The 15 Absolute Best Italian Subs In The US

Hoagie. Grinder. Hero. Whatever part of the country you hail from, these slang terms translate to more or less the same thing, which is the Italian sub. Piled with cold cuts, cheeses, and brine-infused condiments on a crusty bread loaf, the mouthwatering sandwich has endured as the grab-and-go lunch through generations of American life. No trip to the Big Apple can be considered without stopping by the neighborhood deli for a torpedo-shaped sub that takes two hands to hold, a wad of napkins, and ample stomach space in order to eat it. The mighty meal of a tailgate party or lazy day at the beach. 

The East Coast is typically viewed as the Italian sandwich mecca, due in part to the influx of immigrants who established thriving communities in the late 19th century (via What's Cooking America). But the components of a delectable sub — authentic ingredients, traditional techniques, and family recipes passed down from generation to generation — can be found all over, and we've scoured the bodegas delis, and grocery stores honoring them to this day. Here are the 15 best Italian subs in the U.S.

The Godmother at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery - Santa Monica

There's an Italian sub, and then there's The Godmother. Arguably Santa Monica's most iconic sandwich, the name of Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery's prized sub alludes not just to its regal stature but to possible mafia connections. As The Daily Bruin explains, founder Antonio DiTommaso, a Chicago cop, allegedly sought refuge in Los Angeles to escape the mob back in the 1920s. What resulted wasn't a plot twist straight out of a Mario Puzo novel, but an Italian deli offering imported delicacies and counter-serve sandwiches stuffed with meats, cheeses, and tangy toppings for miles. 

Hungry Angelenos have lined up for The Godmother since the 1950s, and from there it's become a beacon for sub enthusiasts the world over. It bursts with five distinct Italian cold cuts — prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, and salami, to be exact — with provolone cheese and "the works," which is shorthand for lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, mayo, and a zesty heap of pepperoncini (via Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery). Per Bon Appetit, large crowds and an old-school ticket tearing system mean long waits are inevitable, but plastic-wrapped subs are available to go, which leaves you no excuse to not try one of the best subs in the U.S.

The Italian Stallion at Sugar Hill Sub Shop - Atlantic City

In Atlantic City, it's clear White House Subs appears to be the Number-One destination for sky-high hoagies. But in the eyes of fellow Yelp reviewers, Sugar Hill Sub Shop in Mays Landing may just give them a run for its money. Resembling a gas station stop on the outside, those on the road won't want to drive past. On the inside, visitors will find a dizzying array of sandwiches, all big enough to feed a whole party without the hefty costs of other hero shops. 

On the specialty menu for "Dangerous & Intriguing People" is the Italian Stallion, which one Yelp reviewer  called "hoagie perfection." Starting with half of an Atlantic City roll (your basic white Italian bread), meats like black pepper ham and imported cold cuts mingle with hearty slices of provolone and a refreshing mix of lettuce, tomato, onion, and one's choice of oil and vinegar or mayo. Of the Italian Stallion, one delighted reviewer commented: "These are smaller than White House's half-size subs, but plenty filling for anyone. The meats were as good or better than White House, and their tomatoes were the epitome of Jersey garden fresh. I even liked their peppers better." 

Hot Salami Sandwich at Gioia's Deli - St. Louis

Who knew one of the best Italian subs in the U.S. could be found in the Midwest? Food & Wine called Hot Salami Sandwich from Gioia's Deli "The Best in Missouri," while the James Beard Foundation placed them on the renowned American Classics list in 2017. Located in St. Louis, visitors have made a pilgrimage to "The Hill" for over 100 years to sink their teeth into an Italian sandwich that's unlike any other in the industry. Instead of the tissue-thin salami found at most deli counters, they use a thick, sausage-like meat Food & Wine described as a "rustic country paté" that's carved to-order on bread from another local treasure, Fazio's Bakery.

Customers can personalize their sandwiches to taste, and common add-ons for a Hot Salami include melted cheese, mustard, and onions. But it's the Garlic Cheese Bread longtime patrons and critics can't seem to get enough of, as testimonies from Taste Atlas and Yelp attest to it being "toasty," "buttery," and deeply satisfying. Though the Italian Trio and Spicy Daggett remain popular picks on Yelp, anyone traveling through The Gateway to the West won't want to miss out on the family recipe that made them famous. 

