This Italian Grinder Sandwich recipe combines savory deli meats, creamy provolone, crisp lettuce, onions, pepperoncini, and bright vinaigrette on a crusty Italian loaf. It's perfect for gatherings or to share with friends and family at home!
Why You'll Love This Dish
I love this dish because I based it on a little Italian market in our town where the owner, Mazzeo, is an 80-something gentleman who still works there every day.
He created a sandwich (referred to locally as "the sandwich") for a wine salesman one day back in 1959 and the salesman loved it so much he sent his friends back the next day asking for the same sandwich.
From there it became a bit of a local legend. You can read about it here. We stop by at least once a month for one of these special sandwiches and some authentic Italian food supplies. (More exciting than it just being a viral TikTok recipe, no?)
But if you can't make it all the way to California, know this recipe is super easy. All you need to do is assemble the various deli meats, cheese, swipe the bread with some mayo, put together the fresh components, and you're ready to eat.
It's great for gatherings. This sandwich is large format, making it a fun, shareable meal you can try at picnics, parties, nights at home with the family, sports events, or any other place where you'll have a few folks to help you out.
This is a hearty sandwich. You won't need to prepare much else when serving this Italian sub for a crowd.
This simple recipe is so tasty. The crusty bread piled high with meats and creamy cheese, the bright, fresh lettuce, bold pepperoncini, perfectly balanced salad dressing... this irresistible grinder is one of my favorite sandwiches.
It's portable. I always think foods are fun when they're easy to transport. Showing up with a giant sandwich tends to bring a little joy to everyone involved.
What You'll Need
- Italian Loaf I prefer to use a large Italian loaf of bread here, but a baguette would be pretty great, too. You could also use hoagie rolls and split the ingredients between a few sandwiches.
- Deli Meats Here I've used Genoa salami, mortadella, and capicola. If you don't have access to these ingredients or don't particularly like them, choose deli meats you enjoy.
- Pepperoncini Peppers If this isn't your favorite ingredient, try something else vinegary or briney, like some giardiniera, olives, pickles, or artichoke hearts.
- Red Onion You could also use thinly sliced sweet onion or yellow onion here.
- Mayonnaise If you're not a fan of mayo, leave it off, or add a light drizzle of olive oil to your bread instead.
- Garlic Pick a small clove because it won't be cooked in this recipe.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is technically optional. I've made this sandwich with just the red wine vinegar and loved it. A good quality oil would be nice here, but use whatever you have on hand.
- Red Wine Vinegar All out? Balsamic will do in a pinch, but I prefer the red wine vinegar.
- Dried Oregano You could also use an Italian seasoning blend.
- Salt Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is my brand of choice. It coats food evenly and is less salty than traditional table salt by volume, making it much easier to taste as you go!
- Pepper Fresh cracked black pepper adds a nice bite to the vinaigrette.
How to Make the Grinder
Step One Slice your bread. Add the mayonnaise.
Step Two Prepare the fresh or "salad" component. Shred the iceberg lettuce and thinly slice the onion. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, pepperoncini, salt and pepper. Grate or mince the garlic and add to the mixture. Stir well.
Step Three Add your meat and cheese one layer at a time, leaving the grinder salad for last.
Step Four Close up the sandwich, cut into pieces, and serve!
A grinder sandwich is usually defined by the variety of deli meats used. Provolone is the most traditional choice of cheese.
This term is commonly used by residents of New England, such as Connecticut and Rhode Island. It's said that the name comes from the bread originally used for these sandwiches, which was a bit tough, and one had to grind their teeth a bit to get a good bite.
The answer here is: maybe. Grinders are served both hot and cold. Choose the method you'd like best!
Hot For a hot grinder sandwich, add the provolone to the cut bread and place in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Then add your remaining ingredients.
Different Meats I love using traditional Italian meats, but use the deli meats that appeal to you. Try pepperoni, prosciutto, turkey, ham, roast beef - the world is your oyster.
Creamy Salad Instead of a vinaigrette on your salad, you can mix the mayonnaise intended for the bread into the salad itself to create a creamy, coleslaw-like topping for the center of the sub. Some people like adding parmesan cheese.
Olives, Pickles, Artichoke Hearts Try adding any of these ingredients for some extra acid and salt.
Tomato Some people like this sandwich with sliced tomato. I'm not one of them. But if you are, please live your dream and add as much tomato as your heart desires. I would, however, add these bright marinated heirloom tomatoes!
Chili Flakes Try adding just a pinch for a bit of heat!
No Salad The sandwich I mentioned above from our local shop is just meats, provolone, and bread that is brushed with olive oil. It's exceptionally delicious and I urge you to try it this way!
