When I first met my wife, I was enlightened by her sandwich making abilities. For years, sandwich making was sandwich making. You grabbed your bread and threw in your ingredients.
My wife's approach was much more developed, considered and undoubtedly influenced by her Italian heritage. To me, she carefully layered each ingredient to ensure it tasted perfecto! To her, she was making a sandwich.
We stumbled across this Sandwich Magician (*not his real name) at the market in Ortigia, a holiday destination for Sicilians and Europeans about one hour south of Catania. In Australia, this gentleman and his daughter (the apprentice), wife (the boss and money handler) and son (waiter and all around smooth operator) would most likely talk less, serve more and focus on the dollars. In Sicilia, they focussed on talking a lot and making each sandwich to perfection for their beloved customers/friends. The attention to detail was guaranteed for each order.
This is how they made the perfect Sicilian sandwich:
1. Bring your character and passione. I kid you not, the Sandwich Magician smelt every single sandwich we saw him make over the period of 1.5 hours. To some that may seem somewhat weird, but he genuinely loved bringing a sandwich together and the ingredients that went into them.
2. The bread (pane). There is no such thing as wholemeal of wholegrain in Italia. A quality white roll is best. The crumbs in the top layer were removed to allow the fillings to sit better within the roll. If you plan to eat immediately, lightly drizzle olive oil. Both for flavour and to moisten the bread to assist with chewing.
3. Create your base layer. Salad or cheese is preferable to ensure the bread does not get too moist. If using a cheese, perhaps start with something like the smoked mozzarella being dished up.
For the salad base, crush and rub your garlic into your board or food prep area. Add olive oil and mix the flavours. You may also want to add pepper, chilli or salt at your discretion. Cover the area with your salad mix and chop away, ensuring you mix the oil combination with the salad
4. Add chopped tomato and olives. With the olives, give them a whack with the blade of the knife or your hand to release flavour and juices.
5. For meat eaters, select your meats. Don't be afraid to mix them up. Salami, ham or portobello will go well in any combination or by themselves. For vegetarians and vegans perhaps take the time to lightly fry some eggplant (melanzane) with olive oil and a little parmesan (Yum!). Oh yeah, don't forget to place cheese within your layers of meat or melanzone.
6. Add another layer of cheese. A harder cheese such as pecorino romano will work well to protect the bread. A great trick demonstrated above by the Sandwich Magician was to roll the meat around the cheese.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste or if you need more cheese, grate some parmesan for the final layer.
8. Cut in half and serve with a warm smile, refreshing ale, good conversation and plenty of hand gestures. Mangiare.