Monica's Original Italian Sub at Monica's Mercato - Boston

If you live in Boston, you're likely familiar with Monica's Mercato & Salumeria. A one-stop-shop for cured meats and artisanal condiments, the family-owned business in North End also happens to make the city's best Italian sandwich. That's not just our opinion, either: a reader's poll from found Monica's Original Italian Sub to reign supreme among 200+ restaurants in the city. As Eater reveals, every sandwich is made with attention to detail from the hand-cranked meats to the freshly-baked bread, which ensures a top culinary experience with each bite you take. 

So what exactly tops the Italian sub? A slew of cold cuts, cheese, "the works," and spicy pops of hots and zesty balsamic on a crusty roll. Simple, yet oh so satisfying. The $18 price tag may strain the wallet on a daily basis, but for frugal foodies stashing half in the fridge for later breaks down to about $9 a piece. A better value — and a better-tasting sub — than most national chains could dream of delivering on a good day. The rave reviews on their website certainly speak for themselves!

Bub's Italian Hoagie at Bub & Pops - Washington, DC

A DC sandwich shop with Philly roots selling an incredible Italian sub? It sounds bizarre when you think about it, but the rave reviews don't lie. Since its inception in 2013, the family-owned business has satiated busy Washingtonians in Dupont Circle with loaded sub sandwiches and unique flourishes like scratch-made potato chips (via The Washington Post). While it was The Hebrew Hammer and The Philly Special that made a fan out of Guy Fieri during a "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" run (per Food Network), the Italian subs are no slouch when it comes to decadent deli fare. 

Not only does Bub's Italian Hoagie tick off all the boxes for a solid Italian sub, but it makes its case as one of the absolute best in America. Razor-thin meats, including pepperoni and hot and sweet capicola, are blanketed with provolone cheese and all the deli fixings, including a dash of Bub's Vinaigrette and Pecorino Romano cheese for added tang. If you want the most bang for your buck, order a whole sandwich to split, as many Yelp reviewers found they could barely finish half of one. No one wants to be hungry after lunch, and this sub will stop those pesky stomach rumbles. 

Alyssa Milano Hero at Lioni's Italian Heroes - Brooklyn

Craving subs as big as a boat? How about envy-inducing mozzarella? You'll find all of that and more at Lioni's Italian Heroes in Brooklyn. From Sinatra to Stallone, they pay respect to famous Italians with appropriately-named subs stacked as high-up as the stars they're named after (via New York Daily News). It's easy to get overwhelmed at the menu's 100+ sandwiches, but by and large, it's the Alyssa Milano Hero visitors keep coming back to. 

Sandwich #62 — customers order by number, not name –is composed of breaded chicken cutlet with prosciutto de Parma, a scratch-made pesto sauce, and melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella ZAGAT famously declared "the creamiest in town" (via Lioni Italian Heroes). All these ingredients blend so effortlessly: the juicy poultry, the tender deli meat, the soft cheese, the soft crunch of the bread. The sandwich costs $18, but for its size you'd expect it to cost double or even triple the amount you're charged. Besides ordering by one's favorite celebrity, some foodies even try to make it through the entire menu, according to users on Yelp. An admirable goal! 

Italian Sub at Bari - Chicago

Since its premiere in 1973, Bari has offered Chicago a taste of Italy with authentic provisions and hoagies as big as houses. From artisanal breads sourced from D'Amato's Bakery to imported deli fixings, Chicagoans appreciate a good sub and know exactly where to go to find one. Though the Italian Roast Beef is hailed as the deli's crown jewel among outlets like Taste Atlas and Eater, RoadFood goes a step further by bestowing that title onto the Italian Sub. 

A controversial stance perhaps, but considering Food & Wine included it on the top sub shops in the Windy City, we can say it holds water. The subs are built on a foundation of flavorful capicola, salami, prosciutto, and mortadella meats and finished off with provolone and briny giardiniera (hot or mild). Available in 9-inch, 12-inch, or even 3-foot-long loaves, the plentiful fillings, and variety of sizes will satisfy any appetite on a budget, as sandwiches start at just $8.50. "Bread was soft, perfect amount of meat, vegetables were fresh and seasoning was great," one Yelp review claimed. "You'll leave happy, full, and smiling."

