Submarine sandwich

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Submarine sandwich
Submarine sandwich with toppings and dijon mustard.jpg
A submarine sandwich
Alternative names
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateNortheast
Main ingredientsMultiple

A submarine sandwich, also known as a sub, hoagie, hero, or grinder, is a type of sandwich made from a cylindrical bread roll split lengthwise and filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments.[2][3] It has many different names.[2][1]

The terms submarine and sub are widespread and not assignable to any certain region, though many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeastern United States.

History and etymology[edit]

The Italian sandwich originated in several different Italian American communities in the Northeastern United States from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.[4] Portland, Maine, claims to be the birthplace of the Italian sandwich and it is considered Maine's signature sandwich.[4] The popularity of this Italian-American cuisine has grown from its origins in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to most parts of the United States and Canada, and with the advent of chain restaurants, is now available in many parts of the world.[5][6][7]


The use of the term "submarine" or "sub" (after the resemblance of the roll to the shape of a submarine) is widespread.[2] While some accounts source the name as originating in New London, Connecticut (site of the United States Navy's primary submarine base) during World War II, written advertisements from 1940 in Wilmington, Delaware, indicate the term originated prior to the United States' entry into World War II.[8]

Fenian Ram submarine, c. 1920

One theory says the submarine was brought to the U.S. by Dominic Conti (1874–1954), an Italian immigrant who came to New York in the early 1900s.[4] He is said to have named it after seeing the recovered 1901 submarine called Fenian Ram in the Paterson Museum of New Jersey in 1928. 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).[4]


Workers read the Hog Island News
Salami, ham and cheeses on a hoagie roll

The term hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. The Philadelphia Bulletin reported, in 1953, 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.[citation needed] This became known as the "Hog Island" sandwich; shortened to "Hoggies", then the "hoagie". offers the following origin of the term hoagie. n. American English (originally Philadelphia) word for "hero, large sandwich made from a long, split roll"; originally hoggie (c. 1936), traditionally said to be named for Big Band songwriter Hoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael (1899–1981), but the use of the word predates his celebrity and the original spelling seems to suggest another source (perhaps "hog"). Modern spelling is c. 1945, and may have been altered by influence of Carmichael's nickname.[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, meats, cookies and buns with a cut in them. 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 to early 20th century, among the Italian community in South Philadelphia, when "on the hoke" meant that someone was destitute. 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".[1]

Shortly after World War II, there were numerous varieties of the term in use throughout Philadelphia. By the 1940s, the spelling "hoagie" had come to dominate less-used variations like "hoogie" and "hoggie". It is never spelled hoagy.[11] By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term hoagie. Listings in Pittsburgh show hoagies arriving in 1961 and becoming widespread in that city by 1966.[11]

Former Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell declared the hoagie the "Official Sandwich of Philadelphia".[12] However, there are claims that the hoagie was actually a product of nearby Chester, Pennsylvania.[13] 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 an exchange matching the customer's requests and the deli's offerings, the hoagie was created.[14][15]

Woolworth's to-go sandwich was called a hoagie in all U.S. stores.[16]

Bánh mì sandwiches are sometimes referred to as "Vietnamese hoagies" in Philadelphia.[17]


New York style meatball hero with mozzarella

The New York term hero is first attested in 1937.[18] 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 as the gyro was unknown in the United States until the 1960s.[5]

Hero (plural usually heros, not heroes[19]) 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 sauce.


Pastrami grinder

A common term in New England is grinder, but its origin has several possibilities.[20] One theory has the name coming from Italian-American slang for a dock worker, among whom the sandwich was popular.[5] Others say that it was called a grinder because the bread's hard crust required much chewing.[21]

In Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and parts of New England, the term grinder usually refers to a hot submarine sandwich (meatball, sausage, etc.), whereas a cold sandwich (e.g., cold cuts) is usually called a "sub".[8] In the Philadelphia area, the term grinder is also applied to any hoagie that is toasted in the oven after assembly, whether or not it is made with traditionally hot ingredients.


The term wedge is used in Westchester County, New York, Putnam County, New York, Dutchess County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut – four counties directly north of New York City.

Some base the name wedge on a diagonal cut in the middle of the sandwich, creating two halves or "wedges", or a "wedge" cut out of the top half of the bread with the fillings "wedged" in between, or a sandwich that is served between two "wedges" of bread. It has also been said wedge is just short for "sandwich", with the name having originated from an Italian deli owner located in Yonkers, who got tired of saying the whole word.[22][8]


The term spukie ("spukkie" or "spuckie") is unique to the city of Boston and derives from the Italian word spuccadella, meaning "long roll". The word spuccadella is not typically found in Italian dictionaries, which may suggest that it could be a regional Italian dialect, or possibly a Boston Italian-American innovation. Spukie is typically heard in parts of Dorchester and South Boston. Some bakeries in Boston's North End neighborhood have homemade spuccadellas for sale.[23]

Other types[edit]

A Gatsby sandwich

Popularity and availability[edit]

Rolls filled with condiments have been common in several European countries for more than a century, notably in France and Scotland.

