Saturday, March 14th, 2009

30 Rock Sandwiches Solved

Hello. Caroline here.

Last year, there was an episode of 30 Rock that got our mouths watering. It was titled “Sandwich Day” and the plot centered around the Teamsters bringing the most tantalizingly delicious subs, hoagies, grinders, heros, what-have-you, to the office, sending the writers’, actors’ and crew’s heads into a flavor-induced tailspin. In the episode’s climactic final scene, Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon chooses to devour the entire sandwich at an airport security checkpoint, rather than part with it and it’s special gravy. Watching it, you got the sense that this scenario was based on reality. The details were too perfect: Teamsters, secret outer-borough location (the Teamsters would not tell anyone where the sandwich was from, and only brought them to the office once a year) and, the dead giveaway: a dipping sauce so good you want to drink it.

We made it our mission to find out where this place was and eat all of their sandwiches.

If you troll around the interweb, you’ll read a lot of people theorizing that it’s Defonte’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which now has a location on Third Avenue in Manhattan. But in a happy and one might say, karmic, coincidence, I happen to have a very good friend who’s husband works on the set of 30 Rock. And because we don’t want to put the affable husband in the middle of some sort of angry Teamster sandwich, we have agreed to a veil of confidentiality, and my friend will henceforth be known as M and her husband as, The Husband.

Soon after seeing the 30 Rock episode in question, I contacted M and asked her if The Husband knew anything about this sandwich, whether it was in fact something that was shared with the cast and crew, and if so, had he tasted it and its accompanying sauce. At first, The Husband was cagey in response to our requests—a sure sign that we were onto something. But M applied all of her wifely skills of seduction and trickery to get The Husband to spill The Details. There was a sandwich! And it came with a side of gravy! He had eaten it. It was indeed the kind of sandwich you would stuff down your maw rather than surrender it at La Guardia airport security. And it hailed from…Hoboken! Home of Frank Sinatra, baseball, and people who like to look at Manhattan, but not live there. The place is called Fiore’s:

So our journey to the ‘boken (being born and raised in NJ, I can call it that) has two parts. For the first, we set out via PATH train and foot: Leslie, myself, M and M’s adorably chubby baby spawn. The Husband had informed us that the sandwich to get was made on a long Italian loaf, and contained roast beef made in-house, fresh mozzarella made in-house, roasted red peppers, and came with a side of gravy made from the roast beef’s drippings that you dunked the sandwich into…my lord. Although they have many other tasty offerings, like the Italian combo, this was the sandwich which had inspired an episode of prime-time television comedy. When we arrived at Fiore’s, we were all pretty excited. Inside was the perfectly outfitted New Jersey Italian deli, down to the mysterious gentleman reading a newspaper in the back kitchen:

And a bin of fresh bread, where you pick out your loaf for the sandwich.

There were two dudes behind the counter who seemed to be waiting there just to make us the best sandwiches of our lives. That is until they informed us that the gravy was only made on Thursday and Saturdays…and we were there on a Friday. I didn’t cry. (Although I could have, if I thought it might help these guys produce some gravy.) I just started making desperate requests like: “Don’t you keep any gravy in the freezer?” They do not. I could only blame myself for not doing the proper research. But, even without the gravy, we decided to have some sandwiches: one whole roast beef and another Italian combo, which contained all manner of Italian cold cuts, peppers, and mozzarella (which is also worth the trip).

Here is one of the guys from behind the counter, graciously not minding that we were freaking out over these sandwiches like a bunch of New Yorkers and taking pictures of everything.

(Actually, he does look a little bit irritated in this picture.)

And here’s the spread of peppers and other delights that you can also get on your sandwich:

Once we had our bag of Italian sodas and subs, we headed with the napping baby to a nearby park, grabbed a bench in the sun and devoured them.

It was pretty close to perfect, and would have been, had we not known about the gravy. And just one day off! Luckily, Leslie was not to be thwarted from our quest…

Leslie: On Saturday, I was having brunch with two very lovely, funny friends of mine, Joanna and Josh. I was describing to them in rapturous fashion, the sandwich shop, the salty mozzerella, the roast beef sandwich and the tragedy that there was no gravy the day we went, when all of the sudden, Josh deemed it imperative that we go to The Jerz and get that darn sandwich. Who was I to say no?

We piled into his Mini Cooper and headed toward the Holland Tunnel. The epicurian gods must have been smiling because we sailed through to the ‘boken in 15 minutes flat. Parked right in front of Fiore’s. Ordered the roast beef with gravy. (Still scarred by there not being any gravy the day before, I timidly asked, “So, you have gravy today, right?” The guy behind the counter, “Of course we do! It’s Saturday!”)

