Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Like many "Americans," I grew up on sandwiches, and I like them a lot. As a youngster in Connecticut, there were the sandwiches you made at home, usually to pack for lunch. In my case the sandwich for school was quite often the appalling but nonetheless delicious fluffernutter, or a simple sandwich made with a cold cut we called "medvist," which was basically salami and presumably a Swedish-American version of Mettwurst(?), always on sliced store-bought Sunbeam white bread. I'm not sure what I would make of it today, but we gobbled them up quite happily back then. Of course we also ate hamburgers and hot dogs and grilled cheese and, when hungry or forced, sloppy joes.

Then there were the grinders we ate out. This was a different matter. A good Connecticut grinder is a work of art. The ingredients are not much at all: some kind of deli sandwich meat (usually turkey or boiled ham), tomato, shredded lettuce, oil and vinegar, salt and plenty of black pepper, on an Italian roll. The key is that when you pass the assembled sandwich through the pizza oven, the roll gets super crusty outside, with the interior a little wilted and steamy. When I say super crusty I mean that you cut the roof of your mouth when you bite into it. Sounds easy to do, but not so. It seems that Greek-Americans made the best grinders in eastern Connecticut... the best pizza as well.

Since then I have had even better sandwiches. New Orleans is a place where you can get a really good sandwich. The muffuletta at the Central Grocery is justly famous, as is the po'boy at Mother's Restaurant. At least it was some years ago when I last paid a visit.

The best sandwich I ever had was at I Due Fratellini in Florence. Well, maybe the atmospheric location clouds one's judgement, along with the fact that you can order a cheap glass of decent chianti in a real wine glass and drink it on the street while you consume your sandwich. But I don't think so. They make a damn good sandwich.

Meanwhile, although the San Francisco Bay Area is a paradise in most respects, sandwich-wise it is largely a wasteland. I had a fine sandwich or two in Sonoma at the Fig Pantry, which inexplicably closed a while back. Our local Safeway had an astoundingly good deli counter for a brief period, which would make you something called a Veggin' Out, with avocado, cheese, and tapinade, on an exceedingly fresh and tasty rustic whole-wheat baguette. Amazing. That didn't last long. Otherwise, there is the banh mi, which when done well is a little reminiscent of the Connecticut grinder texture-wise. They make a very good one at the Slanted Door, but I have to think there is a more economical alternative somewhere in Little Saigon. Further research is called for.

No comments:

Post a Comment