Thinly sliced roast pork, brocoli rabe and provolone cheese. Who knew that this combination could be so heavenly?
I remember the first time I tried the Pattison Avenue at Taylor Gourmet on 14th street. The bitterness of the rabe balanced the saltiness of the sliced pork. And the cheese, well, cheese is always delicious. The sub roll was actually a little bland, but effectively soaked up the excess pork juice from the meat.
I soon developed an obsession with the roast pork, brocoli rabe and provolone sandwich. Determined to find out the origins of this sandwich, I did my research. Casey Patten and Matt Mazza, two Philadelphia natives, opened Taylor Gourmet in 2008 because they wanted to bring the Philly hoagie culture to D.C.
In fact, all of their sandwiches are named after streets or notable landmarks in their home city. Taylor Gourmet’s sandwiches are made with roasted in-house meats, including turkey, ham, beef and pork.
Patten and Mazza have opened several locations in D.C., including the 14th Street location I visited, one on H Street, one on K Street and another in Bethesda. The modern, industrial design is used for all of their locations as well (thanks to NYTimes.com for the above photo). Although Taylor Gourmet is expensive for lunch, the sandwiches are thoughtfully made with quality ingredients.
So there’s Patten and Mazza. But that’s clearly not where the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich started. What inspired these guys to create the Pattinson Avenue?
It turns out that this sandwich can be traced to a vendor located at Philly’s Reading Terminal Market called Tommy DiNic’s. (No, he’s not the only guy in the city who sells roast pork and broccoli rabe, but he’s definitely one of the most well-known.)
This large indoor market has a pretty interesting history. Reading Terminal Market opened in 1892 to house food vendors who had previously operated outdoors along streets in downtown Philly. Market Street, a main thoroughfare in the city, was one of the most popular spots for these vendors. Due to complaints of residents and sanitation concerns, the city decided to ban vendors from selling their products on the street.
With the new law in effect, Philly’s street vendors found themselves without a place to sell to their products. Reading Terminal Market was the perfect solution to this problem. With an enormous refrigeration system, vendors could produce and sell their food more efficiently than before.
Today, the market is filled with every type of vendor imaginable. There are bakers, farmers with fresh produce, dairy and cheese farmers from the Amish country, butchers, and more.
Tommy DiNic’s has been a mainstay in the market since 1954. Specializing in slow-roasted, sliced pork and roast beef sandwiches, DiNic’s represents the traditional Philly hoagie.
Knowing this, I knew what I had to do. So, I booked a seat on the MegaBus and bolted up to Philly for the day. My first stop -DiNic’s at Reading Terminal Market.
The market was a foodie’s dream, with every type of vendor you could possible imagine. I wrestled through the throngs of people and made my way to DiNic’s. I ordered my sandwich with confidence. “Roast pork broccoli rabe and provolone cheese, please.”
This sandwich felt like it weighed five pounds. I carefully unrolled its paper wrapping. Dear God. The sandwich was a foot long pork monster. I took a few photos and stared in awe for a few seconds.
My first bite – I tasted melted Provolone cheese smothered over juicy, tender and perfectly seasoned pork. This was some of the best roasted pork I have ever had. Taylor Gourmet, while good, didn’t hold a candle to this.
DiNic’s sandwich had personality. From the sharp melted Provolone to the succulent sliced pork to the spicy, bitter broccoli rabe, every flavor sang. Even the bread, a soft hoagie roll that perfectly contained the sandwich fillings, was unique. It’s amazing that I finished most of this sandwich without the mass of toppings falling out.
Because I didn’t want to carry the rest of the sandwich around Philly with me, I decided to pull an Adam Richman and take on the entire thing. Actually, Richman visited DiNic’s during the Philly episode of his eat-feat show, “Man Versus Food.” He ate the whole hoagie with ease, but then again, he’s had practice at this.
By the end, the cheese began to get to me. There was just so much of it, probably a little too much. In classic Richman style, I stuffed the remainder of the sandwich down my throat before my brain could tell my stomach, “STOP EATING FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
Success? Well, yes. But then I felt sick, but sick in an extremely satisfied way. I waddled around the rest of the market, buying a few Philly soft pretzels and chocolate chip cookies for later. Much later.
DiNic’s roast pork and rabe sandwich is one of a kind. Unfortunately, Philly isn’t in my backyard, so it will probably be some time before I go back. Then again, this isn’t such a bad thing, considering this sandwich could feed a family of four. In the meantime, I’m glad to see places like Taylor Gourmet showing diners what the Philly hoagie is all about right here in the District.
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