch meats ended in vowels!"
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:41 AM
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jokes aside, I'm pretty certain that any "Italian sub" or "Italian sandwich" you'll find here is an American invention, so don't really know how you'd determine authenticity.

Last edited by jz78817; 09-04-2019 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:47 AM
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At the risk of sounding like Maggie Smith, what is a sub? I rather suspect it's not something many Italians would be familiar with.

Or should one read the OP's question as "What makes an Italian sub-authentic"? Which would bring into play all the stereotypes about parking, gesticulating and mamma-fixation.
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:53 AM
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Patricklondon, I refer to a submarine sandwich. Also known as a grinder, hoagie, hero, and other local terms. A long loaf of Italian bread with various meats, vegetables, and other fillings.
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Old 09-04-2019, 10:05 AM
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jokes aside, I'm pretty certain that any "Italian sub" or "Italian sandwich" you'll find here is an American invention, so don't really know how you'd determine authenticity.
According to Wiki, the "Italian sandwich" was invented by an Italian-American in Maine in 1903. But I think you can go with the type of hero made in a typical New York Italian deli.

The basic ingredients would include:


-Long, crusty, "Italian bread" roll (like a baguette)
-A variety of thinly sliced cold cuts, including Genoa salami, ham, capicola (Tony Soprano's "gabbagool"), maybe pepperoni, mortadella
-Provolone cheese (although the Maine version apparently uses American cheese)
-Lettuce, tomato, onion
-Dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and maybe some oregano

Optional: roasted red peppers, sliced green peppers, sour pickle slices

It wouldn't have uncured meats like roast beef or turkey, bacon, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, or many other ingredients found in other kinds of subs.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-04-2019 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 10:13 AM
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According to Wiki, the "Italian sandwich" was invented by an Italian-American in Maine in 1903. But I think you can go with the type of hero made in a typical New York Italian deli.

The basic ingredients would include:


-Long, crusty, "Italian bread" road (like a baguette)
-A variety of thinly sliced cold cuts, including Genoa salami, ham, capicola (Tony Soprano's "gabbagool"), maybe pepperoni, mortadella
-Provolone cheese (although the Maine version apparently uses American cheese)
-Lettuce, tomato, onion
-Dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and maybe some oregano

Optional: roasted red peppers, sliced green peppers, sour pickle slices

It wouldn't have uncured meats like roast beef or turkey, bacon, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, or many other ingredients found in other kinds of subs.
Here on Long Island, "a hero" generally refers to a 3-foot version and will come in either Italian or American flavors.

The Italian basically fits Colibri's description - I'd be surprised not to get salami and ham, and usually either pepperoni or cappicola. Mortadella would be more unusual. The cheese is always provolone, there's always lettuce, tomato, and onion, and a red wine vinegar dressing is served on the side. Peppers and pickles would be unusual here.

The alternative, the American, generally contains turkey, ham, and roast beef with American cheese, LTO, and mayo.

There are no other heros to speak of. Any other hero would be referred to by ingredients or a nickname - you might get The Lumberjack, which is hero-shaped and contains a fried chicken cutlet with American cheese and Russian dressing, but served on a garlic hero, but you wouldn't say "I'm having a hero for lunch."

However, the following conversation is entirely comprehensible:

"We're having a hero at the meeting."

"Oh, what kind?"

"Half and half."

It is then understood that your group has three feet of Italian and three feet of American sliced into around three-inch pieces, and some lucky or indecisive soul will get the overlap piece.
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Old 09-04-2019, 10:13 AM
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At the risk of sounding like Maggie Smith, what is a sub? I rather suspect it's not something many Italians would be familiar with.
A "sub," from submarine sandwich from its elongated shape, is a generic term for a sandwich made on a long roll and the origin of the name of the "Subway" sandwich shops. I'm surprised you haven't heard of them, since Subway has stores in the UK. There are many regional variations on the name: hero (since it takes a hero to eat one) in New York, grinder in Boston, hoagie in Philadelphia, po'boy (poor boy) in New Orleans.
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Old 09-04-2019, 10:29 AM
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The sandwiches they have on the streets in Italy aren't submarine style sandwiches, but more of a panini type thing. The ones I saw were generally cheese and cured meats, and without the typical American style lettuce, tomato and onions.

