A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 05, 2008
Submarine Sandwich (Sub Sandwich)

The “hero sandwich” is a regional sandwich name popular in New York City since the 1930s; “submarine sandwich” has been popular since the late 1930s and “sub” sandwiches are also served in New York City. The national restaurant chain Subway has New York City scenes wallpapered in many of its restaurants, such as scenes from the New York City subway. Subway also features a “BMT” sub.
“Submarine sandwich” is a simple sandwich name—the product is shaped like a submarine. It is sometimes claimed that the submarine base at Groton, CT first served “submarine sandwiches” during World War II, but this is doubly wrong—the term “submarine sandwich” predated WWII, and the term used in Groton for such sandwiches is “grinder.”
There are citations for “submarine sandwich” from Paterson, New Jersey, in 1931.The Fenian Ram submarine was put on display at the Paterson Museum in 1928, and it’s said that the “submarine sandwich” was named after this by Domenico Conti. Conti’s grocery opened in 1908 at Mill and Oliver Streets in Patterson.
Delaware has a strong claim to popularizing the “submarine sandwich.” Charley’s Italian Sandwich Shop in Wilmington opened on December 5, 1936 and advertised, “Try Our Italian Submarine Sandwich.” The submarine sandwich was advertised in a Wilmington telephone directory in January 1940. By the end of the 1940s, many Delaware establishments advertised “submarine sandwiches” in the telephone classified directories. Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach quickly became famous for subs (see the 1949 article below).
The long list of the names of sandwiches served on long rolls includes blimpie, bomber, Cuban (medianoche), Dagwood, garibaldi, gondola, grinder, hero, hoagie, Italianjawbreaker, muffuletta, peacemaker (La Mediatrice), pilgrim, pistolette, po’ boy (poor boy), rocket, skyscraper, spiedie, spucky (spuckie, spukie), torpedo, torta (Mexican po’ boy), wedge and zeppelin (zep).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed., 2000)
SYLLABICATION: sub·ma·rine
PRONUNCIATION:  sbm-rn, sbm-rn
NOUN: 1. A vessel that is capable of operating submerged. Also called sub1. 2. A large sandwich consisting of a long roll split lengthwise and filled with layers of meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and condiments. Also called sub1, Regional grinder, Regional hero, Regional hoagie, Regional Italian sandwich, Regional poor boy, Regional torpedo, Regional wedge, Regional zep. also called regionally Regional Cuban sandwich. 
ADJECTIVE: Beneath the surface of the water; undersea. 
VERB: Inflected forms: sub·ma·rined, sub·ma·rin·ing, sub·ma·rines
TRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To attack by submarine, especially with torpedoes. 2. Sports To knock down with a blow to the legs. 3. Baseball To pitch (a ball) with an underhand motion. 
INTRANSITIVE VERB: To slide, drive, or throw under something. 
REGIONAL NOTE: The long sandwich featuring layers of meat and cheese on a crusty Italian roll or French bread goes by a variety of names. These names are not distributed in a pattern similar to that of other regional words because their use depends on the business and marketing enterprise of the people who create the sandwiches and sell them. Submarine and sub are widespread terms, not assignable to any particular region. Many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeast United States, where the greatest numbers of Italian Americans live. In Maine, it is called an Italian sandwich, befitting its heritage. Elsewhere in New England and in Sacramento, California, it is often called a grinder. New York City knows it as a hero. In the Delaware Valley, including Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, the sandwich is called a hoagie. Speakers in Miami use the name Cuban sandwich. Along the Gulf Coast the same sandwich is often called a poor boy. In New Orleans, a poor boy is likely to be offered in a version featuring fried oysters. 
Wikipedia: Submarine Sandwich
A submarine sandwich or sub is any of various sandwiches made on a long roll (usually up to 12” long by 3 ” wide) or baguette (called “French bread” or a “submarine roll” in the U.S.), so called because of its length. The contents typically include meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and various condiments, sauces or dressings.
