Philly vs. Main Line: Roast Pork Italian

January 18th, 2011

Luigi's Porchetta Abruzzese

Welcome to Round 2 of Philly vs. Main Line, where we take a highly-regarded food experience in Philadelphia and compare it to a similar offering out here in the burbs. Will it be worth the trip to the city, or are you better off staying close to home?

Much like the cheesesteak, the Roast Pork Italian is a revered sandwich in the Philadelphia area; just hearing the name conjures images of thinly sliced, juicy pork sidled next to piquant provolone cheese and mounds of garlicky, wilted greens, served at hallowed counters Tony Lukes, John’s and DiNics. But we’re not talking about any of the classics today. Instead, we’re going to look at a newcomer on the block: Jake’s Sandwich Board, and put them up against our local favorite Luigi & Giovanni’s.

Philly – Jake’s Sandwich Board: Jake’s was deemed worthy of Philly vs Main Line status due to the heaping praise they’ve seemed to collect since they opened on South 12th St. in May of 2010. Although they offer a wide variety of creative sandwiches and their “5 Pound Philly Challenge” — which will soon be featured on Food Network’s Outrageous Food — centers around a 2ft cheesesteak, their true heart and soul lies with the roast pork sandwich. Need proof? For starters, their Twitter handle is @gotpig. In addition, their grand opening was celebrated by giving away whole-roasted pig sandwiches, which they now offer for $5 every Monday.

As for the sandwich, despite the interesting creations that Jake’s suggests for it’s other sandwiches, the whole-roasted pig is strictly “create your own”. For $8, you can get it on plain, seeded or multi-grain, with au jus or horseradish sauce, and topped with roasted and/or hot peppers, rabe, sharp provolone, raw onion, crushed chili and cracklings(!). Our our visit, we did multi-grain, with au jus, roasted peps, provolone and cracklings. It’s a very good sandwich… but this is is Philadelphia. A good pork sandwich is expected. To be the best, you need to be transcendent, and Jake’s was not. The pork flavor was there, for sure, but that’s about it. The toppings didn’t offer much else (perhaps try it with some spice if you go), especially the “au jus”, which was somewhat pedestrian. I love pork, sure, but the point of having it in a sandwich is that the other flavors meld into each bite, and this is where Jake’s fell short.

‘Burbs – Luigi and Giovanni’s: We certainly haven’t hidden our love for this sandwich in the past, so it was always going to be tough to beat. Similar to Jake’s, Luigi’s slow-roasts a whole pig, skin and all, overnight, which renders the fat gently, resulting in tender, juicy and extremely flavorful meat. Similar to Jake’s, Luigi’s piles heaping mounds of pulled pork on a sesame roll with sharp provolone and roasted red peppers. The difference, however, is in the gravy. L & G’s uses six herbs and a hearty dose of garlic, creating a succulent gravy that permeates every bite with intensity and flavor.

Verdict: Jake’s is a great addition to the Philly sandwich scene and certainly worthy of a visit if in the vicinity. It just isn’t a destination location in and of itself. Thus, if the ultimate Italian pork sandwich is the thing you truly crave, a short trip to Newtown Square is the only answer. (These sandwiches are available on the patio outside Luigi and Giovanni’s Italian Market on weekends only — and sometimes during the week now, I think? — until they run out.)

All Time Record: Philly 1, Main Line 1

One Response to “Philly vs. Main Line: Roast Pork Italian”

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  1. patty says:

    there’s a small little sandwich shop in phoenixville that serves up a spectacular pork sandwich! wasko’s pork sandwich with long hots and sharp provolone is to die for!!!

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