Stuck to My Ribs: Joe Fassi Sausage & Sandwich Factory


All guys have those days when, rather than spend the daylight hours doing yardwork or attempting to finish another longstanding house project, all we want to do is wrap our paws around a large, meat-packed sub and eat our way into a nap.

In my house, these are called Saturdays.

On these afternoons, the lone entry on the to-do list reads, "Choose which meat to pile onto hoagie roll." Popular options include ham, turkey, roast beef, maybe even braunschweiger. And while those are all fine alternatives -- except maybe braunschweiger, which frankly frightens me a bit -- there are times when your grumbling stomach lobbies for something with a little more heft, something like...a handmade Italian salsiccia.

Some stomachs are really specific like that.

  • Josh Bacott
One of the ancillary benefits of living in South City (as I do) is that when this urge strikes, you're just a few blocks away from a neighborhood where Italian sausage is the native crop. And while the Hill is home to ample joints that serve it up, only one of them has the stones to call themselves a sausage "factory": Joe Fassi Sausage and Sandwich Factory at the corner of Sublette and Dugan Avenues.

Joe Fassi has maintained a presence on the Hill since 1926, operating as a grocery and tavern for a majority of those years -- and cranking out top-shelf sausage for all of them. In 1993, the location was remodeled and re-opened in its current form as a sandwich shop by Tom Coll, great-grandson of the original proprietor.

Like most places on the Hill, the experience of dining-in at Joe Fassi inevitably offers up a demonstration of the community that still exists in this historic neighborhood. Whether it's a uniformed St. Louis police officer ribbing an old friend as she walks in the door, two regular patrons chatting about the upcoming Blues season or a double chili dog named after baseball Hall of Famer and friend of the family, Yogi Berra, you know you're walking into a place that oozes history.

On this Saturday, however, I wasn't there to relish the history so much as the sausage. When it came time to make my selection, I felt it necessary to try a sandwich that sounded like it was named after a WWE finishing move. Of the 26 options, there were many that met that criterion: the Paul Fassi New York Bomber, Sheriff Murphy's Irish Sling, the Carl Fassi Italian Perfecto and Aunt Jennie's Salsiccia Stinger, to name a few. With names like those, part of me expected to see sandwich #27, Iron Sheik's Camel Clutch.

After a quick scan of the menu board, I settled on #13, the Vince Fassi Salsiccia Slam. This features roast beef, pepper cheese, onion and pepperoncini all serving as a complement to the famous salsiccia. The salsiccia is handmade, a moderately spicy Italian sausage with a dense but smooth texture; it offers a taste of fennel without the pain of picking the seeds out of your teeth. All that is topped with a spoonful of housemade tomato sauce ladeled out of old pots that look like holdovers from Grandma Fassi's kitchen.

The side dishes at Joe Fassi bring little to the table -- a standard potato salad or a bag of chips accompany most dishes -- but they aren't billed as the star of the show. Nor are the ample fresh salads or the daily pasta options. All of them play second fiddle to the sandwiches. At nine inches, the sandwiches aren't obscenely large, but mine was more than sufficient to send me home to the couch with a full belly, destined to have visions of handmade salsiccia dancing in my head as I nodded off.

Couches, sausage sandwiches and midday naps: Isn't that what Saturdays are all about?

Josh Bacott reports on his journey through one of the unhealthiest cities in the good ol' USA every other Friday for Gut Check. Because who says calories have to count?