The term is believed by some to have originated in a restaurant in Scollay Square in Boston, Massachusetts at the beginning of World War II. The sandwich was created to entice the large numbers of navy servicemen stationed at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The bread was a smaller specially baked baguette intended to be similar to the hull of the submarines it was named after.[2]
One legend credits Paul D’Amico of Wakefield, Massachusetts of coining the term in 1928 while working in the Canto family’s grocery store. The Canto’s grocery store, with D’Amico as a partner, switched over completely to a “sub shop” named “Toody’s” in 1945 and is the oldest and longest continually operating submarine sandwich shop in the United States. The “submarine sandwich” as coined by D’Amico originated from the way the sandwich was opened at the top, like a submarine. Paul D’Amico still lives around the corner from Toody’s today (Toody’s closed but has now reopened down the street from its original location).
Another legend suggests the submarine sandwich was brought to the US by Dominic Conti (1874-1954), an Italian immigrant who came to New York in the early 1900s. In 1910 Mr. Conti started Dominic Conti’s Grocery Store in Paterson, NJ. His granddaughter has stated the following: “My grandfather came to this country circa 1895 from Montella, Italy. Around 1910, he started his grocery store, called Dominic Conti’s Grocery Store, on Mill Street in Paterson, New Jersey where he was selling the traditional Italian sandwiches. His sandwiches were made from a recipe he brought with him from Italy which consisted of a long crust roll, filled with cold cuts, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, Italian spices, salt, and pepper. The sandwich started with a layer of cheese and ended with a layer of cheese (this was so the bread wouldn’t get soggy).”
During World War II, the sandwiches were served by the thousands to soldiers at the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut which cemented the legend that the sandwiches originated in Groton.
Submarine sandwiches are sold by delicatessens and a number of fast food restaurants and chains, including (listed by date opened): D’Elia’s Grinders-Riverside, CA (1955), Casapulla’s Subs (1956), Jersey Mike’s Subs (1956), Blimpie Subs (1964), Subway (1965), D’Angelo Sandwich Shops (1967), Mr. Sub (1968), Togo’s (1968), Tubby’s Submarines (1968), Port of Subs (1972), Sub Station II (1975), Potbelly Sandwich Works (1977), Quiznos Subs (1981), Jimmy John’s (1983), Charley’s Grilled Subs (1986), Erbert & Gerbert’s (1988), Mr. Goodcents (1989), and Firehouse Subs (1994).
Wikipedia: Subway (restaurant)
Subway is a franchise fast food restaurant that primarily sells sandwiches and salads. It was founded in 1965 by Fred De Luca and Peter Buck and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Doctor’s Associates, Inc. (DAI). The company has over 29,045 franchised units in 86 countries as of March 2008 and is the fastest growing franchise in the world. Currently, Subway is the third largest fast food chain globally after Yum! Brands (34,000 locations) and McDonald’s (31,000 locations).

Subway’s main operations office is in Milford, Connecticut, and five regional centers support Subway’s growing international operations.
At one point in its history, Subway traded heavily on the association of the name with that of the New York Subway. The result of this was a range of Subs named after after lines on the network. This early history can still be seen in the BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit) Sub.
3 July 1931, Paterson (NJ) Evening News, “Treborian Tattler,” pg. 8, col. 4:
Bib walked in to John Ameer’s store the other night and told him he would like some still life in oil. John handed him a box of sardines. Bib was hungry as usual, so he asked for some bread. John didn’t have any so he gave him the dough. He made a submarine sandwich.
1 August 1931, Paterson (NJ) Evening News, pg. 8, col. 2:
Famous People and Their Favorite Dishes.
Ang Ambrose—Submarine sandwich.
4 December 1936, Journal-Every Evening (Wilmington, DE), pg. 37, col. 4 ad:
All Kinds of Sandwiches
Italian Sandwiches Our Specialty
Try Our Italian Submarine Sandwich
29 December 1936, Wilmington (DE) Morning News,  pg. 19, col. 1 ad:
Italian Submarine Sandwiches
426 E. 4th St.
10 February 1937, Journal-Every Evening (Wilmington, DE), pg. 19, col. 1 ad:
Stop at Mary’s Place
And Get An Italian
At Lancaster Ave. & Harrison St.