So it's kind of like most Italian-American foods- there's what they eat over there, and what the Italians who immigrated made with local ingredients. Neither is more or less authentic when you think about it - Italians made both, just in different places where things varied in availability and cost. Same for Mexicans in the SW US versus the interior of Mexico. Nobody's going to claim that fajitas aren't actually Mexican, just because Mexicans in Texas were the originator of that dish. Similarly, an "authentic" Italian sandwich probably depends on where it was originally made- is a muffaletta any less authentic than a grinder, hoagie, hero or sub?
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Old 09-04-2019, 10:48 AM
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how it made the "most authentic" Italian subs.
For some reason I'm reminded of Linus Van Pelt's quest for the "most sincere" pumpkin patch.
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Old 09-04-2019, 11:25 AM
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A "sub," from submarine sandwich from its elongated shape, is a generic term for a sandwich made on a long roll and the origin of the name of the "Subway" sandwich shops. I'm surprised you haven't heard of them, since Subway has stores in the UK. There are many regional variations on the name: hero (since it takes a hero to eat one) in New York, grinder in Boston, hoagie in Philadelphia, po'boy (poor boy) in New Orleans.
It's a "sub" in Boston.
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Old 09-04-2019, 12:20 PM
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It's a "sub" in Boston.
Yeah, “grinder” is a south Connecticut thing. Hot; cold; meatball; eggplant parmigiana; ham, salami, & cheese with oil & vinegar....in New Haven, they were all “grinders.”

I think they become “subs” when you pass from the Yankee Zone into the Red Sox Zone.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:00 PM
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I wondered where the idea of putting vinaigrette on a sub came from. I don't recall ever seeing it before 2000.

Last edited by furryman; 09-04-2019 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:07 PM
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A "sub," from submarine sandwich from its elongated shape, is a generic term for a sandwich made on a long roll and the origin of the name of the "Subway" sandwich shops. I'm surprised you haven't heard of them, since Subway has stores in the UK. There are many regional variations on the name: hero (since it takes a hero to eat one) in New York, grinder in Boston, hoagie in Philadelphia, po'boy (poor boy) in New Orleans.
We have Subway in the UK but never gave it a thought that it refered to the sandwich itself, I just thought it was a name for a shop that attached itself to that type of sandwich, you are saying it is the other way round?

None of those other names have much UK recognition either I don't think.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:16 PM
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I think they become “subs” when you pass from the Yankee Zone into the Red Sox Zone.
It would be interesting to map out. I've seen "grinder" as far north and west as Alburg, VT. Even more curious about "spuckie" from Colibri's link, which I've never heard before.

Also: Re: Italy: Don't think of it as one country with a uniform language and cuisine.

Last edited by eunoia; 09-04-2019 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:20 PM
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We have Subway in the UK but never gave it a thought that it refered to the sandwich itself, I just thought it was a name for a shop that attached itself to that type of sandwich, you are saying it is the other way round?

None of those other names have much UK recognition either I don't think.
you had it correct, the name is just attached to the style of sandwich, there's no sandwich I'm aware of called a "subway." it's just a play on words, they sell sub sandwiches and most people are familiar with the word "subway" in the rail sense.

but names for this style vary by region:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_sandwich

it's not always consistent either; as chains branch out to other regions they sometimes bring the name with them. In Detroit, if I go to Tubby's, Subway, or Bommarito's, I'm getting a sub or submarine sandwich. If I go to Bellacino's, I'm getting a grinder.

