I came for the Pooh Bear, the most irresistibly named new hoagie at one of the city’s buzziest new sandwich shops. But I left Dolores’ 2Street with a taste of South Philly history, prime candidates for the best new steak and pork sandwiches in town, and the tale of a restaurant family reveling in its comeback.
Who remembers Felicia’s? I do. I can still taste the sublime ricotta gnocchi, veal-stuffed roast peppers, and sage-kissed saltimbocca rolls I ate there in 2001, when Nick and Maria Miglino’s upscale restaurant at 11th and Ellsworth Streets was on the vanguard of the post-Red Gravy generation during a two-decade run that ended in 2007.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to learn the Miglinos are back on the scene with a multigenerational sandwich shop homage to family at Dolores’ 2Street. It’s named for Nick’s late mother, Dolores Miglino, who was the culinary matriarch of this dedicated Mummers family, which makes its location next to the Fralinger String Band clubhouse both appropriate and fortuitous. Mummers are reliably hoagie hungry.
“They just gave us a hundred hoagie order!” says Nick’s son and partner, Peter Miglino, 36, who dreamed up this shop with girlfriend Victoria Rio, who turns 26 this week. She helps him run the front register and cold sandwich station at this storefront, long known as Colburn’s before a brief run as Shak’s. “I don’t feel like this is work at all,” says Peter, a longtime bartender at Ladder 15 who’s thrilled to be building this business alongside his parents and girlfriend. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Their hoagies are very much worth a mega order, carefully built on seeded Sarcone’s rolls with balance, finesse, and creativity. The classic Italian is excellent, but I was charmed by the Pooh Bear, named by Peter for its combo of honey turkey, honey ham, and honeyed mayo, but whose secret is the deep-fried ribbon of pickle that cuts through the sweetness with a crispy crackle and tart burst that unifies each bite.
Another deep-fried move — a panko-crusted strip of zucchini — is the secret crunch weapon in the Henry, a beautiful ode to Henry George, whose famous veggie hoagie at long-gone Chickie’s (now Antonio’s) set Philly’s meatless hoagie standard. Layered with grilled eggplant, perfectly cooked r rabe, and roasted peppers, Dolores’ juicy rendition is worthy of the legacy.
And yet, it was the hot sandwiches that took me by surprise, coming from the back kitchen where you’ll find Nick, 67, and Maria, 65, still the gnocchi genius, cooking all hot food — and paying tribute to South Philly sandwiches gone by.
Nick is especially obsessed with his resurrection of the classic pizza steak popularized by Anthony Milano in the 1950s in the South 11th Street space currently occupied by Mike’s BBQ.
Unlike most of its modern-day descendants, the original pizza steak did not ladle on rivers of red sauce, Miglino says, but instead cushioned the meat with medallions of grilled plum tomatoes. (At places with old-school roots like John’s Roast Pork, this sandwich is actually noted as a Milano.) At Dolores, where those ripe tomatoes are dusted with hand-pinched Sicilian oregano and a few finishing drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil, Miglino’s rendition is cooked from whole pads of tender, prime-grade L. Halteman’s beef with molten mild provolone. There are no onions, and it’s a subtle beauty by brash steak standards. But it’s pure harmony when you take a bite, the tomatoes adding to its juicy savor.
“We were born and raised on this stuff,” says Nick, “because none of us went to Pat’s and Geno’s. None of us.”
I genuinely love Dolores’ pizza steak, as well. But Nick’s other triumph — replicating his mother’s roast pork — is at least as notable. Miglino even tracked down the specific cut of pork his mother and her friends used to cook at home. It’s called the cushion, a large softball-shaped hunk of boneless meat cut from a picnic shoulder, that he slow-roasts with dried herbs, garlic, wine, and cherry peppers in vinegar, which lend a distinctively spicy tang.
But it’s the execution that finally brings it home: Nick hand cuts each piece a little thicker than the paper thin sheets commonly seen elsewhere pulled off an electric slicer. That might seem like a small thing, but it’s huge. My teeth sank through the crusty roll into that cushion of meat, and my eyes opened as it conveyed the sublime tenderness and juicy swagger of this family’s roast pork sandwich legacy in a way I’ve never quite experienced. The intensity of it gushed through the snappy green rabe, the molten provolone, and the charred spice of roasted long hot peppers. It soaked into every corner of that crusty roll. Do we have a new roast pork champ? We definitely have a contender!
“Every time I make it, we all look at it and my brother starts talking about our mother, and it’s fascinating and it’s weird,” says Nick. “I only wish my mother was here to have a bite.”
Dolores’ 2Street, 1841 S. 2nd St., 267-519-3212; on Facebook.