The Science Behind Sandwiches: An Interview With An Expert

You may not know Fat Sal's yet, but you will. Their signature sandwiches are monstrosities of the genre, with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and all sorts of unholy meat combinations vying for your attention. They also happen to be very, very good. It's like the marriage of the best 2 a.m. college drunk munchies mixed with an episode of Man vs. Food. With locations in LA and San Diego and more on the way in Austin and beyond, Fat Sal's is determined to give the country a coronary. So who better to talk to about constructing the perfect sandwich for football season? Fat Sal himself, otherwise known as Salvatore Capek.

As a sandwich master, what are some simple rules to keep in mind when constructing a sandwich?

When making a cold sandwich that will be dressed with wet ingredients, I like to lay down the cheese first so that it creates a barrier and the bread doesn't get soggy. Also, evenly distribute ingredients so there is a little bit of every ingredient in every bite.

Hero, hoagie, sub. Is there any difference between these names and is there one that's better than the rest?

It's the term people use to refer to a sandwich that consists of a long roll of French or Italian bread filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, seasonings and sauces, which vary based on the region. According to Wikipedia, "submarine" originated in Boston, "hoagie" originated in Philadelphia and "hero" originated in New York... So obviously it's hero, and that's, that!

Who (besides Fat Sal's) makes your favorite hero and what is it?

"The Monster" from Mike's Italian Deli on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx: pork, roasted crispy speck, shoe string fries, mushrooms, onions, swiss, lettuce, tomato and hot peppers. Really ANYTHING from Mike's Italian Deli. That place is AMAZING!!!!

What's the difference between an average sandwich and a truly great one?

Passion. You have to be a perfectionist to have a truly great sandwich. A great sandwich has the total package: delicious perfectly baked bread; the best meats and cheese cooked and sliced perfectly; and your sauces and condiments have to be of the best quality and impeccably chosen to compliment your other ingredients.

Give me a step-by-step breakdown of how you personally make your perfect sandwich for football season.

Obviously when you talk football season, you gotta go with The Fat Lombardi from our secret menu. It's a sandwich named after the legendary football coach, Vincent Thomas Lombardi. First, you start with only the best bread and brush it with garlic butter. Then you bake it with thinly sliced ham and pepperoni. While that's baking, you throw a beautiful 100% Angus burger on the grill, add a little salt, pepper and garlic seasoning. Now melt some nice provolone on it after it's seared up to perfection and fry up some mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and french fries.

Assemble this bad boy like a gentleman by cutting the provolone burger in half and placing it lengthwise down the hero on top of your baked ham and pepperoni. Now comes time to put the mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers on. Smash in a big handful of salty shoestring fries, ladle on some homemade marinara, sprinkle with some fresh grated Parmagiano-Reggiano and there you have PERFECTION!!!

That sounds amazing, but since most of us don't have deep-fryers in our kitchens, what about a step-by-step guide for a classic Italian hero that guys can make at home?

Italian bread, mortadella, hot sopressata, prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, fresh basil all drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and fresh-ground pepper!

What ingredient doesn't belong on any sandwich ever?

That's the beauty and fun of sandwiches. Anything can be put on a sandwich if it's prepared, paired, and put together properly.....on awesome bread of course!

Are there any rookie mistakes a novice can avoid when constructing a hero?

Leaving the ends of the sandwich without meat, cheese or vegetables and over– or under-saucing are definitely rookie mistakes.

You get one ingredient to amp up a sub and turn it into a thing of beauty. What's that ingredient?


What do you say to people who tell you they don't eat carbs?

Eliminating carbs cancels out two of the greatest food delicacies on earth: sandwiches and pizza. Don't ever do that.

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