Somewhere between the submarine sandwich (see below) and the French dip (see above) is this Chicago invention, dating from the 1930s, is composed of shaved roast beef, giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), sweet peppers, and beef gravy on an Italian roll. Its name notwithstanding, nothing similar exists in Italy. While the sandwich is still known mostly in the Midwest, it may now be found in other parts of the country, too. For instance, one major Italian beef chain, Portillo’s, now has branches in Florida, Arizona, and California.
Though it is strongly associated with Maine — considered America’s lobster capital — the first lobster roll was apparently served at a restaurant in Connecticut, back in 1929. Fans distinguish between two varieties of the sandwich: a Connecticut lobster roll consists of chunks of lobster meat served warm on a buttered hot dog or hamburger bun; the Maine version is made with cold lobster meat dressed with mayonnaise, sometimes mixed with scallions, chives, celery, and/or tarragon, and is traditionally served in the crevice of a split-top hot dog bun.
In Italy, meatballs are served as a main course, not with pasta — much less in a sandwich. The meatball sandwich, a variation on the submarine sandwich (see below), is just what it sounds like: an Italian roll filled with meatballs, almost always in a tomato sauce, with provolone or mozzarella usually added. A standard offering at sandwich shops and Italian-American delis, it was probably first made around the turn of the 20th century.
Though it can be hard to find today, there was a time in the mid-20th century when this curious sandwich appeared on menus at coffee shops and tea rooms all over America. Almost everybody agrees that it was invented in California — possibly in San Francisco, possibly at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego. It’s a double- or triple-decker sandwich of sliced ham, chicken, and Swiss cheese, held together by toothpicks, dipped in an egg batter and fried in butter to a golden-brown hue. It is usually dusted in powdered sugar and served with jam.
This specialty of New Orleans is like a more elaborate Italian-style submarine sandwich (see below), round instead of elongated. Said to have been invented at Central Grocery in the French Quarter, it apparently grew out of the casual lunches Sicilian-born farmers would eat after selling their produce at the nearby market. It consists of a round loaf of slightly spongy bread almost a foot in diameter, filled with salami, prosciutto, and/or sometimes other Italian deli meats, along with sliced cheese (usually provolone), olive salad, garlic, and sometimes the pickled vegetables called giardiniera.