Chester, PA "Italian Sandwiches/Hoagies/Submarines" (1925)

Barry Popik bapopik at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 6 07:16:59 UTC 2007

NewspaperArchive has been digitizing the Chester, PA newspapers. Here goes:
 19 April 1972, Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), "My kind of town"
by Ed Gebhart, sect. 2, pg. 1, col. 1:
AN OUTFIT IN Philadelphia called the Shackamaxon Society is sponsoring a
Hoagie-Hero competition to see whether Philadelphia (hoagie) or New York
(hero) makes the better Italian sandwich. The whole thing is a little
ridiculous, like having a world championship boxing tournament and
forgetting to invite Joe Frazier.
Unquestionably, the Hoagie Sandwich capital of the universe is good old
Chester, Pa., which not only originated the hoagie-hero-submarine, but still
turns out some of the finest in the world. The tradition is so entrenched
that even an Irishman, like Joe Squire of The Squire sandwich shop in Sun
Village, can make a fine Italian sandwich.
In fact, the quality of a hoagie usually is directly proportional to the
maker's location to Chester. The further away you get, the worse the hoagie.
Travel to Atlantic City, for instance, and the hoagies produced there border
on the inedible.
My sources report they're even worse in New York where the contents--usually
on a hard roll, of all things--contains bologna (ugh!) and mayonnaise
JUST FOR THE record, the hoagie or submarine sandwich was invented by the
late Mrs. Catherine DiCostanza back in 1925. She and her husband Augustine
operated a combination sandwich shop-delicatessen for 43 years at 1212 W.
3rd St. All of the family worked in the shop at one time or another,
including daughter Rosie (now Mrs. Rose Wichanski of Westtown), a classmate
of mine at Dewey School nine or 10 years ago.
The Saturday Evening Post credited Mrs. DiCostanza with creating the hoagie
in an article some years ago. Even Alfonso DiPalma of Philadelphia, who
bills himself "King of the Hoagies" and who has entered the hoagie-hero
competition, admits the sandwich was originated in Chester.
19 May 1972, Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), "My kind of town" by
Ed Gebhart, sect. 2, pg. 1, col. 1:
THE GREAT HOAGIE HUNT ends Saturday when a panel of judges will sample
sandwiches made by Delaware County's "Super Seven" hoagie makers and will
try to determine which is the best.
IN WHAT HAS come to be an undisputed fact, the hoagie was born at 1212 W.
3rd St., in Chester where the late Catherine DiCostanza and her husband
Augustine opened a grocery store in 1923.
The business still is in the family and now is operated by son Joe
DiCostanza, 41.
JOE WASN'T EVEN born when his mother began making her special sandwiches.
According to one of the four DiCostanza daughters, Mrs. Mary Volturo of
Lindsay Street in Chester, the very first sandwiches were sold to men in
what then was Palermo's bar, next door at 1210 W. 3rd St.
"The men did a lot of playing cards in the backroom," Mary recalled. "Many
times, they became too interested in the cards to go home and eat. Instead,
they would come into our store and ask my mother to make them a big
JOHN A. PIERCE of 3001 W. 6th St., Chester, recalls how the sandwiches were
"I was a driver for Market Square Taxi in 1925," he recalled. "My friend
Harry Lyons and I would go to DiCostanza's grocery store. You ordered a loaf
of bread. There were no rolls like they have now.
"Mrs. DiCostanza would slice it down the middle, then you got italian ham
sliced with a knife. There wa no slicing machine, then. The ham had a bone
in it, just like a smoked ham. You ordered whatever you wanted to put in the
"Harry and I would take our sandwich to Bill Welsh's speakeasy on the corner
of 3rd and Howell (Lamokin) Street, where the Bull Moose is now.
"People would see the loaf of bread made into a sandwich and say, 'Where in
the world did you get that?'
"The cost was 25 cents."
"I'll tell you something else," Joe continued. "We're probably the only
hoagie shop in the world that doesn't make steak sandwiches. We're strictly
24 January 1947, Chester (PA) <i>Times</i>, pg. 13, cols.1-3:
<i>Bob Finucane Strolls</i>
<i>Along the Streets of Chester</i>
Open the door, Richard--the door to DiCostanza's grocery store.
Yesterday's gale blew me along West Third street to the 1200 block. Then a
sudden gust from the south spun me headlong into DoCostanzo's (sic) grocery
It's a grocery store, sure enough, but anyone who has been in Chester longer
than twenty minutes has heard of the Italian (submarine) sandwiches turned
out there.
Mary DiCostanza, 20-year-old daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Augustine DiCostanzo,
who operate the store, is the chief sandwich maker and she is the one you
usually find behind the counter.
"I make most of the sandwiches these days," said Mary. "But we all can make