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Old 09-04-2019, 01:22 PM
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The first thing I thought of when I read the title to this thread was "Pasta in the ballast tanks?"
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:27 PM
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Even more curious about "spuckie" from Colibri's link, which I've never heard before.
Yeah, I never heard of spuckies until playing Fallout 4 (mostly set in what used to be Boston), and a chain called Joe's Spuckies is a couple minor locations.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:30 PM
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We have Subway in the UK but never gave it a thought that it refered to the sandwich itself, I just thought it was a name for a shop that attached itself to that type of sandwich, you are saying it is the other way round?
"Subway" is a pun, indicating a shop that specializes in selling subs. I take it you don't dine there often, since they do refer to their sandwiches as subs in the UK.

Blimpie is another sub shop that has stores in the UK.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-04-2019 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:33 PM
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you had it correct, the name is just attached to the style of sandwich, there's no sandwich I'm aware of called a "subway." it's just a play on words, they sell sub sandwiches and most people are familiar with the word "subway" in the rail sense.
That's kind of you but I think the way you explain it means I'm wrong. I thought that a Sandwich shop called "Subway" sold that style of sandwiche that came to be known as "subs" for short. Whereas it seems to be the case that the style of sandwich called a "sub" predates Subway and their name was a play on that.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:34 PM
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Is the provolone smoked or unsmoked?
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:35 PM
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"Subway" is a pun, indicating a shop that specializes in selling subs. I take it you don't dine there often, since they do refer to their sandwiches as subs in the UK.
I eat there quite a lot but as I say above, I thought that "sub" was their equivalent of MacDonalds sticking "Mac" in front of anything and everything.
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Old 09-04-2019, 01:47 PM
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I wondered where the idea of putting vinaigrette on a sub came from. I don't recall ever seeing it before 2000.
I grew up in southern Maine and it was definitely a thing as far back as mid 80's.

In answer to the OP, I expect that an "authentic" sub is what you had as a kid.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:08 PM
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At the risk of sounding like Maggie Smith, what is a sub? I rather suspect it's not something many Italians would be familiar with.

Or should one read the OP's question as "What makes an Italian sub-authentic"? Which would bring into play all the stereotypes about parking, gesticulating and mamma-fixation.
Annnnnnd, just because you said that, that's exactly how you sound (in my head). Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:25 PM
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I grew up in southern Maine and it was definitely a thing as far back as mid 80's.
We had it in Minneapolis when I was in high school (1970--73).
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:27 PM
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According to an old joke about the Italian Navy, the answer to the question in the thread title is: they have glass bottoms.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:30 PM
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According to an old joke about the Italian Navy, the answer to the question in the thread title is: they have glass bottoms.
Yes, but that's the new Italian navy.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:48 PM
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The screen doors.

BaDUMP-tsshhhh.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:53 PM
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The screen doors.

BaDUMP-tsshhhh.
I thought that was in the Polish navy?

How do you sink an Italian sub?

SPOILER:
Knock on the hatch.
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Old 09-04-2019, 02:55 PM
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Ouch. Looks like I was ninja’d with my approach.

Twice.

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Old 09-04-2019, 03:01 PM
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Ouch. Looks like I was ninja’d with my approach.

Twice.
I got a million of 'em!
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:02 PM
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The sandwiches they have on the streets in Italy aren't submarine style sandwiches, but more of a panini type thing. The ones I saw were generally cheese and cured meats, and without the typical American style lettuce, tomato and onions.

So it's kind of like most Italian-American foods- there's what they eat over there, and what the Italians who immigrated made with local ingredients. Neither is more or less authentic when you think about it - Italians made both, just in different places where things varied in availability and cost. Same for Mexicans in the SW US versus the interior of Mexico. Nobody's going to claim that fajitas aren't actually Mexican, just because Mexicans in Texas were the originator of that dish. Similarly, an "authentic" Italian sandwich probably depends on where it was originally made- is a muffaletta any less authentic than a grinder, hoagie, hero or sub?
I would claim that fajitas are not Mexican food. (They are usually encountered in a Tex-Mex restaurant, not Azteca.) Nor is a New York-style pizza an Italian pizza. Not that it is impossible to serve authentic cuisine in a foreign country, but if most Italians cannot recognize your panino then it is stretching things to call it an "Italian sandwich". I am all for creativity in food, however.
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:05 PM
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I got a million of 'em!
What's it called when the Russian navy sends out two submarines?

