July's Can't-Miss Dish

Vinal Spuckie at Vinal General Store
Brian Samuels Photography
By Ellen Bhang · 07/06/2022

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 

 

Vinal Spuckie at Vinal General Store

 

On the plate: Vinal Spuckie  

Where to find it: Whether you call a submarine sandwich a “hoagie,” a “grinder,” or simply a “sub,” at Vinal General Store you’ll add one more name to your vocabulary: spuckie. That’s how old-school Bostonians ask for the cold cut-stacked, Italian-American version of the lunchtime favorite.

The nostalgic moniker fits right in with the vibe at Vinal General. The bright and airy sandwich shop and store, located in Somerville’s Union Square, features a lunch counter with comfy stools, as well as a curated array of products like eco-friendly cleaning supplies, old-timey candy, and locally made hot sauces. As the name suggests, it has the feel of a classic New England general store, and is the sibling of Vinal Bakery next door. It’s the latest from bakery owner Sarah Murphy, an alum of Bagelsaurus who tends to hire the friendliest, most energetic people around. At Vinal General, they can’t wait to tell you about the spuckie’s hyperlocal roots.

General manager Chloe Nolan recalls how her grandmother, who grew up in Dorchester during the Second World War and later raised her own family in the neighborhood, would order “a spuckie and a tonic”—a sub and a soda. “I think that’s probably [how] working-class Bostonians from that era referred to Italian sandwiches,” Nolan explains, noting the name likely comes from “spuccadella,” a torpedo-shaped bread roll. “For a certain generation, in the enclaves where all the locals still live, they probably still call it a spuckie.”

Nolan knows that devotees hold strong opinions about the proper way to make this beloved sandwich. Some insist on oil and vinegar, for example, while others think mayonnaise is the classic condiment. “I tried to go back to basics on it,” she says about Vinal’s version, “but with a little spin on it.”

Notes on the nosh: To make the Vinal Spuckie, Nolan and her team spread both sides of an Iggy’s ciabatta sandwich roll with a blend of mayonnaise and hots, a zippy red pepper condiment. “We do lacy curls of the thinly sliced mortadella on the bottom and then the salami on top,” Nolan explains. “Then we do a meat break—we put some nice provolone between, to break it up a little bit—then the smoked ham and pepperoni on top of that.” Thin slices of red onion, tomato, and house-cured dill pickles go on next, along with crisp shreds of iceberg lettuce (adorably abbreviated “shrettuce” on the menu). That salady mound gets another twist: a squirt of smoky maple vinaigrette.

You’ll love how the pepperoni and the Hots Mayo zing with spicy heat, and how the crunchy lettuce and acidic vinaigrette balance out the lusciously rich meats. And this crew is serious about protecting the generously stuffed creation: “We wrap it up, and slice it, and wrap it again,” Nolan says. “It’s a girdle for sure.”

Sip alongside: Take advantage of the sandwich’s snug packaging and request it to-go. Add to your order a can of effervescent white wine, and you have the summer’s most delightful—and portable—pairing.

Avinyó, one of Spain’s excellent sparkling wine producers, is known for Cava. But the winery’s Blanc Petillant, housed in a 250-ml can, is just as refreshing. It’s a vi d’agulla, the Catalan term for fizzy wine crafted in a pressurized tank, the way Italian Prosecco is made. The bubbly, offering scents of green apples and lemon blossoms, is peachy and thirst-quenching. We’d bet dollars to doughnuts that even tonic-sipping old-timers would find it delicious.

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