All those posts about Italian subs from the Bay Cities thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391545 prompted me start my own thread, even here in my remote location in central Taiwan.
I have never been able to find the perfect east coast meatball sub in LA-- they never seem to strike the right balance. Either the meatballs are good (dense texture with good 'tooth', lovely oregano flavor) but the bread is soft and they layer cold slices of cheese on top, without baking it! (e.g. east side deli)-- or the bread is good but the meatballs fall apart like mush in your mouth (e.g. bay cities). Similar examples abound all over the LA basin.... Marios in Glendale, Pinnochios in Burbank, Giamela's in Burbank, etc. etc. In my experience no Italian deli in LA seems to get all those mystical elements quite right into one sandwich.
NOTE TO NON-NY BRED HOUNDS.... I'm not discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of these joints' sandwiches outside of their ability to create a classic NY-style meatball parm sandwich. (For example, Mario's may be delish, but it's not what I'm looking for... if you're from back east, you'll know what I mean)
My proposal is that the perfect reconstructed east coast meatball parm sub would be a tour of three very different LA areas.
1. Buy a huge, fresh baguette from Papa Cristo (Pico and Normandie)-- the tastiest, freshest, most authentically European baguettes I've found in LA and a steal at $2 for a giant one (about 1 yard long). I've always been able to get them still warm, straight out of the oven. They're heavenly to eat even plain-- crunchy crust, soft, warm interior that's delicious unembellished. I think you can pick up some still-on-branch dried oregano here too.
2. Go to Eastside Deli (Chinatown) and buy a container of their meatballs and sauce
3. Go to Monte Carlo Italian Deli in Burbank and buy a block of whole milk Polly-O mozzarella (about $5)
Bring ingredients home. Preheat oven and stone to 400. Slice about 1 foot of bread down middle 3/4 way. Layer sauce, meatballs, a little more sauce (not too much!) and shredded Polly-O. Optional-- before adding fillings, butter inner sides of bread with garlic butter and bake for a minute. Sprinkle with dried oregano and a good shred (or shake) of parmesan cheese (though I'm a shredder guy, I have a feeling that most of the family-run Italian joints back east that we're trying to emulate with this recipe are more likely to shake). Place sub in oven on aluminum foil and bake for 8-10 minutes until edges of bread get a little blackened and the cheese gets bubbly brown. (this is a critical and often missed step in LA italian delis and pizza joints.... they love to undercook their stuff... sometimes a minute underthe broiler does wonders too) When done properly the outside of the bread will crunch with crust and hardened browned bits of stray cheese, the inside will be heavenly soft, the meatballs chewy, herby and fragrant, the sauce tangy and slightly sweet, in good balance.
By jove, I think I've got it!
Would any of you back-east guys (Das Ubergeek, Prof Salt, I'm looking at you!) make any modifications?
Speaking of back east guys, I wonder if Vito makes a meatball parm???