a city with amazing fresh fish and seafood, a city with a vibrant Italian neighborhood with equally vibrant restaurants, and a city with no end of excellent Mexican restaurants. So why are we at a strip mall in the Grantville section? These two Philadelphia expats are looking for Gaglione Brothers—home to the only authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak outside of the “City of Brotherly Love.”
“Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on hoagie rolls in the early 1930s. They began selling this variation of steak sandwiches at their hot dog stand near south Philadelphia's Italian Market. They became so popular that Pat opened up his own restaurant which still operates today as Pat's King of Steaks” (www.wikipedia.com).
A cheesesteak is traditionally made with shaved rib eye that is quick-cooked on a flat top while the chef, wielding twin metal spatulas, pulls and shreds the meat. Cheese, usually American or provolone or—Egad!—Cheese Whiz, is placed on top of the meat and then the tasty succulent mass of meat and cheese are placed in a long crusty roll. Onions, fried bell or hot peppers, mushrooms, and/or pizza sauce are optional additions.
“Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, the tight-knit brothers: Joe, Andy, and Tony Gaglione have called San Diego home for many years. After one of many trips to the East coast to visit their father and huge extended Italian family and after many treks to the neighborhood eateries of Buffalo, NY, the brothers returned to San Diego with a craving for the authentic family style cheesesteak and hoagie shop. Unfortunately, offerings in the city were slim.
“In order to fill the void and also to satisfy their own cravings, in 2003, the Gaglione Brothers decided it was time to bring the very best cheesesteaks and subs to Southern California” (www.gaglionebros.com).
We discovered Gaglione Brothers late in our visit last November and have been craving a repeat ever since.
So, unhitching from the rig faster than the speed of light, we took off for a late lunch.
While Gaglione’s menu offers other sandwich options, it was cheesesteaks we hungered for and cheesesteaks we would have. Chuck, ever the purist, ordered the twelve-inch sandwich with American cheese. No onions. No peppers. No mushrooms. Never mushrooms. My description from last November’s blog still stands: “Tender and gristle-free meat. Chewy roll…And, one of Chuck’s main criteria for a good cheese-steak, the cheese melts into the meat and bathes every morsel.”
My choice, as was always my choice while we were in the Philadelphia area, was the pizza steak with onions. The same juicy meat and cheese were topped with an excellent marinara sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. And from the peppers bar I added some hot cherry peppers. I thought I was back in Wycombe (our former home) eating a pizza steak from Sal’s (our favorite steak shop).
A few days later found us at their original location in Point Loma near the sports arena. Chuck’s lunch was a repeat—but in the eight-inch size this time.
But on this visit I ordered one of their specialty sandwiches—the Sophia Loren. This sandwich, which can be ordered hot or cold, contains capicolla, Genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pepperoncini, and Italian dressing. This sandwich is an excellent representation of the Italian Hoagie.
There are a number of theories regarding the origin of the hoagie. I prefer this explanation found on www.wikipedia.com: “The term hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. Domenic Vitiello, professor of Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania asserts that Italians working at the World War I era shipyard in Philadelphia, known as Hog Island where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort, introduced the sandwich, by putting various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread. This became known as the ‘Hog Island’ sandwich; hence, the ‘hoagie’.”
Well, whoever made the first hoagie is of no real importance. What is important is that Gaglione Brothers’ sandwich was first-rate with high quality meats and accoutrements.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rolls from the Amoroso Baking Co. in Philadelphia. When talking with Joe Gaglione we learned that within fifteen minutes of exiting the baking oven, the rolls are flash frozen and then trucked(!!) across country to San Diego.
While talking with Joe, we learned that they had just celebrated their first anniversary at this location. To celebrate, they held a contest with the winner receiving a trip for two to Philadelphia that included airfare, hotel, airport transportation, and a limousine tour of both Pat's and Geno's, the city’s best known cheesesteak emporiums, and Jim’s Steaks considered by many to be Philadelphia’s best cheesesteak.
It’s not just cheesesteak and hoagie depravation that leads me to award Gaglione Brothers 5.0 Addies. They receive this rating for 5.0 Addie food.