Philadelphia, PA - New Jerseyans love their food, and the most popular sandwich in New Jersey is the Italian sandwich; However, it's not called the Italian sandwich, depending on what part of the state you live in, it is called the Hoagie, Hero, or Sub.
Is it the Hoagie, the Hero, or the Sub?
Like the United States, New Jersey is divided into two geographic regions with different roots, cultural traditions, and food tastes. I-195, running west to east from Trenton to Belmar, is considered the unofficial dividing line between north and south Jersey.
North and south Jerseyans root for different football teams, baseball teams, and basketball teams, and have different accents.
In South Jersey, most people who live there had roots in the Philadelphia area. South Jerseyans receive their TV programming and newspapers from Philadelphia and tend to be slower-paced with food tastes and food descriptions largely influenced by Philadelphia.
NYC events and traditions influence people who live in the more crowded North Jersey and either have roots in New York or commute to New York to work. North Jerseyans receive their TV programming and newspapers from NYC and tend to be faster-paced, with food tastes and food descriptions primarily influenced by New York City.
Where did the Italian sandwich come from?
Most of the early twentieth-century Italian food in the United States came from the southern Italian immigrants. They arrived during the great wave of immigration in the United States from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Most of these immigrants settled into the large northeast cities of New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Many Italians became fishermen, shoemakers, waiters, fruit and food peddlers, and merchants, though most were unskilled laborers working in mines, construction jobs, building roads, and dockers on the waterfront.
The southern Italian immigrants from the Naples, Italy region (Neapolitan) brought the Italian sandwich, made with baked crusted bread with pointed ends stuffed with cured meats and cheese. Entrepreneurial immigrants seized the opportunity to peddle the sandwich to the Italian immigrant workers on the waterfront docks and laborers at construction sites.
Later on, this tasty sandwich became sought after by Americans and other ethnic groups, and they began to include different varieties of meat, vegetables, and cheese. Until the end of World War II, the Italian sandwich caught on outside the Italian-American community and became widespread. At that time, the typical Italian sandwich was made with 12" long by 3" wide baked crusted bread with pointed ends, provolone cheese, Italian hard salami, lettuce, tomatoes, oil and vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper.
How did the Italian sandwich in New Jersey take on the names of Hoagie, Hero, and Sub?
The Origin of the Hoagie
The Hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. The term is now used in Scranton, Pittsburgh, southern New Jersey, Delaware, and southern Ohio.
Legend has it that an area of Philadelphia known as Hog Island, a shipyard during World War I, had many Italian immigrant workers who would take large Italian sandwiches made with cured meats, spices, oil, tomatoes, onions, and peppers for their lunches. Because of the shipyard location, the workers were nicknamed "hoggies," and at some point, the sandwiches they ate adopted the name "Hoggie."
Philadelphians who initiated the migration to South Jersey in the '50s retained the name Hoagie for the famous Italian sandwich. After World War II, the "Hoggie" became the "Hoagie" and quickly caught on outside the Italian community and soon achieved the favored sandwich in Philadelphia. South Philly neighborhood "mom and pop" delis began offering the Hoagie as the featured sandwich, and Wawa Food Markets began selling Hoagies in the late 1970s. Former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell declared the Hoagie the "Official Sandwich of Philadelphia."
The Origin of the Hero
* The Hero originated in New York City. The term is now used in downstate New York and North Jersey.
The name "Hero" is credited to NY Herald Tribune Food writer Clementine Paddleford who wrote in the 1930's that you needed to be a hero to eat the giant-sized Italian sandwich.
Legend has it that in 1905, James Manganaro, who came from Italy to New York to join his cousin in the deli business, was responsible for popularizing the Italian sandwich in NYC, where he sold the king-sized Italian sandwich later caught on and became the Hero.
The Origin of the Sub
The origin of the name submarine sandwich or "Sub" is widely disputed, with stories of it taking place in Boston, MA, Groton, CT, and Patterson, NJ. Today the term is used throughout New Jersey and New England and has spread across the United States by the many chain restaurants like Subway, Quiznos, Blimpies, and Jersey Mikes Subs.
One legend credits it originated at a restaurant in Scollay Square in Boston, MA, beginning World War II. Its customers were many navy servicemen stationed at the Charlestown Navy Yard who coined the name sub after the submarine's hull.
Another story placed the naming of the sub sandwich during World War II when the naval submarine base in Groton, CT ordered 500 Italian sandwiches a day from Capaldo's Italian deli in New London, CT, and the employees of the deli began to refer to the sandwich as the "Sub."
The other legend had the earliest date in 1910, when the Sub was named by Dominic Conti, owner of Dominic Conti's Grocery Store on Mill Street in Patterson, NJ, who observed the similarity of shape with his crusted, pointed end bread sandwich and a local exhibit of the first experimental submarine and began selling the sandwich as the "sub."
The Correct Name of Italian Sandwich in New Jersey is the Sub
The appropriate name for the Italian sandwich in New Jersey is the Sub. Although the location of the origin of the term "Sub" is widely disputed, one of the three famous legends has it that the name "sub" was coined in Patterson, NJ. The Jersey legend also has 1910 as the earliest date of all the tales. Hoagie and Hero clearly have their origins in Philadelphia and New York City.
Sack O' Subs, with four sub shops in south Jersey, in Absecon, Brigantine, Ocean City, and Ventnor, has it right when they say that in New Jersey, the correct name is the Sub. In South Jersey, where many other sandwich shops sell "Hoagies," if you come into their sub shop and ask for a Hogie, they will jokingly remind you that you have crossed over the bridge and are now in Jersey. It's called a "Sub."