Monday, August 3, 2015

For the Love of a Sandwich

I’ve written longingly about a good sub sandwich.  I grew up in Massachusetts at a time where it seemed every corner had a spot for a good Italian Grinder.  Now they seem to have disappeared, usurped by bland Subways.  South and west of Philadelphia it appears a good sub sandwich or hoagie never existed.  But I haven’t given up hope.  Over the years I’ve tried many.  Collier’s Deli in Ballwin, Missouri does a damn good job (, best I’ve had outside of the Northeast.  But I live in California now.  Metro St. Louis is a long way to go for a sandwich.

But I am happy to report on two recent West Coast discoveries, Jersey Mike’s ( and Bertucelli’s La Villa in Willow Glen (  I stumbled upon Jersey Mike’s while vacationing in San Diego.  I had seen billboards touting the chains’ support of local charities.  Then a friend suggested it as a good spot to stop for a sandwich and told us a bit of the backstory of Jersey Mike.  A single location purchased by a high school kid with a loan from his coach turns into a nationwide 600 outlet chain. One afternoon after a strip mall errand the kids mentioned their hunger.  So of course I glanced up and there was a Jersey Mike’s across the parking lot.  Bingo.

Any place claiming to have great sub sandwiches must have three things – great cold cuts, crisp, crunchy bread and a killer Italian sub made with olive oil, vinegar, tangy, spicy peppers and no mayo.  Jersey Mike’s measured up.  Meats are cut thin as sandwiches are ordered.  Sandwiches come in three sizes, the largest of which I would have only barely been able to consume when I was 18!  The bread had a real crust that crunched and crumbled when bitten.  And while the menu lacked a couple dozen creatively named standards and certainly no lobster or crab salad, nor a meatball and sausage, it did feature at the very top, #13, a standard Italian sub, which I promptly ordered without needing to read any further.  

I have since found out that Jersey Mike’s is a national chain.  Look for it and you will never need a subterranean public transit system again. 
Back up north in San Jose I recently had the occasion to need to snag dinner out on 8 consecutive Wednesday nights.  I took it as an opportunity to explore.  One evening I was craving a sandwich.  Some quick research led me directly to Bertucelli’s La Villa on Lincoln.  The moment I entered I fell in love.  It’s a small market of cheeses, meats, prepared meals, wine, olive oil and a nice variety of other Italian goods.  The meat cooler dominates and made me salivate.  Word online is that the sandwich everyone MUST get is the Chris Combo.  But as I mentioned, to me the measuring stick for a sandwich joint is their Italian.  La Villa’s rocks!!!  The bread was beautiful, crunchy, messy…the meats were cut just right…had the right balance of tangy, spicy, sweet, chewy and bready that all together makes it all melt in your mouth.  A soda and a bag of chips and dinner in the car (La Villa has outdoor seating, but it was closing time and I had a class to get to) made me feel like a ten year old again.  Sadly I was rushed and did not have the moments to savor this as it deserved.  I will find an excuse to get back here soon.  You should too. 
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