Molinari Special at Molinari Delicatessen - San Francisco

Authentic Italian delis seem to be from a bygone era, relegated to the weathered bodegas of the Big Apple or Atlantic City. But places like Molinari Delicatessen in San Francisco are keeping the tradition alive (via Taste Atlas). Just a stone's throw away from Washington Square Park, Molinari offers the classic staples of any Italian deli, including expertly-crafted sandwiches that draw lines out the door. Pre-pandemic times allowed visitors to fetch their bread of choice out of a bin, but even now sandwich maestros continue conducting a culinary symphony with the wide arsenal of imports at their disposal. 

To see what Molinari is all about, order the Molinari Special, aka the platonic ideal of the classic Italian sub. The hand-sliced cold cuts, the cheese, the pickled toppings bring a briny feel to the works held together by a sturdy bread loaf. Though you can't go wrong with a classic white footlong, critics from Food & Wine insist the Dutch crunch bread — a regional white roll with a crunchy rice flour topping (via The Kitchn) – is absolutely mandatory. If you can't stop yourself at just the sandwich, pick up some pantry staples or entrees from the freezer section to enjoy at home. 

The Milano at The Italian Store - Arlington, Virginia

The Italian Store is a long-standing favorite for cold-cut subs in Arlington, Virginia. As Stay Arlington notes, the Tramonte Family makes every sandwich by hand with an assortment of ingredients from Brooklyn and Stivalia for an authentic culinary experience Virginians have loved since the '80s. In addition to bubbling-hot pizzas and a gelato bar, foodies flock in droves to try The Milano, one of the shop's best-sellers and a contender in our sandwich show-down (via The Italian Store). Mounds of Genoa salami and two types of authentic Italian ham are folded along with provolone cheese, with room for shredded lettuce and zesty condiments on either a hard or soft Italian roll. 

On Yelp, the Italian subs come second to Italian pizzas as the business' top picks, with reviewers all over sounding their approval. "The Milano on a hard roll with peppers cannot be beat," one reviewer gushed. "During peak times, service can be slow, but it's worth the wait. This is, hands down, the best Italian sandwich I've ever had." To experience a born-and-bred New York hero, another review suggests opting for the hard roll in lieu of soft. Pure bodega bliss, whatever way you cut it. 

Italian Combo at Sal, Kris, & Charlie's Deli - Queens

For gravity-defying subs on a budget, turn your tastebuds towards a humble sandwich shop on the streets of New York. Sal, Kris, & Charlie's Deli, the self-proclaimed "Sandwich Kings of Astoria," draws long lines on the daily for loaded sandwiches large enough to stretch into lunch, dinner, and a midnight snack if you play your cards right. Though "The Bomb" has received national attention national attention from outlets like USA Today, and remains the stomach-busting order of locals (via The New York Times), the Italian Combo certainly holds its own on the foot-long front. 

With five different meats (soppressata, pepperoni, salami, mortadella, and prosciutto) provolone cheese, and the sharp flavors of mayo and mustard stacked together, it's a greatest hits of Italian flavors and a whole lotta love. According to Yelp, it's better to pay with cash since that's the predominant method and why costs remain low for a single one of these bad boys, so hit up an ATM before stepping inside. And while we're at it, heed the Queens Gazette's advice and splash some oil and vinegar on your sub. You won't be sorry. 

The Real Italian at DiPasquale's Marketplace - Baltimore

Pro-tip: for the best Italian sub you've ever eaten in your life, look to the traditional market. Chances are high the bread will be homemade, the meats will be sliced to order, and the toppings will be imported straight out of Italia or crafted with authentic techniques. DiPasquale's Marketplace in Baltimore does all of the above. The corner store founded by Luigi DiPasquale nearly a century ago, it has flourished into the icon it is today, boasting fully-stocked shelves of pasta sauces, cured meats, condiments, and imported Nutella.

In addition to browsing the provisions, shoppers can head to the dining room for a bite of Italian-American fare, ranging from pizzas and salads to cookies sold by the pound. The Real Italian is the menu's shining star. Comprised of a quartet of pepper ham, mortadella, salami, and capicola, along with provolone and "everything" on it, the curated ingredients and condiments transform the deli sub into an indulgent revelation. The Arancini Rice Balls may have stolen the show on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" (via Food Network) but this Italian sub can't be beaten. Order it at Brewers Hill, Harborview, and Mastellone Deli and Wine Shop locations, take a bite, chew, swallow, and repeat the whole process all over again. 

