Spicy Italian Subs

Deli meat  and provolone cheese are piled high in these thick and flavorful
 spicy Italian sub sandwiches!
Spicy Italian Subs
The best sub sandwiches I ever ate were found in a dive bar near the University of Cincinnati.   Every Friday night you would find me at Sub Galley stuffing my face with these spicy Italian Subs.  The subs were extraordinary, but the experience as a whole was something unique.  This was the sort of corner bar that most college kids actually avoided.  It wasn’t really the place to hang out if you were under 50.
Spicy Italian Subs
What I remember most is how your eyes would water for a minute  when you walked in to the bar because of the thick layer of cigarette smoke that hung in the air.  Your nostrils would be accosted next.  The smell of kitchen grease, cigarette smoke, old carpet and old men permeated through the small, dark and dusty room.  There were about 6 tables in the bar area, all of which remained empty.  The bar held about 15 people and usually, all those seats would be filled with the regulars.  Since we weren’t there for the bar, we headed straight back to the “restaurant”.  This area consisted of two wobbly tables with ratty and torn red vinyl booths.  The old Pepsi menu sign hung above a very tired looking formica counter with an equally dated cash register.
Spicy Italian Subs
The only employee we ever encountered was an Asian woman.  She rarely spoke, but she made a mean sub sandwich.  Those sandwiches made my mouth water each time I though about them!  I was like Pavlov’s dogs, come Friday I’d start salivating and the hunger pangs would start.  The subs were piled high with ham, salami, loads of pepperoni and provolone cheese.  But it was the sauce that kept me wanting more.  It was thick and spicy.  I can’t place the ingredients exactly, I just know that there were lots of pepper seeds and that I could eat it by the spoonful!
My friends and I would order our sandwiches and take our seat at one of the very worn out booths and anxiously await the best meal of the week!  We’d sit and watch the clientele as they voted and debated which one of them should be elected the new mayor of Sub Galley.  I’m not sure why, but this was their weekly ritual.   And I have no idea what being mayor of a dive bar would entail, but I don’t think anyone cared.  It probably meant the mayor was buying the next round!     Ours subs would finally come.  My friends and I would halt our conversation so that we could enjoy the feast before us!  We could judge the quality of our meal by how many napkins we went through that night.  These were the kind of sandwiches that left streaks of grease down your chin and if it was really good, down your forearm as well!
Spicy Italian Subs
Sadly, Sub Galley has long since closed down.  I believe it’s a trendy sandwich shop that specializes in clean and organic food.  I suspect that if there are regulars, they aren’t holding weekly elections.  Change can be so good, but a heart full of nostalgia reminds us how far we’ve come.
My version of the sub comes pretty darn close to the ones in my memory!  I piled on my favorite sub meats and added spice from none other than an Asian chili paste, Salma Oelek.  It can be quite spicy so either adjust the amount or omit it all together if you prefer.   The lettuce is dressed with a bit of Italian dressing and the spice is tempered by the cool tomatoes.    I loved this sandwich!  I actually made myself another sandwich for lunch the next day.  When I finished, I noticed the grease from the pepperoni resting on my plate and thats when I knew I had recreated the perfect spicy Italian Sub!
Jalapeno Chicken Sandwich with White BBQ Sauce
Jalapeno Grilled Chicken Sandwich


Pimento Cheese & Bacon Patty Melt

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Patty Melt
Spicy Italian Subs
  • 4 submarine sandwich rolls
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 8 sliced ham
  • 8 slices of turkey
  • 12 slices hard salami
  • 12 slices sandwich pepperoni
  • 4 tablespoons Sambal Oelek Chili Paste (optional)
  • 8 oz shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1 large tomato, sliced and quartered
  • ¼ olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cut sandwich rolls along one seam being careful to not cut all the way through. Spread may on each side of sub roll.
  3. Top each roll with cheese, ham, turkey, salami and pepperoni. Spread a tablespoon of chili paste on each sub.
  4. Heat in the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.
  5. Meanwhile place lettuce in a bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar and seasoning. Pour over lettuce.
  6. When sandwiches have heated, divide lettuce among each of the subs and top with tomato slices.

I’ll be sharing this recipe with these parties as well as with Jam Hands and

44 Responses

  1. I loved your story and description of that sub shop! Places like that sometimes have THE BEST food. I have been on a real sandwich kick lately– I need to make this! I just hope I can recreate your sauce…

    • Thanks Heather. Sometimes I miss those days! I really miss the subs!

  2. These sandwich pics have me drooling! They look and sound divine! I’m wondering where to find that chili paste? I’ll have to do some looking, seeing as how I live in a very rural area (and that’s putting it nicely)

  3. Subs were my favorite as a kid, and we had the BEST shop in NY, here in Cali…NOT so much!! yours looks amazing Tanya

    • I bet you had fantastic shops in NY Heather!!! Thank you!

  4. cookingwithcurls

    Those broken down old food joints always seem to have the best food! I’m not into spicy, but that picture has me drooling. That is a delicious looking sandwichTanya!

    • Broken down food joints is a good way to put it! Thanks Lisa!

  5. What a wonderfully written post, Tanya! These sandwiches sound wonderful, and I LOVE the photos! I have to say that I probably would have gotten my sandwich to go given the smoke smell, but then I wouldn’t get the full experience!

    • It was all about the experience! Those subs were so good!

  6. Tanya – what a great story! We had a place like that across from the Medical Center at KU – Last I heard, that place was still there! These sandwiches look so wonderful – and the chili paste is a MUST! Thanks for the recipe – I must make them. Perfect for the 100+ degree days!

  7. Visiting from the Six Sisters Saturday Link party. I love a good sub. I’ll be putting this on my sandwich pinterest board. You have a new follower.

  8. Kelly

    UC alum, CCM ’93. Great post. Sadly, I never experienced the Sub Galley. I’ll have to try your recipe.

    • Too bad about Sub Galley! The best subs. Always happy to meet another Bearcat!

  9. OMG – its 10:30 at night and I want one of these sooooo bad!! I love a good sub – we had some great places in upstate NY that weren’t chains… fun memories. Pinned!!

    • They are fin memories, Deb. thank you!

  10. Like others before me, I love a good sub and I haven’t enjoyed one in quite some time. We never had a sub spot for late night but it’s not like we went to bed hungry. Still, you’ve given me the inspiration to get some lunchmeat and make a sub — or three. Thanks, Tanya!

  11. I want to feel this passionately about a sub!! Sounds amazing!!

    • Guess I am passionate huh? Thanks Liz!

  12. That sub shop sounds like the kind of place I love to frequent! No-one would ever suspect it, and then BAM amazing sandwiches.

    • I know!!! If I turned away at the first smell of smoke, I would’ve missed out on the most amazing sandwiches!

    • It was a good memory, Meg. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks Meg! Sometimes its fun to remember those days!

  13. I love sandwiches, love them!!

  14. These subs look fantastic, Tanya….you are actually making me hungry for one now!! Gotta love those old time places – too bad it went out of business :(

  15. Looks magnificent!!!

  16. Seriously, what’s not to love?! I am craving one now! Have a great day Tanya!

    • This IS my favorite sandwich! Thanks Beth!

  17. Tiffany

    I made these for dinner tonight and they were fantastic! I love a good italian sub and the addition of chili paste on here really made it special. This one’s a keeper!

  18. Debi

    Just make these. Didn’t have the chili paste and will continue to search for it… Mixed some siracha in the mayo, though. Delicious sandwich! Every bite was savored. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your recipe.

    • Debi, Sriracha and mayo might even be better! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. It’s one of my favorites!


Add your Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: