General references to “Godfather” movies are a dime a dozen in Italian eateries. Specific nods to the justifiably maligned “The Godfather: Part III” are less commonplace. However, that’s what you’ll find at Mother Rucker’s Subs in the District’s Carver neighborhood, which welcomed its first customers at the beginning of January.
About half of the 20 cold subs offered at this bare-bones corner shop are Italian-inspired, including the Godfather 3 ($6.50). A too-flimsy eight-inch hoagie roll from Baltimore’s H&S Bakery is packed with nearly half a pound of capicola, pepperoni, ham and provolone cheese. Despite its impressive weight, the sandwich needs a flavor boost. For best results, make sure to pile on toppings and condiments, which include shredded iceberg lettuce, mashed hot pepper relish, mayonnaise, slender tomato rounds, thin-sliced onions, oil and vinegar.
You can also order a Godfather 1 ($6.50), which includes peppercorn-studded Genoa salami, ham, capicola and sharp provolone and is worthy of your allegiance. Naturally, there’s a Godfather 2 ($6.50), sporting mortadella, capicola, ham and provolone. The non-threatening H Street Favorite is a winner, with generous amounts of turkey, ham, roast beef and provolone, and even better when pumped up with lots of hot pepper relish and a few shakes of Italian seasoning.
If you’re having a hard time keeping the subs straight, that might be because they feature many of the same meats and cheeses. Owner Gwendolyn Rucker, 42, whose birthday happens to be Thursday and who lives in nearby NoMa, says there is a purposeful simplicity to her menu: “We want to get the basics right. Come back in two years, and we’ll see about adding more complicated items.”
Rucker originally wanted to get into the food-truck business, so she spent the past summer running Langston Bar & Grille’s food truck to gain experience. She even went so far as to buy her own set of wheels. After deciding that it would be just as costly as opening a bricks-and-mortar location, she abandoned the mobile concept and found this permanent address. The idea for the sandwiches was inspired by classic D.C. delis such as A. Litteri, Mangialardo & Sons and Carl’s Foods.
There are no chairs or tables in the small shop with red-and-white decor, though Rucker says that those amenities will be added in the next few months. A few racks are filled with chips ($1) — including fiery Herrs flavored with Texas Pete hot sauce — and a couple of refrigerated cases stocked with sodas, including local favorite Rock Creek ($1.40), juice and water.
Whatever you order, it’ll take only a few minutes to prepare. Twenty-three-year-old Varon Moore, a graduate of D.C. Central Kitchen’s culinary job training program who works the assembly line, is a speedy sub specialist. Beware: The hoagies’ white paper wrapping soaks through quickly. So keep your sandwich in the plastic bag it’s packed in — and away from your recently dry-cleaned shirt — until you’re ready to chow down.
— Nevin Martell
Mother Rucker’s Subs 1101 Bladensburg Rd. NE. 202-388-1881. www.dcmotherruckers.com. Hours: Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.