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An interior shot of a hoagie close up with different Italian meats, cheeses, lettuce and tomato. Cut in half in a seeded roll. Paolo Jay Agbay

How Hoagie Dom Became the Hoagie King of Philadelphia

With locally sourced meats, freshly baked bread, and a special ’nduja-laced mayo, hoagies from one man’s monthly pop-up have become Philly’s most in-demand sandwiches

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“Philadelphia is the greatest sandwich city in the world,” says Dominic Rocconi, better known as Hoagie Dom. Rocconi’s declaration is both a confirmation of Philly’s culinary heritage and a promise: That’s because Hoagie Dom is a contender for the greatest sandwich maker in the city.

So who or what is Hoagie Dom? It’s an occasional and sensational wildly popular pop-up, a cheeky and appetizing Instagram sandwich account with almost 18,000 followers, a love letter to Italian American foodways, and the alter ego of the visionary Philly-area native behind it all. His now-famous pop-ups sell out on Instagram in under a minute. Hoagie Dom is a dreamer, and Hoagie Dom is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, stuffed in a roll.

A man with a beard and wearing a food safety glove holds a hoagie wrapped in paper up to his ear like it’s a telephone.

Rocconi has held the Instagram account @hoagie_dom for many years and previously used it to review sandwiches from shops around the city. The humor and enthusiasm in his writing drew followers, and in 2019, he decided to go from describing other people’s hoagies to creating his own. The pandemic lockdown gave him time to perfect his craft and collaborations with companies like Tired Hands Brewing Company and Kismet Bagels, which put his sandwiches on the map. Now, with a self-styled “hoagie residency” at Bardot Cafe in Northern Liberties, Hoagie Dom is stepping into the spotlight.

Rocconi is relentless in his pursuit of hoagie excellence. He specializes in classic Italian American combinations — think cold cuts, fried chicken cutlets, veal parmigiana — and pumps them up with high-quality ingredients and unexpected twists. He sources imported Italian cured meats and cheeses from Di Bruno Bros., but relies on Cooper sharp when it’s meant to melt. He bakes his own tangy and toothsome bread, an extra process that requires him to start work at 2 a.m., and pickles his own peppers. When he makes chicken cutlets, he coats them with love, not a speck of breading out of place. To guarantee that every sandwich is as fresh as possible, he allows a line cook to fry the cutlets but, other than that, this is a one-man operation. A striver and a gastronomic perfectionist, Rocconi compares himself to hometown hero pizza chef Joe Beddia and Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame. And he’s only half-joking.

In its current iteration, Hoagie Dom is a pop-up, and it’s the hottest ticket in town.

An up-close photo of a hoagie in a seeded roll with meats, cheeses, and lettuce and tomato. Held by a hand in a food safety glove.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Rocconi was doing a hoagie test run at Bardot. He was there to practice his next offering, perhaps the platonic ideal of sandwiches: an Italian hoagie. Stepping inside Bardot during its off hours feels like a clandestine mission, but his cover was blown when a perceptive stranger shouted from the street, “Hoagie Dom? You’re the man!”

A man in a black T-shirt with a beard holds half of a hoagie in his hands while smiling to the left.

Rocconi has a full-time job in advertising, which he loves. To call this a side hustle would be to minimize what he’s accomplishing. It would be like saying Clark Kent moonlights as Superman. When asked how he balances it all, Rocconi shrugs, smiles impishly, and says, “There’s 24 hours in every day.” Because of Rocconi’s exacting standards and complete control over the process, Hoagie Dom pop-ups are Herculean feats. “This is gonna sound corny,” he admits, “but I treat this like the Super Bowl.”

Inside the bar at Bardot Cafe, Rocconi starts by scooping a bread trail out of the center of the sliced-open loaf, a step he calls “gutting” and describes as a Philly thing: It creates more room for fillings and ensures the structural integrity of the hoagie. The texture of Hoagie Dom’s bread is craggy and pliant. “The crumb — that’s what bakers call it.” But then, as if to dial back the impression of expertise, Rocconi demurs, “I’m not a baker. I just ... make hoagies.”

