Serious Sandwiches: Tony Luke's Roast Pork Italian, Philadelphia


I don't know if there's much to say about the roast pork Italian sandwich at Tony Luke's other than it's pretty near perfect.

Tony Luke's is conveniently located near the junction of I-95 and I-76 in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge—a quick lunchtime detour on my trip from the Big Apple to central Pennsylvania this past weekend. I probably don't have to tell you that I spent the first two hours of that trip in anticipation of finally trying one of these much-hyped sandwiches.

As Joy Manning pointed out in her guide to Philly's best roast pork sandwiches, the roast pork Italian is overshadowed by the cheesesteak but is fast becoming well-known outside the City of Brotherly Love.

Tony Luke's

39 East Oregon Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19148 (just west of the I-95 overpass; map); 215-551-5725;
Must-Haves: The roast pork Italian with broccoli rabe
What You'll Spend: roast pork Italian, $7.95; cheesesteak, $7

It consists of thinnish slices of juicy, slow-roasted ham; sharp provolone; and either spinach or broccoli rabe. Everyone I know raves about the rabe, which is what I went with—it gives the sandwich a slightly bitter bite.

The vehicle for delivery is that same signature bread used for the city's cheesesteaks. Indeed, this bread seems like it was almost made for a roast pork Italian, since it's soft enough inside to soak up the sandwich's juices but just crisp enough outside to rein it all in—stopping well short of the mouth-damaging crustiness of a baguette. And the proportions are all in balance—not too much bread, not too much filling, no ingredients falling out of an overstuffed sandwich.

In Tim Warren's Washington Post story about this other icon of Philadelphia foodstuffs, he all but swears off cheesesteaks in favor of the roast pork Italian. I don't know if I'd go that far—but at least the decision gives me something to occupy the first leg of my journey with.