Satisfying My Meatball Sandwich Craving

I had been jonesing for a meatball sandwich for what seemed like a long time. The last one I ate was from DiNic’s at the Reading Terminal Market in early October of last year – and that was the first one I had eaten in quite a while. A little over seven months may not seem that long to go without one. But I’ve been eating meatball sandwiches, which is what we in the Philly region call a meatball sub, fairly steadily for most of my adult life. 

They became a semi-regular part of my diet when I was an undergraduate at Temple University during the 1980s. There was an amazing food truck scene there and many of them sold meatball sandwiches. It was only my dramatically increased cheesesteak intake for this blog that caused me to stop eating them except on very rare occasions. 

I was a fixture in food truck lines at Temple University during the mid to late 1980s. While I stopped at this and a couple other Chinese trucks often, I also ate my fair share of meatball sandwiches during that period. Photo courtesy of Temple University

When the time came to eat something for today’s post, I decided to finally satisfy my craving and go for a meatball sandwich. The only question was where. Italian delis and specialty shops tend to do a good job with them and can generally be counted on to make fresh meatballs in-house. There are two such places in Delaware County that I’ve been wanting to try and I settled on one of them – Pagano’s Italian Specialties of Drexel Hill, PA. 

Drexel Hill, PA (Delaware County)
I was excited to see they have a selection of imported canned tomatoes and grabbed one to take home for the next time I make Sunday gravy.

Pagano’s is both a gourmet grocery store and a sandwich shop. I had seen positive reviews of their hoagies on Youtube and Facebook and figured I’d go there for a meatball or roast pork sandwich at some point.

What sold me on them for Thursday’s outing was the online photos I recently saw of their tremendous selection of long sandwich rolls and breads combined with the fact that they sell their own meatballs with sauce in pint and quart containers.

Rather than ordering a prepared meatball sandwich, I would get the ingredients and put them together at home. My reasons for doing this included the lack of a good place to eat at Pagano’s and the potential for a mess were I to attempt eating a meatball sandwich in my car – along with the fear that the roll would become a soggy mess if I drove it home to eat. But I also really wanted the experience of picking out one of their Italian seeded breads and slicing into it at home. 

There may be no better place to go for Italian-style sandwich rolls and bread in Delaware County.
The smaller containers contain four meatballs, while the larger ones hold eight.

My bread choice came down to a seeded baguette from South Philly’s Carangi Bakery or a semolina Italian bread from Fontana’s Panetteria of Jersey City. I opted for the former and also grabbed a container of four good-sized meatballs with red sauce from one of Pagano’s refrigerated cases. 

In addition to what was needed for the meatball sandwich, I took out a small “Veggie Special” for my wife. It came on a long roll and included a variety of vegetables and fresh Mozzarella with oil and seasonings. While I wouldn’t eat such a creation, it did look good and my wife enjoyed it very much. 

I picked out this seeded baguette from Carangi Bakery of South Philadelphia.
My wife’s “small” Veggie Special with fresh Mozzarella

Although the bread I picked out was called a baguette, it looked and felt more like an Italian loaf than a classic French baguette. I’m not sure that it’s identical to any of the seeded Carangi rolls I’ve had at steak shops, but it would work well for a cheesesteak – not to mention a meatball sandwich. It had a wonderful but not overly hard crust and was extremely soft within. 

While the meatballs and sauce were heating up on the stove, I cut the bread in half and sliced one of the halves. It would have been nice if I had Provolone cheese on hand, but I made due with Cooper Sharp, placing three slices of it on the bread under the assumption that it would melt when topped with the hot meatballs. 

While photos can be deceiving when it comes to size, those four meatballs were large enough to fill up half of what was probably a two-foot loaf of bread. 

I spooned a little extra sauce on top of each meatball, but didn’t go crazy with it. I like to be able to eat my sandwiches without sauce or grease dripping all over the place. The final touch was the addition of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. 

No serious thought was given to sticking it in the oven as I wanted to enjoy the bread with its natural texture and the meatballs were already hot enough. 

That’s roughly a foot-long section of bread – or half of the loaf I purchased at Pagano’s.

This was a great sandwich. If I’m going to be picky, I could have put another slice or two of Cooper Sharp on there for extra gooeyness. On the other hand, the bread, meatballs and sauce were so good, that just the grated Parmesan may have been all it needed. 

Although the meatballs were big, they were in just the right zone between being too heavy and too light in addition to being moist and flavorful. With the excellent red sauce, they would have gone great with pasta, but that will have to wait for another occasion. I was more than happy to enjoy them on the great Carangi seeded bread this time around. 

Given that my cheesesteak intake won’t be letting up any time soon, this meatball sandwich will likely have to satisfy me for a while. But when I’m ready for another one, there are plenty of good Italian delis in the area to choose from. The other one I considered this time was Ro-Lynn Deli in Brookhaven. I also want to try one at A Cut Above Deli in Newtown Square. If it’s anywhere near as good as the hoagie and roast pork sandwich I had from them, it will be fantastic. 

My wife and I will be going out to dinner at a highly-regarded Chinese restaurant with my family this weekend. I’ll report on that Monday.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

6 thoughts on “Satisfying My Meatball Sandwich Craving

  1. Through your blogs, you have introduced me to Cooper Sharp cheese. Until this post, I had never seen it in solid form. It had always been melted before. I had assumed that it was something in the form of cheese whiz that came in a can or something. So I learned something today. I’m going to have to try this cheese, plus the bread that you like so well. As to a meatball sandwich, I think the only time I ever saw one offered was at a Subway fast food place. I wasn’t impressed. But since you like them so well, I imagine the concoction that I had would have been given an F in cooking school. What you had most likely had better gastronomic materials to work with. So I will have to try that too, whenever I get up there. Louis

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Louis,
      Cooper Sharp is a sharp American cheese. There actually are a few well known steak shops that use it in liquid form (like Cheese Whiz), but the slices are much more common. From comments I’ve read, I think it’s a regional cheese that isn’t available in much of the country.

      Good bread and fresh meatballs are the two keys to a good meatball sandwich.


  2. I remember dining with you at those stupid food trucks. I would get all of my food at one truck and then I‘d have to wait 15 minutes for you because you would get your drink at one truck, your egg roll at another truck, and your sandwich at a third truck. Meanwhile my lunch got cold! 😡 Go Temple Owls!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish I’d had the option of food trucks when I was in school!

    It’s nice to see that you can eat a sandwich without onions on it. ;^) It’s too bad some of those baguettes and rolls weren’t available in smaller sizes so you could’ve set up a comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

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