How to Store
Fridge If you intend to store any portion of this Italian combo grinder, don't store it with the salad. Cut into individual portions, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to eat, I'd recommend whipping up a new batch of salad.
I wouldn't serve leftovers after 2 or 3 days, as the bread will be soggy.
Freezer This sandwich would not do well frozen.
However, if you have larger portions of the provolone cheese or deli meats, they will store well in the freezer for 6 weeks to 2 months. Freeze, then thaw in the refrigerator overnight, removing any excess moisture with a paper towel or cloth.
However, my recommendation is to prepare and serve this right away!
How to Serve
Here are some options for sides to serve with your sandwich:
Soup and sandwiches are a classic pairing! Try this Greek Chickpea Soup or Chicken Pastina Soup.
Roasted Vegetables Try serving some Roasted Tenderstem Broccoli or these Roasted Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine alongside your grinder. You could also try these Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms for a super savory side.
Pickled Vegetables If you're looking for a little more of a vinegar kick, try these Spicy Pickled Onions or these Mixed Pickles.
Spicy Sauce Want to try a more spicy and creamy sauce instead of a vinaigrette? Mix some Chipotle Southwest Sauce into your salad.
Potatoes Everyone loves a potato side. Try these Calabrian Potatoes for more Italian flair, these Air Fryer Fingerling Potatoes, or these Crispy Air Fryer Smashed Potatoes.
- Choose large enough bread. It's tough to get all of the ingredients to stay put if you are showing them into too small of a vessel. Make sure you buy a large loaf of Italian bread or baguette.
- Put the salad on the inside. Use the cheese and meats to create a barrier between the salad and the bread to avoid any sogginess.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the sandwich. This will make your life so much easier!
More Recipes You'll Love
Looking for more creative sandwich ideas? Try the suggestions below!
Healthy Tuna Salad Without Mayo
Italian Grinder Sandwich
- Serrated Knife
- 1 large Italian loaf
- ¼ cup mayonnaise or more, to taste
- ⅓ pound provolone
- ⅓ pound capicola
- ⅓ pound mortadella
- ⅓ pound salami
- ½ head iceberg lettuce shredded, about 2 to 3 cups
- ½ cup red onion sliced thin
- ⅓ cup sliced pepperoncini
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic small, minced or grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- Take the shredded lettuce, sliced onions, and sliced pepperoncini and add to a bowl. Dress with the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and the minced or grated garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
- Slice the bread in half lengthwise. Spread the mayonnaise on each side.
- Add the provolone in a single layer on each side. Add the capicola, mortadella, and salami.
- Place the salad in the center of the sandwich, close it up, then cut and serve!
- Slice the bread as above. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the provolone to the sliced bread and heat the bread and cheese on a sheet tray for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Continue assembling the sandwich as above, adding the mayo just before the salad.
- Calories and serving sizes are approximate based on the ingredients chosen to test this recipe.
- Add the salad to the center of the sandwich to avoid soggy bread.
- Different deli meats of your choosing
- Adding the mayonnaise to the salad for a creamy condiment
- Adding olives, pickles, tomatoes, or artichoke hearts
- No salad (this is amazing, trust me!)
- If you intend to store any portion of the grinder, don't store it with the salad.
- Cut into individual portions, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to eat, I'd recommend whipping up a new batch of salad.
- I wouldn't serve leftovers after 2 or 3 days, as the bread will be soggy.
- This sandwich would not do well frozen.
- If you have larger portions of the provolone cheese or deli meats, they will store well for 6 weeks to 2 months in the freezer. Freeze, then thaw in the refrigerator overnight, removing any excess moisture with a paper towel or cloth.
- This is best made and served right away!
This turned out to be so attractive and mouth-watering! My family's new favorite. If I only knew that an Italian grinder sandwich is so good, I would've had this a long time ago. Highly recommended!
That's wonderful! Thanks Sharina
This sandwich is the BEST. The deli meat plus vinaigrette combo is amazing and it was so filling!
Yay! Thanks Shelby!
Journa Liz Ramirez says
This Italian grinder sandwich is a must-try! It's simple and easy to prepare, and so delicious. Thanks, Gen, for this amazing recipe. We'll surely make this on repeat.
Thank you, Journa!
This was really satisfying and flavorful! Will make again!
Thanks so much, Kris!
These grinders are fabulous! I don't ever want to buy one again - and it's cheaper to make them at home, too!
Thank you, Jenn! Totally cheaper to make these at home.
The best sandwiches! Made for a picnic and was loved by all!
Wonderful! I'm so glad to hear it, Angela.
Well, I officially never need to go to any of the sandwich shops in town again. This grinder is better than anything I've gotten out and about! Thanks for sharing!
Amazing! Thank you so much, Nicole. This is high praise.
This is so tasty! Super delicious!