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How to make a Primanti sandwich in the Triangle

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I shared this recipe with some folks via Twitter. I wrote this story several years ago when the Steelers last went to the Super Bowl. In case there are any Pittsburghers here who want to eat in style for Saturday's game, which is sure to be a bruiser, here you go:

Complete aside: I love my Steelers but our knucklehead of a quarterback is making it hard for me to really care this season. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Section: LIFE
Edition: FINAL
Page: D1
By Andrea Weigl, Staff Writer
Illustration: PHOTO:2

I can remember my first experience with a Primanti Brothers' sandwich.

I had to be 9 or 10 years old. My parents took me to the Pittsburgh restaurant but did not warn me that the sandwich would come with coleslaw and french fries on it. Not on the side but between the slices of bread, contaminating the meat and cheese.

The stubborn child that I was refused to eat it.

I have since changed my mind about Primanti sandwiches. There is something absolutely delicious about this combination between two slices of Italian bread. The meat juices, the coleslaw dressing and the oil from the fries seep into the bread's soft interior. Instead of turning into mush, the chewy crust holds the sandwich together. Each bite reminds me why I love being from Pittsburgh.

I don't know what it is about us Pittsburghers, but we favor all-in-one meals. Beyond Primanti sandwiches, there is the lesser-known Pittsburgh salad, which comes with slices of steak and french fries on top of a basic house salad.

The myth behind the Primanti sandwich is that it was designed so steelworkers could eat a full meal during their limited lunch breaks without the hassle of eating coleslaw and fries separately. But the restaurant's Web site says it was merely the fluke of a salesman bringing a load of potatoes to the restaurant and a cook frying some up on the grill and putting them on a few sandwiches. Thus, a tradition was born.

I wanted to serve Primanti sandwiches for Sunday's Super Bowl, but the challenges were twofold.

I would have to find a coleslaw recipe that compared to the one served at Primanti Brothers. This challenge was easily overcome; a search online found an Amish coleslaw recipe on It's a sweet-and-sour slaw that one commenter wrote came as close as she knew to Primanti's version

The more challenging task would be finding Italian bread like what is sold back home. This is not the soft loaf of Italian bread devoid of crust that is found at the supermarket. This is not artisan bread like that sold at La Farm or Guglhupf . This is that flaky, chewy crust with a soft interior that is hard to find in the South because Italians didn't migrate here in large numbers.

But we can be thankful for Roma's Italian deli in Cary. These upstate New York transplants bake bread every day except Sundays. Their Italian bread is as good as any loaf of Mancini's, another Pittsburgh institution.

With these sandwiches on the menu Sunday, I may not have to pull out my other lucky charm: a black-and-gold rosary.

Here we go Steelers, here we go!

or 919-829-4848
Where to find the sandwiches

Roma's Italian deli can be found at 203 N. Harrison Ave., #A, Cary. Phone: 468-1111. For more information about Primanti Brothers, go to

Primanti Sandwiches

2 4-inch lengths of kielbasa sausage (see Note)

2 slices provolone cheese

4 1-inch-thick slices of Italian bread

4 slices tomato

1 cup Coleslaw (see recipe below)

1 order Baked French Fries (see recipe below)

Make coleslaw the night before and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight. About a half hour before serving dinner, make the french fries. Keep a careful eye on them in the oven or risk making them too crispy. Cut a 4-inch link of kielbasa in half. Saute in a skillet until brown on both sides and heated through. Lay a slice of provolone on top of the 2 sausage halves next to each other. When melted, place the cheesy kielbasa on top of a slice of bread. Top with half the french fries, 2 tomato slices and 1/2 cup coleslaw. Top with second slice of bread. Cut sandwich in half. Repeat with the second sandwich.

Note: You do not have to use kielbasa. Primanti's serves sandwiches with bologna, ham, roast beef, pastrami, salami, even sardines. Choose your favorite protein and follow the directions as if it was the kielbasa, which they spell phonetically on their menu: kolbassi.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

Per serving: calories, 893; fats, 47 grams (47% of calories); cholesterol, 98 milligrams, carbohydrate, 88 grams; fiber, 7 grams; protein, 33 grams; sodium, 2,699 milligrams

Baked French Fries

1 large baking potato

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut potato into 1/4-inch thin fries; a mandolin makes quick work of this task. Place fries in a sealable plastic bag. Add olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder and salt. Toss fries in plastic bag to coat. Place on a baking sheet, spread out so no fries overlap. Bake for about 20 minutes or until desired crispiness. Halfway through, use spatula to turn fries.

Note: Use 1 baked potato per 2 sandwiches. If making more, adjust oil and seasonings accordingly.

Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: calories, 213; fats, 7 grams (29% of calories); cholesterol, 0 milligrams, carbohydrate, 35 grams; fiber, 3 grams; protein, 4 grams; sodium, 598 milligrams


1 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 cup plus 1 teaspoon white sugar (see Note)

1 cup vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

3/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, onion and 1 cup sugar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, celery seed, 1 teaspoon sugar, mustard and oil. Bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Cool completely, then pour over cabbage mixture, and toss to coat. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Note: If you like a less sweet coleslaw, reduce the amount of sugar by half.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: calories, 318; fats, 21 grams (57% of calories); cholesterol, 0 milligrams, carbohydrate, 33 grams; fiber, 3 grams; protein, 2 grams; sodium, 320 milligrams

Source: Adapted from


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I might have to give yours a try this year.  I made the following recipe last time they were in the Super Bowl and it was a hit at the party we went to.  Since I've only had Primanti's maybe twice in my life I don't have much to compare them to, but my husband went to college in Pittsburgh and he liked them.  I'll have to try the bread from Roma's.  Or is there anywhere in Raleigh that has good bread for this sandwich?

And as a quick fix for the french fries I just went to Five Guys and bought some of theirs.

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for the recipe,

Thanks for the recipe, Andrea!  Since the game is right in the middle of dinner on Saturday, I don't think I'll be able to take time away from watching to make one.  I'll be sure to make it next week when we play in the AFC Championship though!  :-)


I  had a rule the year I

I  had a rule the year I made these for the Superbowl: that people who wanted one had to get to my house before the game because I wasn't making these during the game.

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About the blogger

Andrea Weigl has been the food writer at The News & Observer since the summer of 2007. She has won a handful of awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Her profile of chef Ashley Christensen titled "A Force of Nature" will be published in the sixth edition of "Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing." She is serving a three-year term on the James Beard Foundation book awards committee. Follow her on Twitter at @andreaweigl.