In Philly and parts of Jersey, they’re hoagies; for much of the East Coast, subs; to New Yorkers, heroes. But in parts of New England, it’s the grinder you’ll find.
Origin stories abound as to their name—grinder was slang for dockworkers, who were apt to need a massive, handheld lunch; the sandwiches were piled so high your teeth had to grind to get through them.
Some consider the grinder a sub-style sandwich that must be served warm, while others lump any crusty-breaded, stacked-high sandwich a grinder. But we’ll be inclusive in our terminology today.
The bread. As with a hero or a hoagie, long and crusty Italian rolls are the only acceptable grinder base. Put it on different bread and it’s just not a grinder anymore.
The filling. There’s little better than a grinder that’s piled high, Italian-style, with all manner of meats, provolone and the like. (If you’re going that route, olive oil, vinegar and hot peppers are key.) But the grinder is a broad sandwich category: Eggplant parms and such can fall under the umbrella, too.
Where to get it:
Coppa; Boston Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s Italian enoteca has plenty of elegant, ambitious dishes on the menu, from a sea urchin panino to wood oven–roasted striped bass. But it’s hard to deny the pleasure of their Italian grinder. It’s no surprise that a restaurant that puts together gorgeous charcuterie plates knows how to stack a grinder; theirs layers salami, prosciutto, mortadella and provolone, all cut whisper-thin, along with oil and vinegar and tangy pickled cherry peppers, all on lightly toasted ciabatta.
Avventura Deli; Waterbury, CT Some will claim that the grinder’s true home is in Connecticut, rather than Massachusetts. Avventura is a local favorite in the town of Waterbury, with extensive menus of both hot and cold grinders; the politically incorrect Guido Kid, with prosciutto, salami, provolone and cherry peppers, is a smart bet.
Lena’s Pizzaria; Hartford, CT Chef Bissonnette, whose Italian grinder shows that he’s a sandwich expert, endorses the eggplant parm grinder at this no-frills Hartford pizzeria. “It’s the real deal.”