Bless him. After slicing the bright pink roast beef and mozzerella and arranging on the bottom slice of bread, the man took the top slice behind the counter to an aluminum pan. Grabbed a spoon and proceeded to splash this brown liquid gold all over the bread and then, as if sensing that he was putting on a show for Joanna and I, dropped the top slice in the pan and bobbed it around.

Joanna audibly gasped.

All I can say is that this was the best damn roast beef sandwich I have ever had in my life. Magically, the bread didn’t even get soggy from the gravy. It was heaven. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but still.

So thank you, Tina, Teamsters and The Husband for showing us the way to this wonderful sandwich. And next time you’re heading to Newark International or A.C., take a detour to the ‘boken. Just be sure it’s a Thursday or Saturday.

18 Responses to 30 Rock Sandwiches Solved

  1. Vivian says:


    Dude. I am so there.

    Your (North) Jersey girl

  2. rsmiller510 says:

    I could taste that sandwich. I so want one, but I’m in Massachusetts. If I had read this last weekend when I was in New York, you better believe I would have taken the Path there on Sat afternoon to try one. What a great post.

    Ron Miller
    by Ron Miller blog

  3. YaYa says:

    Thank you! I loved that episode of 30 Rock, congratulations on a solid piece of research!

  4. Nick says:

    Yes! Thanks for the info. I’m moving back to Hoboken in a few months, can’t wait to try this place out. I lived in Hobo for 5 years though and never heard of Fiore’s, can it really beat Vito’s deli and their mozz?? That was the number one deli according to everyone I knew…

  5. Nick says:

    Oh my, I just checked into it further. Most reviews on yelp mark Fiore’s as superior to Vito’s. I also realized that our new place is directly in the middle between Vito’s and Fiore’s, about 4 blocks from each. The battle begins. Thanks for revealing this info, true Italian subs are my most missed food out here in California.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE FIORES!!!!! take this article down the lines are long enough.

  7. Daniel Acker says:

    You lived in Hoboken for 5 years and you never heard of Fiore’s What? I’m living in Pennsyvania and I dream about Fiore’s I miss it so much!! Hey anybody else missing Fiore’s? Google “Fiore’s” and get your fix….NOW!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I go here as often as possible – the Virigina Ham with Honey Mustard Gravy on Monday is awesome too. Not as good as the Roast Beef – but NOTHING in the world is as good as that sandwich.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Please take this down- Really the lines are already too long and they run out of food by 2pm. It is one of the perks of living here and not NYC, good food and no tourists!

  10. kat says:

    If you ever find yourself on Long Island, TJ’s Hero Shop in Mastic Beach does roast beef and gravy on a garlic toasted hero roll, with melted mozzarella. The place is a block away from my high school, and I probably ate one of these at least 3 times a week during my senior year. It is my favorite sandwich ever, and now that I live 1000 miles away, I long for it. TJ’s is the first stop I make whenever I’m home for a visit, just to have this sandwich. Last time I went for a visit, my husband made me bring back to WI for him in my carry-on.

  11. Caroline and Leslie says:

    thanks Kat for the TJ Hero recommendation–sounds like a good field trip this summer!
    and sorry for the fans of Fiore’s who are freaking over the lines–maybe they should establish a separate entrance for the newbies and tourists so you don’t have to wait so long?

  12. Brenda Campbell says:

    well… now I know where to go for a great sandwich when I am in the area. I love 30 Rock and had always wondered, and then tried to watch the show really fast to see what was in that sandwich, then gave up because I couldn’t see anything. Thanks for the story, it was awesome!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I second TJ's hero's shop recommendation. I would travel across the continental u.s to get one of those heros. They are fresh and wonderful. I've been going there for 7 years at least 1x a week, often more..and they have NEVER made a mistake on my order…ever! I've been to so many places including Fiore's, which is also damn good..but I still love my TJs. I will never move off Long Island, and they are the ONLY reason why!!! Every sandwich is good!

  14. Mike says:

    Personally, I like my Fiore's roast beef and mutz with their roasted red peppers. In my opinion, their marinated red peppers are some of the best I've had. But be warned – you must love garlic to enjoy the peppers.

  15. Robert says:

    to get gravy to go, bring your own container (plastic soup container) so you can dip your sandwich in this most excellent gravy. roast beef thursday and friday, virginia backed ham monday, corn beef tuesday, sausage wednesday and tuna friday.

  16. Anonymous says:

    lines are too long! take down plz.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my goodness!! I have never laughed so hard in my life. Thank you so much for this post! Fortunately we are living right next to Hoboken for a couple weeks. We are going to have to head over.

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