N.J.'s best sub/hoagie shop finals: The secret behind that famous roast beef and mozzarella sub
There are many factors that go into a great sub shop – and its owner. Apparently, chutzpah is one of them.
Told we had just come from Fiore’s in Hoboken, one of ten finalists in our N.J.’s best sub/hoagie shop showdown, Pete Soriano, owner of Andrea Salumeria in Jersey City, smiled.
“It’s all right,” he said of the legendary Hoboken deli. “You know how many people from there I’ve converted to here?”
Andrea Salumeria and Fiore’s, two of the state’s great old-school Italian delis, were the stops on day three of our epic showdown. We started in September by asking readers for nominations. More than 350 shops were nominated; all were put on the ballot, in four regions. The top five vote-getters in each region became 20 of our semifinalists; I picked the other 20. I visited all 40 semifinalists over two weeks, then picked our ten finalists.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, we will walk, unannounced, through the door of the winning sub/hoagie shop; you can watch the celebration live at nj.com. Don’t forget you can vote for the Readers’ Choice winner until midnight Tuesday, Dec. 6. I will pick the overall winner.
It’s been a spirited competition, with shops trumpeting their semifinalist and finalist status on Facebook and shop owners/staff pulling out all the stops in an attempt to be the number one shop (at WonderSub in Old Bridge, the owner and his employees went into a huddle to decide what two subs I should order).
Andrea Scivettti, Soriano’s uncle, opened Andrea Salumeria in 1975. It may the state’s narrowest deli; you run a gauntlet with the meat/cheese display case on your left and store shelves on your right to reach the counter. Soriano has added many specialty products over the years – imported cookies, cheeses, pastas, even the Italian equivalent of Brioschi.
“I’ve got people coming here 30, 35 years,” says Soriano, who grew up five blocks away. “I got people who came here with their children, now their children are coming in.”
Boxes of panettone and tartufone atop the display case reach practically to the ceiling. The meat is from Boar’s Head and Citterio, the bread from Dom’s Bakery in Hoboken. The mozzarella is homemade.
We ordered four subs – the Soprano, with sopresata, prosciutto and sundried tomatoes; one with parma prosciutto and sun-dried peppers; Pete’s Special Tuna; and an all-veggie sub with mozzarella, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.
Assistant judges, acting in a advisory capacity, have accompanied me all week. Mike Nuciforo, who enjoyed Andrea’s “low-key neighborhood deli vibe,” singled out the Pete’s Special Tuna sub, “a great sandwich, simple but high quality, definitely worth a return trip.”
Nancy Stone, another fan of the deli’s atmosphere, called both the Italian and the Soprano subs “delicious.”
Kelly Decker praised Soriano’s “passionate” approach to his food and customers, and described the Italian combo as “super tasty, with a great balance.” And she found the all-veggie sub a ”great alternative if you’re not into the cured meats scene.”
Fiore’s story begins with Alphonse Fiore in 1913.
“He comes in from Brooklyn on the ferry, opens up this little store,” says John Amato Sr., sitting in his office in a back room at Fiore’s.
Fiore sold just ricotta, mozzarella and milk at the beginning. His son took over the store in 1929, adding cold cuts and Italian specialties. In 1950, Amato started working here as a delivery boy, at the age of 15. In 1965, he bought the business. His son, John Amato Jr. began working here when he was 12. What did he do?
“Cleaning up; it was all cleaning up,” he says, laughing. “Emptying the ice machine. All the good jobs.”
Today, you can find Amato Jr. behind the counter, making sandwiches. The origins of Fiore’s legendary roast beef and mozzarella sandwich go back to around 1960, when the deli started offering a special sandwich each day – roast beef, sausage, tuna, Virginia ham. The roast beef and mozzarella became Fiore’s signature sandwich; it’s available Thursdays and Saturdays only.
The roast beef comes from Thumann’s. Other meats are from Citterio, Ace Endico and smaller suppliers. The bread’s from Marie’s Bakery in Jersey City.
Lunchtime on a weekday means a line out of the door; arrive before 11:30 if you want to beat the rush. We ordered four subs and this being Thursday, one was Fiore’s legendary roast beef and mozzarella, naturally. The subs: the Italian combo, one with prosciutto and mozzarella, another with mortadella, capicola and marinated eggplant.
Nuciforo called the roast beef/mozzarella sub “phenomenal,” the meat “perfectly tender and juicy.” He loved the Italian sub even more – “I could come back for it every day.” But he found the prosciutto and mozzarella sub “a bit boring” compared to others.”
Stone called the roast beef and Italian subs her two favorites of the day. The roast beef, she said, “had a great beefy taste and melted in your mouth.”
Decker found the Italian combo a “perfect combination of meats and cheeses,” with the peppers adding “a nice kick of flavor.” And she was “very pleased” with the marinated eggplant on the mortadella, capicola and mozzarella sub.
“Places like Fiore’s,” she summed up, “are the reason my yoga pants are now compression wear.”
Peter Genovese may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @PeteGenovese or via The Munchmobile @NJ_Munchmobile. Find the Munchmobile on Facebook and Instagram.
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Published at Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:30:00 +0000