Reminiscing on what makes a memorable sandwich

  • Julie's Italian Royal sandwiches are great for tailgating or any kind of picnic.

    Julie's Italian Royal sandwiches are great for tailgating or any kind of picnic. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

 
Posted9/21/2022 6:00 AM

Do you remember a restaurant called D.B. Kaplan's? It was on the seventh floor of Water Tower Place in Chicago. Upon arrival, you were led to your table and handed a menu folded accordion style that, when open, was more than three feet long and 12 inches wide. The menu listed more than 100 sandwiches with catchy names like Days of Our Chives, Corry Charlie and Dudley Dooright. Sadly, the restaurant is no longer in business, but it was an amazing place and my first exposure to specialty sandwiches. I find myself comparing sandwiches to theirs ever since.

Create an assembly line when making multiple sandwiches at one time.
Create an assembly line when making multiple sandwiches at one time. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

Then one day, while visiting my friends Julie and Jon, they made me an Italian Royal, a sandwich that reminded me of one of my favorites from D.B. Kaplan's. It was tasty and so convenient. I asked for the recipe and had to share it with you.

Julie's Italian Royal is served warm and made on a soft hoagie roll, filled with Italian meats and cheese, and embellished with your choice of toppings. And, you can make a bunch and throw them in the freezer, where they will wait until you need a quick meal on a busy day or whenever you have a craving.

The Italian Royal sandwich is a tradition in Julie's family. She remembers her mom making it for over 50 years and now carries on the tradition with her family. She gives a package of six to each of her grown children as a Christmas present every year, along with her husband Jon's famous homemade Chex mix.

When assembling the sandwich for eating later, keep the lettuce and tomatoes separate and place right before eating.
When assembling the sandwich for eating later, keep the lettuce and tomatoes separate and place right before eating. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

Julie lives in southern Indiana, where she likes to buy LaRosa Hoagy Rolls for her sandwiches. She describes them as slightly underbaked, soft, not browned, and topped with poppy seeds. She purchases them at her local Kroger, but while I could find them online at both Kroger and Walmart, I could not find them at any stores in the Chicago area. So, I investigated the bread selection at my local store and found a soft sandwich roll that worked well for me -- although it wasn't the same as Julie's.

The soft bun is topped with slices of Genoa salami paired with spicy capicola and provolone cheese, warmed in the oven and topped with your favorite toppings. I like adding Italian dressing, spicy brown mustard, thinly sliced onion, tomato, lettuce and pepperoncini slices to mine.

Once the meat and cheese are layered on the bun, Julie wraps her sandwiches in waxed paper and then places them in the plastic bag that holds the buns before putting them into the freezer for future use. The first time I had the sandwich, it had traveled from the freezer to the oven before I added any toppings and was just as good as making them fresh.

Do you need an entree for a picnic or tailgating?

Add boiling water to a hard plastic cooler, no larger than the size of your sandwiches, and allow it to sit for at least five minutes. After heating the sandwiches, wrap them in aluminum foil, remove the water from the cooler, line cooler with a towel, add your wrapped sandwiches and cover until you want to eat. The insulation in the cooler that keeps things cold will also keep things warm for approximately four hours. To extend this time, consider adding a hot foil-wrapped brick or stone to the cooler, being careful not to burn yourself. Bring your toppings in a separate container chilled.

First wrap sandwiches in wax paper and then in plastic bags until ready to eat or freeze.
First wrap sandwiches in wax paper and then in plastic bags until ready to eat or freeze. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

I keep some sandwiches stashed in my freezer for those days when I'm rushed. That way I'm rewarded for planning ahead with a warm, delicious treat every time.

These sandwiches remind me of the Hot 2, 3, 4 -- one of my favorites from D.B. Kaplan's that combined warm salami, Düsseldorf mustard and Munster cheese. My family loves them, and I hope yours will too.

Please let me know if you, too, remember D.B. Kaplan's. I would love to hear your favorite menu item and memories.

• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge. Contact Penny at DhCulinaryAdventures@gmail.com.

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