20 March 1937, Wilmington (DE) Morning News, “One TO Another” by Wilhelmina Syfrit, pg. 9, col. 1:
The “hot dog” sandwich that has for years been the mainstay of the bazar, the country fair, the charity booth, to say nothing of the firemen’s annual carnival and the circus, has met its rival at last.
Its popularity is about to be usurped by the craze for the “submarine sandwich.” This is a gigantic, and some think, artistic masterpiece of the culinary art. Whatever may be said of the “submarine sandwich,” it can never be said to lack color and variety.
THe outer cover of this glamorous “snack” is an eight or ten inch loaf of bread, but in its center and extending temptingly well over the open edge is a mass of foodstuff that will bear analyzing.
Several slices of flat cheese lay buried among slices of fresh cucumber, tomato, meats, pickle ends and circles, hot and sweet peppers, and now and then an olive ring makes its appearance among the lettuce greens. All of this and sometimes more is combined in a generous douse of olive oil.
Needless to say the submarine sandwich is to be eaten with relish in a refectory of little refinement.
The popularity of the new sandwich is not to be disputed. A matron was somewhat astonished when she tried to purchase several of the long and strange loafs of bread only to be greeted by a firm refusal from her grocer.
“Oh, no,” he said determinedly. “Those are for our submarine sandwiches!”
16 December 1937, Philadelphia (PA) Tribune, pg. 15, col. 1 ad:
Cor. 9th and Chestnut Streets, Camden, N. J.
Try Our Submarine Sandwiches
24 February 1939, Bristol (PA) Courier, pg. 4, col. 4 ad:
January 1940, Wilmington, DE Classified Telephone Directory, pg. 104, col. 2:
Spaghetti and Submarine Sandwiches
721 S Van Buren…Wilmgtn-2-9302
De Matteis John
Italian Food A Specialty
Submarine Sandwiches To Take Out
520 N Union…Wilmgtn-2-9241
15 March 1940, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 21, col. 1 ad:
Charlie & Buddy’s
Italian Submarine Sandwich
346 South Broad Street
5 August 1940, Vineland (NJ) Evening Times, “‘Round Our Town” by W. J. M., pg. 4, col. 3:
The sub sandwiches served at an east side eatery are really sub sandwiches…a foot long, no less, and packed to the portholes.
22 November 1940, Altoona (PA) Mirror, pg. 27, col. 3 ad:
Submarine Sandwiches, 15c & 25c
Picano’s Restaurant
18th St., Pleasant Valley Blvd.
Winter/Spring 1941, Baltimore, MD Classified Telephone Directory, pg. 326, col. 2:
Originator of Steak Sandwich
on Italian Roll
Submarine Sandwiches
Catering to Parties, Picnics
and Banquets
803 E Baltimore…CAlvert-6742
April 1941, Wilmington, DE Classified Telephone Directory, pg. 109, col. 1:
De Matteis John
Italian Food a Specialty
Submarine Sandwiches to Take Out
500 N Union…Wilmgtn-2-9241
Pg. 109, col. 3:
Patsy’s Italian Sandwiches
Special Submarine Sandwiches—Take Out
903 W 4…Wilmgtn-2-9433
Google News Archive
7 September 1941, Sunday Morning Star (Wilmington, DE), pg. 6, cols. 1-2:
Ogden Finds a New Gastronomic
Love in a Submarine Sandwich

Walking down Fourth street I met my friend George, with a large bundle under his arm.
I had often heard of the submarine sandwich but it is an object out of my range of experience, so I asked him, “What is the so-called submarine sandwich?”
“It’s a…well, a sort of…kind of a…you know what I mean….”
George took me down Fourth street to an establishment which appeared to do nothing else but create one submarine sandwich after another. Spread out the length of the counter were tomatoes and salami and ham and cheese and onion and…well, everything you would find in a delicatessen. A few slices of the ingredients were tucked into the mighty roll of bread by the man in charge of production, after which it was wrapped in several yards of paper.
Google Books
I Love You
I Love You
I Love You

By Ludwig Bemelmans
New York, NY: Viking Press
Pg. 147:
Before I fell asleep myself, we stopped at the Anglers’ Rest in Seaford, Delaware.