Then his secret weapon: a thick slathering of mayo laced with ’nduja, a spreadable pork sausage from Calabria, which he says adds “extra unctuousness.” Next, Rocconi places a layer of sharp provolone, followed by tissue-thin slices of meat: hot capicola, pistachio-flecked mortadella, sweet soppressata, fennel salami, and sliced porchetta that smells of sage. The hoagie is topped with shavings of raw white onion, pickled peppers, and shredded lettuce. Rocconi often uses arugula in his hoagies, but he says iceberg is better at absorbing the next ingredient, a generous squirt of homemade “classic hoagie dressing.” That’s OORWVSPO to his Instagram followers: olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano to the rest of us. Finally, a flurry of Grana Padano falls from a grater held so high above the sandwich, it would make your biceps ache to watch. But that’s the only way to get it to fall just right.

Two hands grate Parmesan cheese over the top of a hoagie sandwich sitting on paper.

Something changes when the peppers are added: A light turns on in Rocconi’s eyes. Suddenly, the aroma of a hoagie fills the room. He smiles, not out of pride but from sheer excitement. He’s planning on making two more variations, but the sight of this first sandwich of the day is too much to resist. “Should we try it or wait until the end?” he asks, with all the anticipation of a little kid who just spotted a pile of Christmas presents. He slices the hoagie in half and pulls it open to reveal the cross-section, the savory layers he’s built up, the ’nduja mayo already soaking into the bread. Wide-eyed and gleeful, he exclaims, “That’s fuggin’ juicy.”

A hand with a food safety glove and a gold watch holds out a hoagie with cheese and tomatoes present on a seeded roll.
Two hands hold out a hoagie wrapped in paper with two stickers that say Hoagie Dom.

All eyes are on Hoagie Dom right now, but the hype doesn’t make him nervous. “I’m dreaming big, I’m not worried about the pressure ... I like competition, it’s that Jordan mentality.” And he’s just getting started. Five years from now, Hoagie Dom may evolve from the hottest pop-up in town to an established neighborhood sandwich shop. Only time will tell. But there’s no doubt whatever happens in the future, we’ll all know his sandwich creations as the GHOAT: the Greatest Hoagies of All Time.

The same photo as the lede image.

Hoagie Dom currently offers only one kind of sandwich per pop-up, but he has ideas for tons more. Eater asked Rocconi to devise hoagies for some notable Philadelphians.

Ben Franklin

“I think Ben Franklin would just crush a roast pork. Traditional roast pork Italian, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, like garlicky broccoli rabe. I can see him sitting there with his high socks, enjoying a roast pork.”

Rocky Balboa

“Rocky. The Italian Stallion. He’s the classic Italian American, he should be the classic Italian hoagie, like classic classic, like no mayo. He wouldn’t do mayo, he would send it back.”

Rocky’s girlfriend, Adrian Pennino

“Italian tuna hoagie for her. Tomato, a little bit of mayo, you need mayo.”

Questlove

“He has to be a cheesesteak. He has his vegan meat cheesesteak, it’s made from a vegan meat, they sell it at Citizens Bank. [Eater note: Questlove debuted his Impossible meat cheesesteak at Citizens Bank Park in 2019. It’s now gone from the stadium concessions but available on Goldbelly.] But I would do classic cheesesteak for him with Whiz, house-made Whiz, Cooper sharp Whiz, onions. Cheesesteak on an Amoroso roll.”

Gritty

“Gritty would like something super spicy. I would give Gritty my Calabrian chicken hoagie, but I would ramp up the spice with my house Calabrian chile hot sauce. But there’s Calabrian chile powder, I would sprinkle that on top, make it super spicy. I think spicy for him, he’s a bright orange-flavored guy.”

James Harden

“I’ll do a cutlet. I have this sandwich called Hell in a Veterans Stadium Jail Cell, but maybe I’ll change it to Spectrum. I don’t think there’s a jail cell there but whatever. It’s a Calabrian chicken cutlet, soppressata, and fresh mozzarella, some other accouterments on there. Like a cutlet and meat combo for him. But if James Harden came to me, I’d make him whatever he wants.”

The next pop-up at Bardot is Sunday, March 20; $35 will get you an Italian hoagie and either one glass of natural wine or two bottles of Miller High Life. Follow @hoagie-dom on Instagram for your chance to reserve a spot. Turn on notifications: The last pop-up sold out in 57 seconds. In the greatest sandwich city in the world, it’s not enough to dream. You have to hustle.

Di Bruno Bros.

1730 Chestnut Street, , PA 19103 (215) 665-9220 Visit Website

Kismet Bagels

113 East Girard Avenue, , PA 19125 (484) 222-0240 Visit Website
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