In the United States, from its origins with the Italian-American labor force in the northeast, 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.[5]

Pizzerias may have been among the first Italian-American eateries, but even at the turn of the [20th] 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 an Italian loaf of bread with lots of salami, cheese, and peppers.

— John Mariani, America Eats Out, p. 66

Subs or their national equivalents were already popular in many European, Asian and Australasian countries when late 20th-century franchisee chain restaurants (such as Subway) and fast food made them even more popular and increased the prevalence of the word sub. Many outlets offer non-traditional ingredient combinations.

In the United States, there are many chain restaurants that specialize in subs. Major international chains include Firehouse Subs, Quiznos, Mr. Sub and the largest restaurant chain in the world, Subway.[24] The sandwich is also often available at supermarkets, local delis, and convenience stores. These include Wawa, who annually run a sub promotional event during the summer called Hoagiefest,[25] and Publix, whose sandwiches are often referred to as "pub subs".[26][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Eames, Edwin; Robboy, Howard (December 1967). "The Submarine Sandwich, Lexical Variations in a Cultural Context". American Speech. 42 (4): 279–288. doi:10.2307/452990. JSTOR 452990. Accessed 15 January 2020. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c "submarine sandwich". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "po'boy". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Stradley, Linda. "History of Hoagies, Submarine Sandwiches, Po' Boys Sandwiches, Dagwood Sandwiches, & Italian Sandwiches". Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Wilton, Dave (Autumn 2003). "A Hoagie by Any Other Name" (PDF). Verbatim. XXVII (3). Retrieved November 21, 2008.
  6. ^ "Ogden Finds a New Gastronomic Love in a Submarine Sandwich". Wilmington Sunday Morning Star. September 7, 1941.
  7. ^ Popik, Barry (April 5, 2008). "The Big Apple: Submarine Sandwich". Retrieved August 22, 2013. Delaware has the strongest claim to the 'submarine sandwich,' with that term appearing in a Wilmington telephone directory in January 1940.
  8. ^ a b c Peterson, Sam Dean, Erik S. "The Origin of Hoagies, Grinders, Subs, Heroes, and Spuckies". Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Definition of hoagie". Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  10. ^ Finkel, Kenneth, ed. (1995). Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen's Manual. Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia. p. 86.
  11. ^ a b Labov, William (2003). "Pursuing the Cascade Model". In Peter Trudgill; David Britain; Jenny Cheshire (eds.). Social Dialectology: In Honour of Peter Trudgill. John Benjamins Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1-58811-403-7.
  12. ^ Philadelphia Visitors Bureau webpage Archived July 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Gebhart, Ed (February 9, 2003). "Hoagie, then known as Italian sandwich, got start in Chester". Delaware County Daily Times. Archived from the original on July 28, 2009.
  14. ^ "1925: Hoagie Rolls into County History". Archived from the original on November 17, 2001. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  15. ^ Vigoda, Ralph (5 March 2003). "How the Hoagie Started: Truth, or a Lot of Baloney?". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  16. ^ "Worcester, Mass - Places of the Past, Woolworth's". Retrieved July 1, 2015."Hoagies". Retrieved July 1, 2015."Best Hoagie in D'Burgh - Pennsylvania - Chowhound". 2001-09-07. Retrieved July 1, 2015."Railroad Line Forums - 1957 Woolworth Menu". Retrieved February 2, 2016."Music Review: Neil Diamond: The Bang Years 1966-1968". 2011-03-18. Retrieved July 1, 2015."Many store memories of five-and-dimes". Tribunedigital-mcall. Retrieved July 1, 2015."Recipe Exchange: November 3, 2010". Tribunedigital-mcall. November 2, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2015."Pleasant Family Shopping". 2009-06-18. Retrieved July 1, 2015."Jasko v. F.W. Woolworth Co Case Brief". Retrieved July 1, 2015."Woolworths - recall days of five-and-dimes - Recipes and more!". Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  17. ^ "Top 5 Banh Mi (Vietnamese Hoagies)". Philadelphia City Paper. July 20, 2006. Archived from the original on April 12, 2014. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Popik, Barry (June 11, 2004). "The Big Apple: Hero Sandwich". Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  19. ^ "hero". Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  20. ^ Lebovitz, David (September 19, 2012). "Meatball Sandwich". Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  21. ^ "Is There a Difference Between Hoagies, Heroes, Subs, and Grinders?". Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  22. ^ Bonar, Julia (June 1, 2005). "The good times are on a roll with this New Orleans classic". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  23. ^ "Grinders, Subs, and Spuckies - Sandwich Names of New England - New England Today". Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  24. ^ Peterson, Kim (March 7, 2011). "Subway becomes world's largest restaurant chain". Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  25. ^ Cummings, Sinead (15 June 2017). "This is when Wawa Hoagiefest 2017 will begin". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  26. ^ Waterfield, Sophia (17 February 2020). ""Pub subs" on sale this week: How to get discounted Publix sandwiches for $5.99". Newsweek. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  27. ^ "Southerners Know the Secret Behind the Publix Sub". Southern Living. 11 January 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2020.

External links[edit]