It’s one thing to re-create an authentic Philly hoagie south of the Schuylkill River, as the crew at DC’s Taylor Gourmet have done. Use the right bread (Sarcone’s seeded Italian), with premium ingredients, and combine with an assiduous touch and an generous eye, and you have a hoagie, not a sub. A hoagie from Taylor Gourmet could be served with pride anywhere in Philadelphia.
But there is science, and there is art, and with the recent introduction of the Philadelphia roast pork sandwich to their menu, Taylor Gourmet takes on quite a task.
The roast pork sandwich can’t just be created from good ingredients, any more than a painting is a mere agglomeration of high quality oil paints.
The pork has to be cooked just so, to hold the right amount of moisture yet still provide enough bite; the provolone needs to be ripped into pieces to coat the inside of the roll, with no extraneous cheese flopping over the edge; and the rabe (only rabe) needs to be tender, tearable by the teeth, and bitter without bringing too much “veg” to the experience.
The true masters of this sandwich have an kitchen infrastructure in place dedicated to the creation of this salty, bitter, perfectly balanced foodstuff. DiNic’s, Tony Luke’s, John’s—this trinity creates hundreds (thousands?) of roast pork sandwiches a day between them, and have for decades. The counter staff has an intuitive feel for the sandwich (and generally expects you to order and get the hell out of the way, because the line behind you is out the door).
So how did the DC rookies do?
Pretty damn well, actually.
The execution was flawless—good proportional balance between the pork and the rabe, with the provolone neatly sundered and the rabe layered just so. The bread held the moisture, and the roast pork was nicely flavored and tender. And the rabe . . .
Um, can we talk about the bread again? No? OK.
The rabe was, sadly, lacking, like the Flyers’ goaltending in any year except those when Parent or Hextall were in goal. The rabe had too much stalk and too many florets. It needed just a bit more cooking time to get it slightly more tender. I look for just a bit of snap in my rabe, but in this sandwich, I wound up pulling whole rabe stalks out of the sandwich when biting in. Though nicely seasoned and bitter, the rabe let down the sandwich as a whole.
Nonetheless, I’ll be going back for more. The Pattison Avenue, as Taylor Gourmet dubs this sandwich, would not be booed out of any of the stadiums lining its namesake street in Philadelphia. And if one measures the worth of a roast pork sandwich on a scale based on the distance from Reading Terminal Market (home of DiNic’s), this one is off the charts. It’s a true roast pork sandwich.