White House Special at White House Sub Shop - Atlantic City

When it comes to the best Italian sub in the U.S., Jersey's White House Sub Shop has the sandwich, and the history, on its side. For almost 80 years, the roadside deli's constructed massive heroes out of finely-sourced ingredients, with a lineup large enough to make your head spin. They've fed actors and politicians, and in 2000 they joined the ranks of the nation's best when the James Beard Foundation named them an American Classic. In 1964, the Beatles famously plowed through a 6-footer after playing to a crowd in Atlantic City for some post-gig sustenance (per Weird N.J.).

The hype is well-earned at White House, and for beach-dwellers and high-rollers at Hard Rock Hotel, the White House Special is the sub of choice. It features the same components of the Guy Fieri-approved Italian classic (via Food Network), only with triple the meats — salami, ham, and capicola — and a fresh layer of lettuce and tomato. Condiments like sweet peppers and onion come on the side, letting you dress it to your preference. Sandwiches come in whole and half sizes, and though a whole sub costs almost $20, it's big enough to feed multiple people. So bring a buddy and come hungry. 

Pepper Steak Sub at Giamela's - Los Angeles

While mountains of cold cuts and sliced cheeses define the Jersey hero, it's the hot sub that takes center stage at Giamela's. As The Eastsider explains, Jersey native Bill Giamela brought the East Coast sandwich to Burbank, California back in the 1960s, spawning additional locations in Los Angeles and Sunland along the way. As well as hot and cold deli sandwiches, the restaurant also offers loaded pizzas, pasta, and salads for Los Angelenos looking to score their Italian fix. 

Of all the meat-stuffed sammies stacked regularly on Los Feliz Boulevard, locals regularly order the Pepper Steak Sub. The restaurant's biggest hit by a mile according to The Eastsider, it's so popular it also comes as a pizza! Featuring copious amounts of shaved steak, melted cheese, and a generous helping of pickles, onions, and diced bell pepper, foodies love the "luscious meat" and "outstanding" quality, though reviewers urge first-timers to split it with a friend since it's as big as a baseball bat (via Yelp). Fun fact: Pink's Hot Dogs and Tommy's Original Hamburgers, two local institutions known for diner eats and star-studded clientele, source their meats from Giamela's. They run RC Provisions, a meat distributor responsible for supplying gourmet cuts to some of the finest eateries in LA. 

Real Italian at Amato's - Portland, Maine

Ham and cheese. It's a combo associated with lunches packed by mom, but up north they form the building blocks of a regional delicacy. Taste Atlas ranks Amato's, a Maine-based sandwich chain, among the top destinations for an Italian due to their unique specialty only found in The Pine Tree State. Dubbed the Real Italian, it was invented by Italian immigrant Giovanni Amato, who took to the streets of Portland, Maine in 1902 to sell his wares out of a food cart (per New England Network). Now over 40 locations across Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine continue slinging the addictive sammie alongside sizzling pizzas, pasta, and wraps (via Amato's). 

Though other sandwiches on the menu could rival Amato's Original Real Italian in terms of "authenticity," it's the original for a reason. Salty salami and provolone are replaced with slices of deli ham and American cheese, which are sprinkled with chopped veggies — a blend of green bell pepper, tomato, pickles, onion, and olives — on a soft roll cut in the middle. Dressings consist of olive oil and canola oil, with a dash of salt and pepper for garnish. The Maine Italian is its own special thing, and for that, it deserves a spot among America's best subs. 

Mr. G at J. P. Graziano - Chicago

Chicago's J. P. Graziano produces jaw-dropping sandwiches using bread from D'Amato's Bakery and hand-crafted fixings (Roman-style artichokes, anyone?) straight from the deli. The Mr. G, which bears the name of founder Vincent Graziano's father (via J. P. Graziano) has earned its reputation as one of the United States' best Italian subs from Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, and the legions of foodies who've patronized the shop since 1937. 

As The Chicago Tribune reveals, assembling a Mr. G requires a strict process. Done incorrectly, it could land a spot in the trash bin. It contains heaps of provolone cheese, prosciutto di parma, Genoa salami, and hot soppressata, which are layered in that exact order. From there, it's dressed in a flavorful array of condiments, including marinated artichokes, hot oil, and a tangy truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette which comes through in every bite. 

It's the gold standard of Italian sandwich-making. The meats are freshly-sliced, the toppings are exquisite, and according to Yelp reviews, the bread is firm enough to support it all without shredding the roof of your mouth. For a refreshing pairing, wash it down with their exclusive pilsner called "Alla Salut," which literally translates to a toast "to your health" (via TimeOut). Mangia!