The Dagwood. Epic sandwich extraordinaire— Dagwood Bumstead’s fantastical comic strip sandwich. Never seen one? It’s not a unicorn, Scanwiches’ once constructed a beautiful version. Of course, there are also sanctioned Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes in Indiana that feature the Dagwood. And Columbus’ Ohio Deli & Restaurant has a Dagwood challenge that involves eating a 2.5lb sandwich in a half-hour.
Great food pilgrimages, no doubt. But what about an homage in a different cuisine? What about an Italian Dagwood, a Dagwoodino? Well, not long ago, one sandwich shop owner in New York, Leonardo Scarpone of Sanpanino, created just such a sandwich. But what would a New York Italian Dagwood contain?
For the uninitiated, Dagwood is the husband to Blondie in the long-running comic strip of the same name. ‘The Dagwood’ is his towering sandwich. Supposedly, Chic Young, Blondie’s creator, introduced the sandwich to the strip in 1936. It’s said to have contained: tongue, onion, mustard, sardine, beans and horseradish.
Variations followed, including one doweled with frankfurters, and there’s an official recipe with: a lobster tail, eagle talon, two-day-old fish, a pot of spaghetti, a string of sausages and a gallon of mayo. Basically, the ‘rules’ involve using the kitchen sink to create a sandwich with crazy height.
Recently, Leo gamely agreed to make his rendition. So what goes into an Italian Dagwood? Focaccia. House-made mozzarella and grilled eggplant, and a lot of other good things.
Layer One: the bottom focaccia slice is topped with lettuce and honey-glazed ham. Layer Two: a second focaccia slice is topped with arugula and mortadella.
Layer Three: the third focaccia slice is topped with house-made mozzarella and roasted peppers.
Layer Four: basil, sopressata, romaine leaf & red onions. Layer Five: Genoa salami, cucumbers, grilled eggplant and hot cherry Peppers. Layer Six: tapenade, speck and Fontina.
Top Slice: in lieu of a Dagwood’s olive, the focaccia is topped with sun-dried tomato and a basil leaf. Sanpanino’s sandwich, in all its glory was then doused with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Including a few customer interruptions, it took Leonardo about an hour to complete the sandwich. His quoted price for the sandwich? Considering all the ingredients and labor involved, $38. How does one go about eating the tallest sandwich they’ve ever been served? “Blend it,” answered Leonardo.
The Dagwood being pressed in sections into a panini. Right, the Dagwood Panini.
Before Leonardo’s suggestion could be seriously considered, he took the logical step considering his shop, turning the Dagwood into a panini. When it was finished being pressed he sliced it in half.
One half was divided between two patient regulars. The other half was still more than enough of a challenge to attempt devouring at once with single-minded purpose. Squeezing it gently but firmly, biting from top to bottom, in about three bites without swallowing accomplished one full bite of the sandwich.
Crispy bread. Warm meat. Juice from the cucumbers and peppers. Salty cheese and meat flavors. A hint of heat from the hot peppers. The sandwich was as delicious as it was preposterous (you can try it yourself if you make a request a day in advance), but finishing just half of it was tiring. No wonder Dagwood was always asleep on the couch.
Cross-section of Sanpanino’s Italian Dagwood Panini.
One full bite, top to bottom missing from the Dagwood Panini.