Do you call a sandwich on a long roll a hoagie? If you’re from around here, probably not. “Hoagie” is a word most commonly used in Philadelphia and sometimes in New York. In New England, this sandwich goes by different names. It could be a sub or a grinder. In Maine, you might call it an Italian or even a spuckie in Boston. But no matter what you call it, we celebrated all these sandwiches yesterday, September 14th, on National Eat a Hoagie Day. If you missed this very important holiday yesterday, don’t worry! You can still head to the deli at D’errico’s Market to get everything you need to make your favorite version of this sandwich.
It’s more or less the same sandwich, so you’d think that it would have the same name everywhere, right? Well, no. The sub sandwich (or grinder or hoagie) is a culinary invention of Italian immigrants to the United States. There are communities of Italian-Americans everywhere, especially along the East Coast, and they all developed their own version of this sandwich. Some versions traveled further from their origins than others, which is why certain names are more familiar while others are unique to their regions.
The most common name for what we might call a grinder or a hoagie is a sub, short for submarine. This is because of the shape of the bread and its resemblance to the naval vessel. One story even claims that the US Navy during World War II is responsible for spreading both the name and the sandwich across America. While waiting to ship out from the Naval Sub Base in Groton (then part of New London), CT, the sailors discovered the sandwich that was then called a grinder. They liked it so much that they got the commissary to order 500 sandwiches a day. When they shipped out, they took their love of this sandwich with them and give it a new name.
There are multiple stories that claim to have named this sandwich and spread its popularity out from the community and deli where it started. It’s nearly impossible to know which (if any) of these stories are true. But no matter where it came from or where it started, you can’t deny that it’s a great sandwich, no matter what you call it.