TV food host Adam Richman toured the country and sampled 28 sandwiches, and when the smoke cleared, he named DiNic's roast pork, served at the Nicolosi family's stand at Reading Terminal Market, the best in the nation.
Week by week, Wednesday's Travel Channel series had been showing off the contenders. A wild card also came from Philly: John's Roast Pork's cheesesteak. (How about a John's and a DiNic's pork sandwich, head-to-head, eh?) John's steak did not make the final bracket.
The DiNic's sandwich includes thin sliced pork, broccoli rabe, and extra-sharp provolone on a roll from Carangi's. Then it gets a splash of gravy.
Richman's top three included the roast pork from DiNic's; the Yardbird from Slow's in Detroit, which has smoked chicken breast drenched in mustard sauce, tossed with sauteed mushrooms and slathered with cheddar cheese, piled with bacon; and a chicken conquistador sandwich at Zunzi's in Savannah, Ga., which is basically chicken, Italian dressing, and "secret sauce" along with tomatoes and lettuce on a baguette.
Other finalists looked good, too: a shrimp po' boy from Domilise's in New Orleans; Al's Beef in Chicago; the CSS Virginia sandwich at the Black Sheep diner in Richmond, Va.; a roast beef sandwich piled with fries and homemade bechamel sauce from the Big-Ass Sandwiches food truck in Portland, Ore.; an El Toro BBQ sandwich from Phil's BBQ in San Diego; the seared beef tongue sandwich from the Noble Pig in Austin, Texas; and the lobster roll at the Galley Restaurant & Pub in Naples, Maine. John's Roast Pork was one of two wild cards tossed into the mix.
The hour-long show could have been cut to 20 minutes if you eliminated the obligatory recaps after each commercial break as well as Richman's yummy noises.
"It feels very relaxing now," co-owner Joe Nicolosi told me during a viewing party at the Terminal just after he was declared winner. The finale was taped a month ago in New York, and Nicolosi was sworn to secrecy. "It's good to have this behind me. It's been nerve-wracking."
No one outside the family knew, he said, but produce vendor Vinny Iovine had a hunch.
Nicolosi said: "He's a smart fellow. He remembered something I said before [I went up to New York], that the only way I'd have a viewing party is if I knew I won."
Aside from glory, what does DiNic's win?
"We get business," Nicolosi said, declining to divulge sales figures. "I will take that any day of the week."
From The Inquirer's files | See Jim Quinn's Inquirer Magazine story from 1995 on DiNic's.