“But why don’t you order a submarine sandwich? My, that’s good! Mmm.”
Pg. 148:
“Well, a submarine sandwich comes two ways, the 15c one is seven inches long, and for a quarter you get one twelve inches long—”
April 1942, Wilmington, DE Classified Telephone Directory, pg. 101, col. 1:
Mike’s Submarine Sandwich Shop
7 & French…Wilmgtn-2-9504
March 1943, Better Homes & Gardens, pg. 38, col. 2:
Submarine Sandwich
It’s long, low, and goes down easily. Split a Coney roll; hollow out; butter completely. Fill fore ‘n’ aft and in the middle with three different fillings: baked beans with onion; chopped egg and mayonnaise; diced ham with relish. They’ll eat straight thru from stem to stern.  Oh Boy!
12 April 1943, Lima (OH) News, pg. 5:
Box 385, Pandora, Ohio
Split a coney roll: hollow out: butter completely. Fill fore n ‘aft and in the middle with three different fillings. Baked beans with onions, chopped egg and mayonnaise, diced ham with relish.
1949, Wilmington, DE Classified Telephone Directory, pg. 246, col. 3:
Delicious Sub Sandwiches
Steaks . Hamburgers
Soft Drinks
641 Spruce…Wilmgtn-4-8956
Pg. 246, col. 3:
Angie’s Sub Shop 97 Wilbur…Newark-2408
Pg. 246, col. 3:
Arsenios Daniel
Dan’s Submarine & Turkey Sandwiches
733 Madisn…Wilmgtn-2-9302
Pg. 247, col. 1:
Featuring Delicious Subs—Beverages—
Orders To Take Out
13 & duPont…Wilmgtn-2-9469
Pg. 248, col. 3:
DEW DROP SUB SHOP 1725 N Scott…Wilmgtn-2-9357
Pg. 249, col. 1:
416 N Union…Wilmgtn-2-9600
Pg. 249, col. 1:
Featuring Those Delicious
Orders To Take Out
Corner 6 & West St
400 W 6…Wilmgtn-4-6327
Pg. 250, col. 1:
Submarines and All Kind Sandwiches
1836 N Lincoln…Wilmgtn-2-9176
Pg. 250, col. 1:
Super Sub Shop 718 Spruce…Wilmgtn-5-0308
Pg. 250, col. 1:
Tony’s Sub Shop 1113 Lancaster av…Wilmgtn-2-9234
Tony’s Sub Shop 1200 Sycamore…Wilmgtn-2-9841
Pg. 250, col. 2:
Winner’s Submarine Shop
509 New rd Elsmere…Wilmgtn-3-9951
7 August 1949, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, This Week magazine, pg. 24, col. 2:
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
by Clementine Paddleford
The “double submarine”
is quite a mouthful.
Here’s how to build one

IT’S a monster contraption, the double submarine that nosed into sight along the East Coast late in the war. The original spot of its sighting is a matter of contention, but nobody argues over its present home base. Biggest submarine-sandwich fleet in dry dock is built by Jack Twilley’s stand-up-and-at-‘em snack bar at Rehoboth Beach, Del., most proper summer-resort town.
For off the beaten path of epicures is Twilley’s little bar, its front opening on Rehoboth’s main street. Four Sundays back, we stood there, notebook in one hand, pencil in the other, recording who came to buy “subs” and to get the details of “giant sandwich” construction.
Snack Fare
LISTENING in, we learned that submarines never miss a beach picnic. They go out to summer suppers, to beer parties, off on boat trips.
Women with home freezers buy “subs” in sets of a dozen to freeze, then defrost and serve when the crowd gathers. Another trick with these “Paul Bunyan” tidbits is to wrap tightly in wax paper, chill a few hours, slice crosswise with a sharp knife, eight cuts to a sandwich. Even (Col. 3—ed.) “sub-divisions” are four-bite affairs served as snack fare when the drinks are poured.
Want to introduce the submarine to your town? Take a long, soft finger roll, the longer the better, nine inches the length. If you can’t get the long rolls, whack off nine-inch cuts of French flute bread or use the long Italian hard rolls.
