Philly Tastes

Todd Coleman

Philadelphia has its immigrants to thank for its sandwiches. In the 1800s, the city's workers brought from Italy a taste for sandwiches on long bread, carrying them to the factories and dockside for lunch. The hoagie likely was named by former jazzman Al De Palma, who opened a deli in 1936, coining his wares after a comment he'd made years earlier while watching fellow musicians devour Italian sandwiches: "You had to be a hog" to eat one. Over the years, his "hoggies" became "hoagies."

The city's steak sandwich was invented by Pat Olivieri, founder of Pat's King of Steaks, in South Philly. Olivieri was a hot dog vendor who, tired of wieners one day in 1930, threw some meat scraps on his pushcart grill for lunch. The first cheese-steak, topped with provolone, is also a Pat's creation. The Italiano—meat, greens, and sharp provo-lone—is a more recent South Philly tradition. Shank's & Evelyn's (now Shank's Original Luncheonette), which opened in 1962, served one of the first Italianos, which was made with a chicken cutlet. The pork version came with a side of sauteed greens, which some customers requested on the roll.

The "combo," a marriage of hot dogs (and, later, hot sausages) and fish cakes, was the brainchild of Abe Levis, a Lithuanian Jew who opened a Philly franks shop in 1895. John Danze, of Johnny's Hots—located in Fishtown, the former locus of the city's shad fisheries—serves it with "pepper hash," a Pennsylvania Dutch cabbage-and-bell pepper relish that has long been a popular local condiment for fish.

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