Sunday, November 25, 2012

All Hail Mighty Caesar

So who in the heck is Caesar? And why should we hail him?

Caesar (actually Caesare, but why quibble?) is the General of the Griddle. The Dean of the Dualing Spatulas. The Boss of the Beef. The Maestro of Mushrooms. He is the man at Gaglione Brothers Steaks & Subs who has mastered the art of building the perfect Philadelphia Cheesesteak--even though he lives in San Diego, 2,735.4 miles away.

“Three brothers got together one day and put on paper their idea about filling a void in the San Diego ‘sandwich’ scene. Since their family is based on the East Coast, their frequent visits there exposed them to some terrific sandwich shops, in particular those serving classic cheesesteak and sub sandwiches. Those visits and brainstorming sessions were fruitful because…brothers Joe, Andy, and Tony Gaglione opened…Gaglione Brothers Famous Steaks & Subs. It’s a simple casual sandwich shop but its products are awesome!” (Wolffgang D. Verkaaik for the San Diego Union-Tribune).

And their sandwiches—or maybe I should say their cheesesteaks since that’s all we’ve eaten there—are, in fact, awesome. So awesome that I believe you could blindfold a Philadelphian and he/she couldn’t tell whether he/she was eating a Gaglione steak or a South Philly steak. Amy T. Granite wrote at “I’m not a Philly cheesesteak expert and don’t aspire to become one. Trying to figure out who’s got the best in San Diego makes little sense; it’s not our region’s food, and I’ve not tried the ‘real deal’ in the City of Brotherly Love to have any baseline judgment. Gag’s sandwich was love at first bite, and I’ve remained faithful. If it gets any better, I don’t need to know about it.”

Amy, Gaglione’s is the real deal. And we two travelers can’t wait to return to San Diego and eat our fill of the real thing. So within a few days of our arrival and hungering for a taste of home, we set forth for a cheesesteak feast.

Just what is a cheesesteak? “A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the ‘drip’ factor. Other toppings may include fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, ketchup (Ed. Note: In whose world?) and hot or sweet peppers” (

At Gaglione’s you can order any number of cheesesteak permutations—with or without fried onions and Whiz or American. You can add fried peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos, and pizza sauce. Or, you can be like Chuck and order the twelve-inch steak sandwich with American cheese and no onions. This is the purist’s cheesesteak. Nothing but good meat, melted cheese, and a great chewy roll from the Amoroso’s Baking Company in Philadelphia.
(Yes, the rolls are also the real deal. They are flash frozen and trucked across country—all 2,735.4 miles—where they are defrosted as needed.)

I, on the other hand, tend to be more adventurous. Yes, I start with the basic cheesesteak but with the addition of onions. Then I head for the pepper bar where you find ten varieties of pickled condiments to choose from—cherry peppers, pepperoncini, banana peppers, jalapenos, red-pepper relish, etc. But my favorite is Gaglioni’s giardiniara, which is an essential topping for a Chicago-style Hot Italian Roast Beef Sandwich.
In fact, Gaglioni’s giardiniara comes from Chicago. I wanted the first half of my eight-incher to be pure Philly. But to the second half I added some of the giardiniara so that the City of Brotherly Love met the Windy City.

What makes these so good? First is the slightly chewy roll that has enough heft to absorb the meat juices without falling apart. Second is Caesare’s skill with the two spatula meat chop—something I have never mastered but Chuck has. Third is the way that the American cheese melts and runs throughout the chopped meat so that with every bite one gets both meat and cheese. And fourth, these sandwiches have the right bread to meat ratio.

So it wasn’t too many days later that we returned. For Chuck it again was the twelve-inch sandwich without onions and with American cheese.
I went full bore and added fried sweet peppers to my eight-incher. (My heart wants to order the foot-long, but my head knows that I can’t—or shouldn’t—eat that much.) Is it possible that these tasted even better than the first?
And Caesare was again manning the flat-top.

We are here in San Diego until early January. Let’s see how many of these 5.0 Addie cheesesteaks we can eat. We’ll keep you posted.

Whether you want us to or not.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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