The Way To Do It
SPLIT rolls, or bread, lengthwise, almost into halves, but not quite. Flatten like an open book and now to your building. Lay on the following ingredients, one thing on the other, exactly in this order: three thin slices of pressed ham, arranged overlapping; two thin slices provoloni cheese; four crisp leaves of lettuce; four half slices of tomato. Sprinkle with thyme, celery seed and salt; drizzle over olive oil. Add a medium-sized onion cut into thin rings; overlay with four one-half-inch-thick slices of dill pickled peppers—to set a fire in the mouth.
Cut the sandwich through the center into two halves and quickly snap it together.  Wrap in wax paper and into the refrigerator to chill until picnic time.  Figure one to a person; on one submarine you can dine and dine well.
2 September 1950, New York (NY) Times, pg. 23:
From the Reader Mail: “Recently, while I was in Philadelphia,” writes Robert B. Byrnes of Baltimore, “I noticed signs in many of the restaurants, taverns and sandwich shops proclaiming the excellence of ‘Hoagies,’ ‘Hoggies,’ ‘Hogies,’ and ‘Horgys,’ almost every sign being differently spelled. Investigating for myself I learned that here was again the type of Italian sandwich you spoke of as the ‘grinder.’”
The “grinder” as mentioned here in July, is that mammoth construction of a hoizontally cut loaf of Italian bread with a filling of meat, cheese, olive oil, tomatoes, etc. Besides being called a hoagy and variations thereof, it also is known as a submarine sandwich and, Mr. Byrnes notes, in certain parts of the country, as a poor-boy sandwich.
September 1951, American Restaurant magazine, pg. 44, col. 1:
(A story about Jordan’s, 1356 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland.  A print ad reads:—ed.)
”...submarine sandwiches or what-have-you.” 
(Another Jordan’s print ad on pg. 45, col. 1:—ed.) 
“Submarine Sandwich (a meal on a roll)...50.”
5 April 1954, Paterson (NJ) Evening News, “Domenico Conti, Dublin Spring Keeper, Succumbs,” pg. 1, col. 2:
Domenico Conti, keeper of the Dublin Spring Monument outside of his neighborhood grocery store and home at Mill and Oliver Sts., died Saturday evening. He was in his 80th year.
(...) (Pg. 15, col. 5.—ed.)
Born June 7, 1874 in Montella, Province of Avellino, Naples, Mr. Conti came to America in 1894. He worked as a bellcaster in Pittsburgh and Buffalo before coming to Paterson for employment with the Cook Locomotive Co. in a similar capacity.
He established his grocery store in 1908 and later worked on construction of the SUM steam and hydro-electric plants at Passaic Falls. he was gratefully remembered for philanthropic deeds, particularly during the “depression” period. Older members of the police department who worked the “Dublin” beat recall the famous “submarine” sandwiches he created.
July 1955, Restaurant Management magazine, pg. 62, col. 2:
Other names, like ‘Italian Club,’ ‘Grinder,’ ‘Hero,’ and ‘Submarine’ are used in certain areas. The filling may be salami, cheese, tomatoes, sliced dill pickles, shredded lettuce with olive oil, and other combinations. Anchovies and sardines are a good fish combination. The ‘Submarine’ name came from New London, Conn.
4 August 1977, Washington (DC) Post, “Please Pass the Subs—Er, Hoagies, Er…,” pg. E10:
Submarine, he (Howard Robboy of Temple University, who wrote an American Speech article on sandwich names—ed.) found, is the most popular name for the sandwich, followed by hoagie, poor boy and grinder. In some cities they go by more than one name, such as Philadelphia, where one finds both hoagies and submarines. Other names are torpedo (Reno, San Antonio, San Diego), Italian sandwich (Louisville, Reading, Allentown), hero (New York City and Newark), rocket (Cheyenne and Cincinnati), bomber in Buffalo, mufalatta in New Orleans, Cuban sandwich in Miami, wedgie in Weschester County, N. Y. and slame in Berkeley. Norristown is the only place it is referred to as a zeppelin, and Madison the only place one finds it as a garibaldi.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, April 05, 2008 • Permalink

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