The Challenger: The Oil Shoppe
For rules, regulations and a fascinating review of sandwich history, see here.
Welcome back to Sandwich Wars!
Last month we started off the series with a battle royal between two classic hole-in-the-walls: Fratellini and Da’ Vinattieri. The winner (by a hair!) was the mouth-watering #16 porchetta sandwich from Da’ Vinattieri. Our third contestant will have quite a fight ahead of them to beat out a sandwich so close to perfection.
Starting this month, we will have a running tally of the best sandwiches in the Sandwich Wars’ side bar (<--------) so that at any time you may need it, you can find the current rankings. If you want to learn more about one sandwich in particular, click the link! Ok, to the battlefield. First, I want to apologize for the delay in posting this, but to tell the truth, I was torn on whether or not to actually report on this particular sandwich experience at all. It was well…not that great. But the man who made said bad sandwich was so nice that (as the sucker American I am) I wanted to go and give them a second chance. This question of whether or not they deserved a second chance (when that was not given, nor even considered with previous contestants) led to an almost debilitating existential battle. In the end, I had to stand by my conviction that this is about the sandwich, not the sandwich maker. So should said sandwich man ever read this, I am sorry. You were super nice. But well…read on.
Contestant #3: The Oil Shoppe
Via Saint’Egidio 22/R 50121 Florence, Italy (See map below)
Hours: Monday to Friday: 11am – 6pmWhen I first came to Florence in 2002, there were a few sandwich spots (from now on to be referred to as SS), but not nearly the number there are now. The Oil Shoppe was one of the first to pop up and jump on what appeared to be a growing trend, a fast moving bandwagon of portable food consumption (there was also a huge jump in kebab spots, an eastern cousin to the sandwich). I didn’t try the Oil Shoppe for a long time, as I was too loyal to my established locales. Though this particular SS quickly became the crowd favorite of the American students. Almost overnight, the students I met had never heard of my favorite SS and only wanted Oil Shoppe sandwiches. I soon learned why.
As far as I can tell, and this is not necessarily a negative thing, the Oil Shoppe is essentially an American establishment. The vast majority of the sandwiches are American-Italian inventions, meaning, they don’t really exist in Italy. For example, the sandwich we were told to order by the nice sandwich guy (i.e. one of the most popular) was basically a meatball sub. I had never had such a thing in Italy, but we were determined to try whatever they felt was the best. As I mentioned above, the sandwich artist was very kind, spoke to us in Italian but clearly also spoke perfect English. Most of the other customers spoke no Italian. The menu had a 30 some odd list of sandwiches, both in Italian and English and the vast majority read like a local US sub joint. There were, however, a small selection of regular two-topping Italian sandwiches that some locals did order while we were eating.
Here is a visual breakdown of what we were recommended to order:
It really doesn’t look so bad, and it wasn’t. Our main complaint was that is was still cold in the middle, as if it hadn’t been in the microwave long enough, which goes against every basic Italian food tenant. On top of that, eating it made us feel guilty. It was like eating a chalupa in Mexico or Philadelphia maki in Japan – it’s an American invention (even a mutation in the case of the chalupa), an imposter. If it had been really good, I think we could have let it go, but it well…wasn’t. It’s meatballs in bread. It’s hard to mess that up. And to top it off, it cost 4.50 Euro, more than both our previous contestants. While there was definitely more sandwich, it was a much less enjoyable experience.
After we finished I was sort of sad. Maybe we are snobs. I completely understand and appreciate the Oil Shoppe’s purpose. It is a comfort on days when visitors, students and expats alike are feeling a little homesick and a little sick of trying to maneuver another county’s sandwich eating etiquette or frustrating language barriers. They give you unlimited ketchup and mayonnaise and never look at you funny when you ask to combine upwards of six different items into one single sandwich. That can feel like a little slice of home on a hard day.
Later, as I said above, I thought we should give them another chance, but we chose not to. This is a location that caters to American students and they seem to like it. While we will likely not order another sandwich there, they did have a nice bowl of broccoli soup, which is something that is not too easy to find and worth mentioning. And again, the sandwich guy was just so nice. To boot they have a proper indoor space with some seating. So really, it’s like going to America. And I can’t blame anyone for wanting that every once and a while.
1. Taste: 4 points (out of 10)
All was mostly subpar…
2. Cost: 2 points (out of 5)
Highest cost so far.
3. Location and general experience: 4.5 points (out of 5)
Indoor seating with space for about ten. Not too shabby.
Total: 10.5 points out of 20 = 52.5%
Outcome: Da’ Vinattieri holds onto their title.
Check in next month for the next challenger!