We get sandwiches (and pizza dough and other items) frequently from Wheaton’s own Marchone’s Deli, but we also hear about other good Italian sub options throughout greater DC. Time for a taste test!
Joey Tribbiani would be proud. I gathered a highly qualified (i.e. hungry and omnivorous) panel this weekend, procured some subs, took air-conditioned refuge, and pigged out. Our 12″ contenders (all prices not including tax):
- A. Litteri (517-519 Morse Street NE) $7.90 “Classic Italian” with capicola, mortadelli, prosciuttini, provolone (and unadvertised ham)
- Marchone’s (11224 Triangle Lane) $7.95 “Cold Cut Sub” with undisclosed toppings but pretty sure (like Vace) ham, salami, mortadella, and (like Taylor) provolone
- Taylor Gourmet (1116 H Street NE) $8.90 “9th Street Italian” with Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto, provolone
- Vace (3315 Connecticut)$5.25 “Italian Coldcut Sub” with ham, Genoa salami, mortadella, mozzarella
We missed Capitol Hill’s Mangialardo & Sons because it is closed weekends, and we missed the Italian Store because it is in the Commonwealth and even so is overrated. In all cases, we ordered basic 12″ Italian cold cut subs with “everything” (which at Litteri does not actually include literally all options, but bottom line is all our tested sandwiches had largely identical ingredients). Results:
Bread: the biggest differentiator, and a clash of the great Philly bakeries with Marchone’s rolls imported daily from Amoroso’s and Taylor’s from Sarcone’s; I would have liked Taylor’s best but for the highly objectionable sesame seeds, which none of us cared for, and others also thought Taylor’s bread was too dry; Vace’s roll was smaller and harder, causing the filling to slide out too easily, but it had the best flavor and a nice texture despite the hardness; Marchone’s was nice and soft but I wish it were a tad crustier on the outside;
Vace’s Litteri’s was soft and bland and soggy in spots, having stood up poorly to its Italian dressing while it waited to be eaten (our Marchone’s subs waited twice as long as our other subs but only Litteri’s failed on this account). Hard to choose in this category among Marchone’s, Taylor and Vace, all good and different.
Meats, Cheeses: Taylor clear winner here, much higher-quality meats (and no cheap ham) and a bit more cheese; the other three were all pretty much the same, although Marchone’s and Vace could both stand to add another slice or two of cheese.
Other ingredients: they all passed the mayo test (none of them used any); Marchone’s and Vace both had a smear of hot pepper spread (Marchone’s had a bigger kick from it); Litteri had sliced hot peppers instead of spread and while I loved how that looked, it worked less well because you only got a hit of pepper every third bite or so; Taylor had no spicy ingredients at all; all four had Italian dressing but Marchone’s and Vace’s were more noticeable, in a good way.
Size: doesn’t matter (though for the record, Litteri and Taylor subs were wider than Marchone’s or Vace’s, but filling amounts seemed about the same, yet bread-to-filling ratios were also generally fine, though I think if forced to choose we would all have picked Marchone’s/Vace on that front).
Overall, it was tough to pick a winner. All were at least good; Litteri finishes fourth mostly because it didn’t stand out in any way and the roll got soggy — I would get a 9″ hard roll sub next time at Litteri, though with Taylor just blocks away and me rarely venturing to that neck of the DC, I doubt I will be back anytime soon. I think if Taylor hadn’t had sesame seeds on the bun, it might have won (I also got their “Pattison Avenue” roast pork/broccoli rabe sub, which was great despite the sesame seed bun, not quite Tony Luke’s but who is?); it looked the best. Then again, the Vace and Marchone’s subs tasted great. Marchone’s did Wheaton proud, and those of us who like a little spice in our sandwich thought Marchone’s was as good as or better than the others. But the overall five-taster consensus was, to my somewhat surprise, that Vace made the best sub, especially taking price into consideration (more than $2 cheaper than any of the others) but even maybe aside from cost.
So with Vace in Bethesda and Taylor Gourmet coming soon to Bethesda Row, those are nice West County options, but I am also glad to have confirmation that for those of us who live in and around Wheaton, Marchone’s is indeed a fine Italian sub (and also meatball sub, which is what we usually get) option.