SPOILER:
A "surge."
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:05 PM
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Ouch. Looks like I was ninja’d with my approach.

Twice.
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I got a million of 'em!
As I believe I’ve noted before, there are few better posters to be ninja’d by (if you gotta be ninja’d).
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:08 PM
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As I believe I’ve noted before, there are few better posters to be ninja’d by (if you gotta be ninja’d).
To quote Johnny Carson, "I'm flattered to death!"
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:11 PM
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An authentic Italian sub must be built in the shipyards of Castellammare di Stabia and set new aesthetic trends while still respecting classical elegance.

But seriously. It would seem the spuckie is a submarine, but not analogous to subs hoagies and griders because it is specifically the Italian Sandwich. A sub-sub, if you will.
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:22 PM
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The sandwiches they have on the streets in Italy aren't submarine style sandwiches, but more of a panini type thing. The ones I saw were generally cheese and cured meats, and without the typical American style lettuce, tomato and onions.
In Parma a few months back, I had a "sub", made on an Italian baguette with Parma ham, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, field greens and tomato, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Incredibly simple, perfectly excecuted.

It was not too much different from something you could get in any city USA, only the bread was much smaller in diameter than at a place like Subway, and as you might imagine, the ingredients were all obviously fresh and of exceedingly high quality, even though this place was far from upscale.

Sadly, it was probably the best (and cheapest) meal we had the entire time we were in Parma, which in my experience has the least impressive (and most expensive) food of any city I have ever visited in Italy.

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Old 09-04-2019, 03:25 PM
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I would claim that fajitas are not Mexican food. (They are usually encountered in a Tex-Mex restaurant, not Azteca.) Nor is a New York-style pizza an Italian pizza. Not that it is impossible to serve authentic cuisine in a foreign country, but if most Italians cannot recognize your panino then it is stretching things to call it an "Italian sandwich". I am all for creativity in food, however.
That's silly. So if some guy from Italy immigrates to the US, and devises a new Italianate sort of food using slightly different ingredients, it ceases to be Italian? And by the same token, if I emigrate to Italy and devise a new sort of hamburger using Italian ingredients, it's suddenly Italian?

Fajitas were originally devised by South Texas ranch hands, who were given the less desirable cuts of the cow- including the skirt steak, and who grilled it up and ate it on tacos, long before it became popular in the late 1970s/early 1980s in restaurants.

I'm failing to see how some guy named Giuseppe who came from Italy and makes pizza in NYC using local ingredients isn't making Italian food.
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:48 PM
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I would call it a "Neopolitan-American pizza" if it's not the traditional food. (It's not a *geographical* thing, but there are actual guidelines for the ingredients or techniques you may use, otherwise the "specialità tradizionale garantita" people start getting on your ass.)

Anyway, it's not a bright line. I'm just suggesting that it may be possible to push things far enough so that any Italian will say, "That was good, but it was not an Italian sandwich/pizza." Anecdotally, I have heard with my own ears an Italian apologize that she couldn't make a bruschetta quite right because she couldn't find the proper flour outside Italy...
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Old 09-04-2019, 03:56 PM
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I would claim that fajitas are not Mexican food. (They are usually encountered in a Tex-Mex restaurant, not Azteca.) Nor is a New York-style pizza an Italian pizza. Not that it is impossible to serve authentic cuisine in a foreign country, but if most Italians cannot recognize your panino then it is stretching things to call it an "Italian sandwich". I am all for creativity in food, however.
Whether you agree or not, the name of the sandwich, which was invented by Italian immigrants and made from mostly Italian cured meats and Italian cheese, is "Italian sub." If you want to nitpick I suppose you could call it an "Italian-American sub," but no one does.

