Sandwich of the Week

I was in Ithaca last weekend for a wedding. I saw some gorges because I knew about them because of that t-shirt. I looked for a t-shirt that says, “Ithaca is Borges” but I couldn’t find one.

The sandwich: The Sui hot-truck sub from Shortstop Deli in Ithaca, N.Y.

The construction: Pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, ground sausage and mushrooms on toasted garlic bread. I ordered mine with extra crushed red pepper.

Important background information: The Shortstop Deli is owned by the same people who own “The Hot Truck,” a popular mobile restaurant on the Cornell University campus. I’m not familiar with the full history of the thing, but supposedly the original owner realized the best way to cut costs was selling what he called “Poor Man’s Pizzas” — pizza ingredients on french bread sandwiches. Purportedly, the guy who brought french-bread pizza to Stouffer’s was a Cornell alumnus trying to imitate the Hot Truck.

The Shortstop Deli is always open. It hasn’t closed since it opened in 1978. I suspect to college students that’s about the best thing ever. Also, as an added bonus, their menu is baseball-themed. My wife and I split a “double” sized Sui, though I probably could have been talked into a home run.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Oddly comforting. Actually, it tastes a hell of a lot like if you took the two best french-bread pizzas you could find and smashed them together into a sandwich. It feels like something I’d want to accompany some homework, but not really college homework. Middle-school homework; the time when you craved and appreciated and frequently enjoyed french-bread pizzas.

The best part is the bread. Baked locally at Ithaca Bakery, it’s way softer on the outside than most french bread you’ll find, so it toasts to only a mild crustiness. The inside stays soft and soaks up a lot of the sauce and greases, so basically you’ve just got the crust to shield your hands from all the pizza stuff and add a touch of crunch. In that way, it’s a lot like eating a folded slice of New York pizza, only a bit more substantial.

The meats add meat, primarily, and peppery flavor on top of that. They combine with the red pepper here to give the sandwich at least three slightly different flavors of peppery heat, which is nice. It’s hard to distinguish ingredient from ingredient when you’re tearing into the things, and the mushrooms seem like they serve as sponges for soaking up and delivering sauce more than anything else. That’s fine because I don’t much care for mushrooms.

The cheese stretches off the sandwich to your mouth as you bite it — again, like pizza. Melted mozzarella, as you probably know, is delicious and provides a chewy consistency that’s key to giving this sandwich some interesting texture.

It’s greasy as anything, and I suspect it would be unbelievably delicious while drunk and hungry in the middle of the night. It was very delicious while stone-cold sober at about 3 p.m., too.

What it’s worth: Maybe the most impressive part — the double, which provided a reasonable but not big meal for two people, cost $7.25. A single, stripped-down version of the sandwich (with no meat) costs only $3.95. It’s good to get away from Manhattan sometimes.

How it rates: 84 out of 100.


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