Subs the old-school way
By Justin Rude
Friday, Aug. 12, 2011
Mangialardo and Sons is one of a dying breed in the D.C. area: a true multi-generational mom-and-pop eatery that has been serving the same neighborhood for more than a half-century.
Opened in 1953 by Antonio and Anna Mangialardo as a grocery store and delicatessen, it had begun to focus more on subs by the late '60s. Today, the cash-only carryout is owned by Antonio and Anna's grandson, Tony Mangialardo, 48, and is still selling cold-cut and oven-toasted subs to a diverse crowd that, in addition to Capitol Hill residents and federal office workers, includes a large number of police officers, firefighters, garbage workers, mail carriers and other flavors of blue-collar Washington.
Want to spend part of your lunch hour standing in line for a knockout sub while kvetching with District natives about the state of the Redskins? Head to Mangialardo and Sons.
On the menu: This no-table counter-service carryout does one thing and does it well: subs. There are 16 on the menu, but the option that dominates most orders is the "G" Man. Mangia-lardo's signature sandwich is a heaping pile of ham, salami, mortadella and pepperoni with provolone and fontina cheese on either a soft or hard roll. The soft rolls, which are made by Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, are the popular choice. Pillowy inside, with a decent chew to the crust, they contain the dense sandwich filling without disintegrating when lettuce and tomato are added. Hard rolls are a decidedly old-school option, and Tony Mangialardo says they are ordered less and less.
"We don't have those good Italians left who could eat a hard roll no matter what," he says. "My grandfather would eat a hard roll sub whether he had his dentures in or not."
On a hard roll (made in the District by Catania Bakery) or soft, the "G" Man packs great flavor and texture. Mimic the regulars and order yours with hot peppers. The Italian-style giardiniera mix they use brings a vinegary bite that helps cut the richness of the meat.
Like many great sandwiches, the "G" Man comes with a back story. In the early 1970s, Tony recounts, a pair of FBI agents on their way to a Redskins game stopped by the deli for a pair of subs. Tired of the same thing, they asked Antonio to make them something special. "Two days later, a different group of agents came in and said they wanted 'that 'G' Man sub.' " Word had spread through the office, and a signature sub was born. To this day, Mangialardo's is a haven for law-enforcement and public safety types; a pinboard near the pickup counter is covered with duty patches from area police and fire departments.
Other sub options don't have the history of the "G" Man, but they still please. Chicken salad simply dresses large chunks of bird with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, not trying to disguise the main ingredient. Smoked turkey and roast beef subs, toasted in the oven, are popular, and the hot pizza sub is a nostalgia-tasting portion of pepperoni, provolone and tomato sauce.
Open early: Mangialardo has a selection of breakfast sandwiches available when the doors open at 7:30 a.m. And, yes: Its most popular sandwich is available then, too. "Hey, it's never too early for a 'G' Man!" says Tony.
Keeping it in the family: Some of the restaurant's regulars are fourth-generation patrons. And why not? Tony's children, who work behind the counter, are fourth-generation proprietors.
Order for the office: The folks at Mangialardo and Sons are accustomed to large orders, which they accept by fax.
Bottom line: This shop has had 58 years of practice serving sandwiches on Capitol Hill. Take advantage of their dedication.