One of our favorite spots to visit when we’re in Florida is Carmine’s Gourmet Market in Palm Beach Gardens. We like to dine outside for lunch on their patio and listen to Dean Martin crooning Arrivederci Roma and other Italian favorites while we admire the gorgeous yachts in the marina. Without fail we always order our favorite sandwich from their extensive menu – The Carmine. It’s a cold Italian hoagie with ham, Genoa salami, capicolla, pepperoni, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion, dressed with plenty of olive oil and vinegar.
Perhaps you’ll remember when we were there last winter and I posted a tour of their fabulous deli and fresh market.
I’ve tried many times to duplicate Carmine’s hoagie at home and, while it’s always good, it just never quite measures up the original.
I racked my brain trying to think of what made their sandwich so special. Carmine’s always mades their hoagies to order. They would never prepare it in advance and allow it to sit on the counter or in a case. That’s one trick that’s easily mastered.
Then I tackled the ingredients. Obviously I would only buy the best and freshest ingredients I could find. A sandwich is only as good as the bread it’s made on, so I tried all sorts of breads - Italian bread, a French baguette, hoagie rolls, you name it, I’ve tried it, looking for a crisp crust and soft interior crumbs. I asked my deli to slice their very best cold cuts (never, ever use that pre-sliced stuff in a package). I sought out the freshest, juiciest vine ripe tomatoes and seasoned them generously with good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I carefully shredded romaine lettuce. I never even once considered buying a bottled Italian dressing. I made my own oil and vinegar dressing by mixing together three parts extra virgin olive oil to two parts vinegar (we like this sandwich with that extra zing of vinegar) and seasoned it with Italian herbs. I spooned the vinaigrette over both sides of the bread. In short I did everything I could think of to make it perfect.
My sandwich was very good, even bordering on great, but something was missing to put it over the top and make it spectacular. The only problem was - I couldn’t put my finger on what that “something” was.
Finally I stumbled across the secret to how to make a spectacular hoagie and it just happens to come from another Carmine - the one who has a very successful Italian restaurant in Times Square in New York City. In Carmine’s Family Style Cookbook they shared their secret of how to make a spectacular hoagie.
The secret to a spectacular Italian hoagie is so simple that it’ll make you want to slap yourself on your forehead like a silly Italian cartoon character. Slice the ingredients paper thin. That’s the secret – slice the ingredients paper thin. Never overload the sandwich they say or it will make it overflow and be hard to eat. As Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, would say, “How easy is that?”