New Jerseyans love their food and the most popular sandwich in New Jersey is the Italian sandwich, although 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.
New Jersey, similar to the United States, is divided into two geographic regions with people having 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, different baseball teams, different basketball teams, and have different accents.
South Jerseyans many with roots in the Philadelphia area, receive their TV programming and newspapers from Philadelphia and tend to be slower paced with food tastes and food descriptions largely influenced by Philadelphia.
North Jerseyans are largely influenced by NYC events and traditions 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 largely influenced by New York City.
Most of the early twentieth century Italian food in the United States came from the southern Italian immigrants who arrived during the great wave of immigration in the United States from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Most of these immigrants settled into the large north east cities of New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Many Italians became fishermen, shoemakers, waiters, fruit and food peddlers, and tradesmen, though most were unskilled laborers working in mines, construction jobs, building roads, and as longshoreman on the waterfront.
The southern Italian immigrants from the Naples, Italy region (Neapolitan) brought with them the Italian sandwich, made with baked crusted bread with pointed ends stuffed with cured meats and cheese. Entrepreneurial immigrants seized on the opportunity to peddle the sandwich to the Italian immigrant workers on the docks at the waterfront, and to the laborers at construction sites.
Later on, this tasty sandwich became sought after by Americans and other ethnic groups and they began to include additional varieties of meat, vegetables and cheese.
It wasn't until the end of World War II that the large sandwich caught on outside the Italian-American community and began to achieve widespread popularity. 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.
The Origin of the Hoagie
The Hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. The term is now used in regions such as 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 location of the shipyard, the workers were nicknamed "hoggies", and at some point the sandwiches they ate adopted the name "Hoggie".
After World War II, the "Hoggie" became the "Hoagie" and it quickly caught on outside the Italian community and soon achieved the status as the favored sandwich in Philadelphia. South Philly neighborhood "mom and pop" delis began offering the Hoagie as the featured sandwich and Wa Wa Food Markets began selling Hoagies in the late 1970s.
Philadelphians who began the migration to south Jersey in the 50's, retained the name Hoagie for the popular sandwich. 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, of the NY Herald Tribune 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 that 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 its origin 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 Sates by the many chain restaurants like Subway, Quiznos, Blimpies, and Jersey Mikes Subs.
One legend credits it being originated at a restaurant in Scollay Square in Boston, MA at the beginning of World War II, and whose customers were large numbers of navy servicemen stationed at the Charlestown Navy Yard who coined the name sub after the hull of the submarine.
Another story places 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 has 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 proper name for the Italian sandwich in New Jersey is the Sub. It's the only name of the Italian Sandwich that did not originate in another state. Although the location of the origin of the name "Sub" is widely disputed, one of the three popular 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 legends.
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 hoagie, they will jokingly remind you that you have crossed over the bridge and you are now in Jersey and it's called a "Sub".