by Cheryl Baehr
Judging from the lines out of their doors, it's clear that both Adriana's (5101 Shaw Avenue; 314-773-3833) and Amighetti's Bakery & Cafe (5141 Wilson Avenue; 314-776-2855) have their fair share of loyal customers. For this week's Thursday Throwdown, we headed to these Institutions on the Hill to see whose Italian sandwich reigns supreme.
Since 1921, Amighetti's has been serving hungry St. Louisans its Amighetti's "Special" sandwich, called the best sandwich in St. Louis by many. It's difficult to argue with this sentiment. Roast beef, ham and salami are piled on crusty Italian bread, and topped with brick cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, pepperoncini and Amighetti's special dressing. The bread is soft and freshly baked, the toppings are fresh and the vinegary dressing gives a tangy punch.
Adriana's may be 70 years younger than Amighetti's, but the bustling sandwich shop proves it can hang with the veterans. The closest sandwich to the Amighetti's "Special" on Adriana's menu is the "Ben's Special." Turkey, roast beef, ham, Provel cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles are layered on sesame-seed Italian bread that's been slathered with dressing. Though it's missing the spice of the salami and pepperoncini, the addition of turkey on the "Ben's Special" makes it a delicious Italian club.
The Winner: Amighetti's "Special"
We really had to split capelli on this one -- both the "Special" and "Ben's Special" are excellent examples of the quintessential Italian sandwich. Bread-wise, it's a tie. While the toasty sesame seeds give Adriana's an edge on flavor, Amighetti's bread is thinner, allowing more of the meaty flavor to shine through. Accoutrements are similar, though Amighetti's uses whole pepperoncini, which overwhelms the other favors on the sandwich. It all came down to the meats and dressing. Whereas Adriana's use of turkey results in a more balanced sandwich, we preferred the fatty richness and seasoning that the salami brings to the Amighetti's "Special." As for the dressing, Amighetti's bright, vinegary sauce cuts through the richness of the sandwich like a white 1,000 Island, while Adriana's is more like a simple, garlicky mayonnaise. Though both are excellent options, Amighetti's "Special" has a touch more flavor, giving it the very narrow edge.