While outsiders think the cheesesteak is Philadelphia’s most famous sandwich, the locals crave Philly-style Italian roast pork sandwiches, which are inspiring an explosion of culinary creativity across the country.
“Cheesesteaks are what the tourists eat, but people from Philly go for Italian roast pork sandwiches,” says Stephen Gerike, director of foodservice marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “It’s exciting to see this classic grow in popularity beyond the city and gain more national attention, especially since we’ve been promoting this story to foodservice professionals for nearly seven years.”
Philly’s delectable Italian roast pork sandwiches consist of thinly shaved, boneless pork butt that’s braised low and slow in a garlic, rosemary and pepper marinade. The pork is served on a sesame seed, hoagie roll with sharp provolone cheese and broccoli rapini or spinach sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
“We’ve featured this style of pork sandwich at the Pork Checkoff’s Culinary Innovation Workshops,” says Gerike, who noted that these workshops allow corporate chefs from the nation’s largest restaurant chains to experiment with various pork cuts. “We want to help chefs better understand the value of pork and discover new options for offering high-quality, flavorful menu items that are profitable.”
Pork makes headlines in USA Today
Chefs aren’t the only ones developing a taste for Italian roast pork sandwiches, which are similar to porchetta sandwiches. Philly’s cult favorites were recently featured in the travel section of USA Today. In “Great American Bites: Philly’s Other Famous Sandwich,” author Larry Olmsted showcased three venues famous for their Italian roast pork sandwiches, including DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef, John’s Roast Pork, and Tony Luke’s.
John’s Roast Pork, which dates to 1930, claims to have invented the Italian Roast Pork Sandwich. Ordering at this family-run operation, now in its third generation, is almost like being in someone’s kitchen, Olmsted wrote.
“The pork is all roasted on the premises from whole picnic shoulders on the bone and rubbed with a secret recipe of fresh herbs, while greens bubble away in pots on the stove. John’s offered up the best combination of a delicious sandwich and atmosphere, with the kind of roadside-joint authenticity that is increasingly hard to find.”
Philly flavor showcases pork’s possibilities
The Pork Checkoff is highlighting the authentic flavor of Philly’s Italian roast pork sandwiches in The 400, an e-newsletter geared towards foodservice professionals. The savory sandwiches provide plenty of food for thought in the latest issue, which focuses on regional cuisines.
“Any way you slice it, there has never been a better time for chefs to feature pork and explore new flavors,” Gerike says.