Food Battle: Why Maine’s Official Sandwich is the Lobster Roll and Not the Italian
There's a healthy debate happening right in our great state.
This debate is a serious topic with repercussions that could ultimately last for generations. Is there a right side to this argument? Who's to say? All I know is its downright tasty, both figuratively and literally.
And it's a debate we are going to try and settle right now.
What is this raging debate? Well, it's all about Maine food supremacy, as we try and figure out what should be Maine's official sandwich, the Italian or the lobster roll.
Ah yes, it's Maine's eternal battle between a traditional sandwich and a seafood delight that's become a global sensation.
In one corner we have the Maine Italian.
What is It: Ham & Cheese, Pickles, Green Peppers, Olives, Tomatoes, Onions, Oil, Salt & Pepper, on a long, hot dog-like bun.
While there are many variations, this is what the majority of sandwich connoisseurs would call the original Maine Italian.
History: The Maine Italian's history dates back to the turn of the 20th century. According to Love Food and numerous publications, it all started with a Portland deli owner named Giovanni Amato. He would put together sandwiches on his freshly baked bread for the local dock workers. Over 100 years later, the Amato name lives on in his family's incredibly popular sandwich chain with the same name.
Where to Find Them: Well, everywhere. Deli's, variety stores, gas stations, bakeries, food court stands, grocery stores. You name it, there's probably a Maine Italian available.
-Originated in Maine
-A Filling Meal
-Easy to Travel With
-Lacking Compared to an Actual Italian Cold Cut Sandwich
-Can be Rather Messy
-Raw Onions Can Overpower
-Is American Cheese Actually Cheese?
Overall: Is it my favorite sandwich? Not even close. However, there's a certain nostalgia about a Maine Italian. Plus, it's such a great sandwich to take to the beach or on a boat. It's a wonderful part of this state's culture.
Now, let's take a look at the lobster roll.
What Is It: A buttery toasted hot dog bun filled with fresh-picked lobster meat and either butter or mayonnaise, lemon juice, and possibly some herbs or even lettuce.
But, let's be honest, it's really about a bunch of lobster in a toasted bun ready for consumption.
History: The sandwich was first created in Milford, Connecticut, in 1929. However, it quickly made its way through New England, where it ultimately became a Maine staple.
Where to Find Them: Everywhere. Restaurants, food trucks, delis, gas stations, grocery stores, seafood shacks, hot dog stands. They are legit everywhere.
-It's Maine Lobster
-Butter is Involved
-A Variety of Styles, All Delicious
-Much Less Messy Than a Lobster Dinner
-Not as Smelly as Fish
-Contains Lobster (that's not good for those who, you know, don't like lobster)
-Originated in Connecticut (gross)
Overall: This is one of the most versatile sandwiches there is. You can find it in fast food joints to fine dining restaurants. It has worldwide appeal. While not from Maine, it's certainly become a part of this state's fabric.
Which Sandwich Wins: This is a tricky one. The Maine Italian is actually from Maine, so that gives it a decisive advantage. However, the lobster roll is a true Maine icon from a much larger perspective than the Italian. When out-of-state family and friends come to town, they want lobster rolls, not a ham & cheese sandwich.
And this is why the lobster roll would be my answer. It's much more on brand for Maine than the Italian.
Which would I rather eat? That's easy. Give me the Maine Italian. But, it doesn't change the fact that the one that carries the lobster meat is at the top of the mountain.
Which one would you consider Maine's official sandwich?
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Gallery Credit: Meghan Morrison