Philadelphia is known for two things: an astronomical murder rate and cheesesteaks. I am not big on the first issue, but am a big fan and consumer of the latter. I have spent a lot of time and money traveling around this city for the perfect combination of chopped ribeye, fried onions, melted cheese, and a fresh baked roll. I have my own thoughts about what shop makes the best steak, but I’ll save that for another day. Any true Philadelphia food connoisseur will tell you that the city’s best sandwich isn’t the famous cheesesteak, it is in fact the Italian roast pork sandwich.
Having lived here in this city for three years now, I have tried to familiarize myself with the local culinary scene. Up late one night, I happened to turn to a show on the Travel Channel called “Man vs. Food.” This particular episode happened to take place in Philadelphia. The host traveled to the familiar cheesesteak haunts: Pat’s, Geno’s, and Tony Luke’s that are famous worldwide. He then started to talk about the roast pork sandwich, something that was completely unfamiliar to me. However it looked absolutely phenomenal so I made a mental note to take a trip to Center City to sample one of these bad boys for myself.
When I think of roast pork, especially in sandwich form, I immediately go back to childhood pig roasts and barbecues filled with the familiar over-sauced, bland tasting swine in the pulled form. This isn’t what an authentic Italian Roast Pork sandwich is like at all. First the marinated meat is laboriously cooked for a long period of time. This is to ensure that the meat is flavorful, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone tender. Next, the meat is sliced thin almost reminiscent of how the ribeye is cut in a cheesesteak. Essential to the process is the sharp provolone that is next added to the sandwich. Unlike its mostly tasteless domestic counterpart, sharp provolone has a distinct bite and flavor that makes it one of the most unique cheeses that you will ever experience. The most important part of the sandwich, in my opinion, is the roll. Luckily, this area is filled with amazing bakeries, most notably Amoroso, which produce some of the finest quality sandwich rolls that you will ever have. Its hard to understand why the breads produced here are so good, but some people suggest that it is in the water (no really). Once you assemble the meat, cheese, and the roll, you top it all off with broccoli rabe and some au jus. You have yourself a true Italian roast pork sandwich.
The place featured on the show, was Tommy DiNic’s. This is where I made my food pilgrimage. Located as a stand in the historic Reading Terminal Market, at first glance, this place doesn’t look like much. As you get closer, you see a line stretching almost through the entire market comprised of locals and workers waiting to get a fix of their favorite meal. Luckily, I chose to visit in the morning, and beat the lunch rush. I sauntered right up to the counter, and my order was taken by the head chef who I recognized from the television show. “Hey man!” I said. “I saw you on TV, get me one of those sandwiches you guys are known for.” “You’re gonna like it”is all he replied. The workers making the sandwich were very polite and will customize your order to your liking. This is a sharp contrast to the stereotypical “Soup Nazi” style of “service” employed by the traditional cheesesteak shops; where you are treated rudely, almost as a rite of passage. These sandwiches aren’t cheap, expect to pay over ten dollars for one and a drink. I guess you get what you pay for, and believe me, this was worth every penny.
Fast forward to 2:00