If fajitas were developed by Mexicans in Texas, it's still a kind of Mexican food regardless of whether it was invented in Mexico. Corned beef and cabbage is more an invention of Irish-Americans than something typical of Ireland itself, but it's still Irish food.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:01 PM
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An Italian Hero (Sub, Grinder, whatever), is just a term for pseudo Italian-like meats and some cheese on that classic hero bun. As such there is really no authentic Italian hero, as it is all just smoke and mirrors from the start. It's sort of the junk food of the cold cut sandwiches. Now go to europe and have a Italian sandwich and now we're talking.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:01 PM
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I would call it a "Neopolitan-American pizza" if it's not the traditional food. (It's not a *geographical* thing, but there are actual guidelines for the ingredients or techniques you may use, otherwise the "specialità tradizionale garantita" people start getting on your ass.)

Anyway, it's not a bright line. I'm just suggesting that it may be possible to push things far enough so that any Italian will say, "That was good, but it was not an Italian sandwich/pizza." Anecdotally, I have heard with my own ears an Italian apologize that she couldn't make a bruschetta quite right because she couldn't find the proper flour outside Italy...
And I'd be willing to be that Ligurians and Pugliese probably argue about what the "proper" way to make some dishes is, while the Sudtirolers probably think they're both wrong.

Pizza, for example comes in multiple styles in Italy alone, some of which are less similar to Neapolitan pizza than NYC pizza is.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:17 PM
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I thought it was spelled gyro, not hero.

Last edited by Trancephalic; 09-04-2019 at 04:17 PM.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trancephalic View Post
I thought it was spelled gyro, not hero.
A hero* sandwich is another (regional) name for a sub. On the other hand, I believe the correct pronunciation of "gyro" in Greek is "hero."

*Hero in the sense of, say, Superman.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:39 PM
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IIRC it’s more like “year-oh”
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
According to Wiki, the "Italian sandwich" was invented by an Italian-American in Maine in 1903. But I think you can go with the type of hero made in a typical New York Italian deli.

The basic ingredients would include:


-Long, crusty, "Italian bread" roll (like a baguette)
...otherwise known as "Pane Francese"...

"Authentic" is often hard to justify for modern foodstuffs in any case. "Authentic pizza" has tomatoes on it after all. Basically we're all food whores. And all the better for it.
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Old 09-04-2019, 06:04 PM
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Quote:
Quoth DPRK:

I would claim that fajitas are not Mexican food. (They are usually encountered in a Tex-Mex restaurant, not Azteca.)
How is food from one region of Mexico any less "Mexican" than food from another region of Mexico? Saying that something is Tex-Mex, not Mexican, is like saying that something is Neapolitan, not Italian.

Back to the OP, I expect that the person referring to "authenticity" already has in mind some type standard of a "proper Italian sub" (probably the variety produced in the shop of the person's preference from that person's hometown), and they're saying that a particular place is very close to that standard.

And the various long-bun sandwiches are not quite the same thing. A sub, for instance, can have the bread fully sliced (and thus have a top slice and a bottom slice), while in a hoagie, the bread is always sliced only partially, like a hot dog bun, with the fillings in between and atop. Subway used to use a V-shaped slice resulting in a large bottom slice with a trough in it, topped by a small top slice, but now uses a hoagie cut.
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Old 09-04-2019, 06:18 PM
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By some standards then, a hoagie isn't even a sandwich. I refer you to the on-going debate over at The Takeout.
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Old 09-04-2019, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
IIRC it’s more like “year-oh”
That's how we were taught here in Chicago. And there's an "s" at the end. It's like "kudos." Has an "s," but is singular. There was some sort of poster, I dunno if it was Kronos or Olympia or somebody else, at hot dog stands here that implored us to pronounce it "YEE-ros." But I've also heard that initial consonant can differ depending on the Greek dialect.
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