them if necessary. Polly, Ann and Rose, my sisters, and Mother and Dad--any
of them can make a good Italian sandwich."
I'll explain. It looks like a bleeding football. it feels like a bleeding
football. It smells good, tastes delicious.
Really--it's a small loaf of Italian bread, slit down the seam, and (Col. 2)
crammed with the following delicacies:
(a) boiled ham;
(b) salami;
(c) capicolo (Italian meat);
(d) cheese;
(e) tomatoes;
(f) onions;
(g) pickles;
(h) hot peppers;
(i) sage;
(j) oil.
If you think it takes a long time to make an Italian sandwich, you're wrong.
"It takes about a minute," Mary said. But I'll bet she can compose one of
these culinary concertos in less than fifty seconds.
Even on a bad day, at least one hundred Italian sandwiches go out
DiCostanzo's front door. On a good day, as many as two-hundred and fifty are
taken out.
"Rainy weather is not submarine sandwich weather," Mary explained. "We hate
to see it rain. The best time for Italian sandwiches is at night. Yes, at
night people seem to get hungry and instead of going into the kitchen and
preparing something, they'll just step out and buy an Italian sandwich."
A warning: Don't eat an Italian sandwich before dinner. They are the best
appetite-spoilers of all. When you finish one, you feel like you've been
eating for a week at one sitting.
DiCostanzo's first started to make Italian sandwiches in 1925, the year the
store opened and the year Mary was born. At first business was slow.
"But gradually," said Mr. DiCostanzo, "it picked up until today we do--well,
we do o. k."
Papa DiCostanzo hung up the apron recently, and turned the job of making
sandwiches over to his four daughters. But I suppose, if the situation
demanded, Papa could make a comeback and whip together a tasty submarine
sandwich. My money would be on him.
Some cooks won't eat what they prepare themselves--and you never (Col. 3)
heard of an undertaker burying himself, did you?--but Mary loves her
"I eat one almost every day," boasts Mary, who is short, dark, and a slick
chick behind the slicer.
For free, I am offering DiCostanza's grocery store this slogan: "We've never
had a submarine surface yet."
1 October 1970, Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), pg. 1, col. 2:
<i>Reputed creator</i>
<i>of hoagie dies</i>
Mrs. Catherine DiCostanza, 70, of 310 Crestview Circle, Nether Providence,
who reputedly originated the Italian sandwich known in the area as the
hoagie in 1925, died Wednesday in Riddle Hospital, Middletown.
Mrs. DiCostanza and her husband, Augustine, operated a combination
delicatessen and sandwich shop for 43 years at 1212 W. 3rd St., Chester. The
business was rented out for two years and earlier this year the family
returned to operation of the shop at the same W. 3rd Street location.
Before moving to Nether Providence about 15 years ago, the DiCostanzas also
lived at the same address as their business.
Mrs. DiCostanza reportedly made the first "hoagie" at the request of one of
the many workmen who visited the delicatessen and wanted to eat a large
sandwich right there.
She created a hearty sandwich to meet the needs of a hearty appetite and now
the popularity of "hoagies," "heroes" and the like has spread throughout the
country. About 15 years ago, the Saturday Evening Post carried an article on
the family's hoagie-making business.
Mrs. DiCostanza was born in Italy and came to the United States as a young
At present all of her family is back working in the hoagie shop at Chester.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Joseph of Chester
and John of Ridley Township; fourdaughters, Polly DiCostanza, at home; Mrs.
Anna Lombardo or Nether Providence; Mrs. Mary Volturo of Chester and Mrs.
Rose Wichanski ofWesttown, and nine grandchildren;...
25 September 1973, Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, PA), pg. 4, col. 1:
<i>Hoagie originator</i>
<i>DiCostanza, 78, dies</i>
The funeral for Augustine DiCostanza, patriarch of the Chester hoagie-making
family who died at home Sunday morning, will be at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday from
the Nacrelli Funeral Home, 2217 Providence Ave., Chester.
Mr. DiConstanza was 78 and resided at 310 Crestview Circle, Nether
(...)(Col. 2)
Mr. DiCostanza, along with his late wife Catherine, operated a delicatessen
and Italian sandwich shop at 1212 W. 3rd St., Chester, for 43 years. A son,
Joseph, resumed the hoagie business at the same location in 1970 after two
years of the store being rented to another business.
Mrs. Di Cosanza, who died in 1970, has been credited as being the originator
of the sandwich known today as the hoagie.
Mr. DiCostanza was born in Schippone, Italy, and came to the United States
more than 60 years ago. he immediately settled in Chester and in 1925 he and
his wife opened their sandwich shop in the front portion of their home.

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