I grew up in Central NJ and still live in the area. Now, having also lived in upstate NY, Mass, LA, etc., I *know* the submarine sandwich is regional and has many other names and variations, BUT, in New Jersey, at least, it *used* to have a standard definition- sold half or whole, on a long "sub roll" (Italian bread, but not too hard), with lettuce, tomato, onion, oil & vinegar, salt, pepper & other seasonings. Meats and cheese listed by number . Cheese should be provolone standard with the option of some other cheese. That's a "sub". NOT that you can't get other things on it (I confess to liking a touch of mayo on roast beef or turkey, some folks opt for hot peppers, etc.) OR deleted (too many shops cut up their onions too far in advance and, exposed to the air, they oxidize and get too bitter).
Recently moved to northern Monmouth County and changed jobs, so we no longer get subs at the "usual" places (Tastee in Edison, various shops in South River, Mike's down the shore, White House any time we're even near AC, etc) and have found that all of a sudden it seems I have to tell the sandwich makers HOW to make a sub. I've been asked or had to specify that I want lettuce, tomato, onions and oil and vinegar on the sub, have gotten Balsamic vinegar (turns the bread an ugly brown) and was even asked "What kind of bread?" once (I wanted to say "white toast!").
Today, when I got a Turkey sub with provolone and asked for a little mayo PLUS everything else, I luckily caught the guy about to wrap up my sandwich WITHOUT lettuce, tomato or onion and he still didn't add the oil and vinegar. Hey, without that stuff it's just a turkey sandwich on Italian bread.
I don't know- is it just my bad luck or the influence of the chain shops or "gourmet" shops? Shouldn't a sub have a standard, with only additions or subtractions specified?
(I won't even mention the time I was driving around LA in the mid-70's, spotted a place advertising "NYC style Submarine Sandwichs", bought one and got this, this THING on a hot dog roll, some meat, american cheese and RELISH!)