The sandwich revolution is far from over, with one particular specialty still on the rise: the Italian deli-style sanga. Not quite the sandwiches you’d find in Rome or Florence, though. We’re talking about the kind that emerged in delis across the US in the 1920s, especially in cities with significant Italian migrant communities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City. Traditionally, these are French bread rolls stuffed with cold or cooked meats, cheese and other simple fillings, but they also come in the form of paninis, hoagies and subs.
These are the kinds of sandwiches served to eager patrons in the stress-filled kitchen of The Original Beef of Chicagoland, featured in FX’s comedy-drama series The Bear. In season one, Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (played by Jeremy Allen-White) makes the Chicago staple Italian beef sandwich in between dealing with his late brother’s finances, the outbursts of obnoxious family friend Richie and his own towering fears and anxieties.
But you don’t have to deal with that slice of day-to-day stress or travel all the way to the windy streets of Chicago to try a sandwich like Carmy’s. From old-school delis where family recipes have been passed down through generations, to a slew of shiny new sandwich shops doing things a little differently, here are some of Australia’s best deli-style sandwich shops – including a few that have taken on the challenge of re-creating Chicago’s iconic beef sandwich.
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Stefanino Panino, Brunswick East
Meats are sliced to order at this classic Italian sandwich shop, run by former primary school teacher Stef Condello. Inside this takeaway spot there’s a huge deli fridge filled with mortadella, bologna, speckled salami and other cold-cuts. Behind the counter, Condello and his team stuff the meat into crunchy ciabatta rolls (supplied by Carlton North’s Natural Tucker Bakery) with layers of That’s Amore cheese, capsicum and fresh produce. The result? A simple and authentic panini.
There are 11 staple sandwiches to choose from, with highlights including the Il Manzo (ciabatta stuffed with rare roast beef provolone, roast capsicums and Dijon mustard) and the Bologna (a mortadella and straciatella number). But you can also customise your own with as many fillings as you’d like.
Hector’s Deli, Fitzroy, Richmond and South Melbourne
Often described as Melbourne sandwich royalty, all three bright Hector’s Deli locations are famous for their cheese toasties (think tuna or mushroom) and mammoth fried chicken schnitzel rolls. But Hector’s is also one of the top spots in the city for fresh Italian-inspired sandwiches elevated with interesting ingredients. Expect thick slices of Turkish sourdough (rather than panini rolls) filled with rare roast beef, mustard, horseradish mayo, parsley pesto and pickled onions; or tender roast eggplant with creamy straciatella cheese, kale pesto and Calabrian chilli paste.
To celebrate season two of FX’s The Bear, Hector’s will be serving its own version inspired by Carmy’s Italian beef sandwich for one weekend only. Expect a hoagie filled with very thinly sliced topside beef, layered with spicy giardiniera (Italian pickled veg relish) and green capsicums, and finished off with beef jus spooned over the top.
Self Raised Bread, Carlton
The South Sydney newcomer is now one of the most popular sandwich spots in the city (it’s drawn crowds since day one). Self Raised Bread is inspired by New York bodegas, boasting loaded hoagies, ciabattas and sourdough sandwiches. The interior has a retro aesthetic to match, with wooden panels everywhere, chequered floors and gold-leaf signage.
Don’t miss the signature hoagie (a white sesame ciabatta roll packed with mortadella, turkey ham, salami, capsicum and cheese) and the smoked beef on white sourdough with cheese, pickles and French mustard.
Small’s Deli, Potts Point
Euro-inspired baguettes, paninis and sourdough sangas are all on the menu at this hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. Shuffle inside to find a large, suspended deli fridge packed with meats and cheeses, always sliced right in front of you. Every sandwich is made to order using fresh ingredients, such as house-made pickles, free-range salami and slowly ripened cheeses.
There are six staple sandwiches and two specials listed on a chalkboard outside. The must-try items are the Florence & the Aubergine panini (stuffed with finocchiona, a Tuscan salami infused with pepper, walnut paste, eggplant and pecorino) and the Bon Jambon baguette (triple-cream brie and double-smoked ham with a side of crisps). Small’s will also be doing its own inspired version of Carmy’s beef sandwich from Thursday August 3 to Sunday August 6 with smoked beef, a creamy cheese sauce, sweet and sour capsicum, salmoriglio (an Italian marinade and dressing) and rocket – all loaded into a hot panini roll.
Pinco Deli, Eastwood
Just outside of Adelaide’s CBD, this distinctive deli serves eight sandwiches, baguettes and golden focaccias. They’re inspired by the owner’s travels to Italy, where he found the best sandwiches were the simplest ones, made with layers of meat, good quality cheese, a single condiment and some basil. Everything here is made with locally sourced produce, including fillings from Barossa Fine Foods and Schinella’s.
About half of the menu comprises traditional Italian sandwiches, such as its signature focaccia filled with mortadella, salami, provolone, mayo, tomato and pickled giardiniera. There are also creative takes on the classics, though, such as pastrami with piccalilli, dill pickle and “burger sauce” on sourdough.
Cordeaux Social Club, West End
It’s a neighbourhood wine bar, but sandwiches are the hero at West End’s Cordeaux Social Club. Throughout the day, order from a small but mighty selection – all made with fresh ingredients from local suppliers. Highlights include the smoked beef with gruyere, pickles and gravy on smoked potato bread, and the seeded sourdough sandwich with ham and oxheart tomato. They pair spectacularly well with natural wine, so grab a seat outside and order a glass while you wait for your sandwich.
Cordeaux Social Club will also be doing its own take on the Chicago beef sub for a limited time only from Thursday July 27 to Sunday July 30 using marinated and smoked boneless chuck beef – dripping with jus – and an assortment of pickles on a sourdough baguette.
Deli’s Continental, Inglewood
The Italian deli sandwich is so loved in Perth that it has its own name: the continental roll (or “conti roll” for short). They came to life in the 1950s when legendary European grocers like the Re Store began serving French-style baguettes lined with cold deli meats and cheese. The Re Store is still standing and – like other classic Perth delis North Street Store and Lo Presti & Son – churning out classic conti rolls. But newcomer Deli’s Continental has its own spin that’s worth trying out.
A pop-up turned permanent venture, the Inglewood sandwich shop is bright and cheery, with a white-tiled storefront that looks out onto Beaufort Street. The rolls, which have a spectacularly crunchy crust, are made in-house. Try the D(h)elly Cheese Steak sandwich with beef, provolone and capsicum; the meatball sub topped with parmesan and green sauce; or the Classico loaded with mortadella, casalinga, provolone and olive tapenade.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Disney+. Stream the new season of FX’s The Bear on Disney+ now.