There's a big football game on Sunday? Really? Oh, that's right. The Falcons and the Broncos. A couple of teams named after cars. Not that we're sulking about the Redskins missing their chance at the Super Bowl or anything. (Actually, some of us aren't; some of us are Cowboys fans, so we're sulking about them.) But hey, we can be mature. Besides, a Super Bowl game, even if the local favorites aren't in it, is still a great excuse for a big party with BIG food. Big, juicy, jaw-stretching, chin-dribbling, tummy-packing sandwiches. Everyone has a favorite sandwich place in town, of course. We've picked three that have clientele almost as rabid as Redskins fans. One is so popular for its Italian subs that if you don't call ahead on football weekends, you may spend the whole first half waiting in line. One is located on Capitol Hill and is the favorite with Senate staffers hungry after a grueling day of political maneuvering. And the third is a longtime Georgetown haunt, popular with students for its hot, drippy, irresistible subs. THE ITALIAN STORE, 3123 Lee Hwy., Arlington; call 703-528-6266: The crowd waiting to order the Italian subs at this popular grocery/takeout shop can get so thick on the weekend that some customers, in desperation, have walked outside and called in their order from the pay phone near the neighboring Starbucks. "They're smart," says owner Robert Tramonte with a laugh. "But the real regulars know to call in from home so they can just pick up their order at the cashier." Right. What he doesn't mention is that there's a line at the cashier, too. But don't worry. Tramonte says they're about to expand the store, which should speed things up considerably. And what's a 15-, 20-minute wait when the payoff is some of the best Italian "Philly-style" subs around? The secret, he says, is his mother's recipe for the vinaigrette dressing (don't even think about asking what's in it), dried oregano and generous amounts of the best ingredients he can find: prosciutto from Italy, cheese from New Jersey, meat from New York and Baltimore, sweet peppers from a supplier he won't reveal and hard rolls from his uncle's Catania Bakery on North Capitol Street. The subs are made Philadelphia style, which means the rolls are hollowed out in the center before the ingredients are layered on. The meat and cheese always go on first, then the lettuce, onions, tomato and peppers. Finally, using a knife and a quick flick of the wrist, the meat is curled up and over the lettuce so none of the meat or cheese extends over the edge of the roll. "It means when you bite into it, you get a lot more stuff in each bite than when it's sticking out," Tramonte explains. But that's the only "Philly" thing he will do. "People ask us to do those Philly cheese steak sandwiches, but I refuse. I'm not going that grease route." He has added a New Orleans favorite--a muffaletta, made with an Italian twist. Tramonte uses a huge round Sicilian roll layered with mortadella (Italian bologna), provolone cheese, smoked prosciutto, salami, chopped olives and oil and vinegar dressing. It's so big, it serves two. Tramonte, 44, who also managed D.C.'s Bayou Club until it closed, opened The Italian Store in the Lyon Village Center, at Spout Run and Lee Highway, in 1980. At the time, most everyone he knew thought that the idea for the store was good but that the location was spectacularly stupid. "I-66 wasn't here yet and the store had been vacant a long time," Tramonte recalls. Since then, the highway has been completed, bringing the Spout Run on-ramp virtually across the street from the shopping center. With such easy access, the center has become extremely popular, especially with the opening of a Starbucks next door to The Italian Store. "Now on sunny days, my tables and Starbucks' tables are full of people--it's like a mini-Georgetown here," says Tramonte. NEIL'S OUTRAGEOUS DELI, 208 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, D.C., call 202-546-6970. In this highly partisan town, it's not surprising that House and Senate offices each have their own favorite sandwich place. On the Senate side, they vote for Neil's. Neil's sandwich counter is in the back of a narrow, crowded, well-worn liquor store and it draws a cross-section of Washington life: senators, their aides and interns, laborers, journalists, businessmen, street people, even, on rare occasions, a Supreme Court justice. Everyone gets equal treatment. The three sandwich guys behind the counter keep up a lively banter and customers who are too fidgety to wait can read from the generous stack of magazines kept precisely for that purpose. At the front of the store, owner Neil Shapiro sells lottery tickets, dispenses advice and takes the money. Shapiro, 54, is a third-generation Washingtonian whose family has owned the downtown liquor store for 50 years. An avid amateur cook, he wanted to get into the food business but he didn't want to have to work long, restaurant hours. Sandwiches were his solution. "I got the best breads I could, including specialty breads like olive bread and Uptown Bakery's multigrain," explains Shapiro. "I was determined not to use any pressed meats. I made my own dressing. I knew the ingredients had to be good for the business to grow." Once he had come up with the combinations for the 27 sandwiches, he worked on the names. They range from the mundane (Chicken Salad Supreme) to the quirky (Crazy Louie). The latter was named for his friend Louis who hates the name Louie. "I wanted to immortalize him--and also infuriate him," Shapiro says with a grin. He also honored (but didn't irritate) his nephew, who became the namesake for the "Dr. Jay" sandwich when he graduated from medical school. Shapiro, a loyal Redskin fan, gave the team its own sub, which sells for $1 off the regular $4.99 price on the Monday after they win. Neil's is closed on Sundays, which makes last-minute sandwich runs for Super Bowl impossible, but he says he sells dozens of sandwich platters ahead of time for customers to pick up on Saturday. "We cut the sandwiches in thirds, so they're easier to grab and eat while you watch. And we include coleslaw, potato salad and pickles for just $4.99 a person." WISEMILLER'S, 1236 1/2 36th St. NW, Washington, D.C.; call 202-333-8254. Trying to find a slow time to talk to Wisemiller's well-known sisters, Rose Tucker and Jackie Austin, is almost impossible. It's too busy at 10:30 a.m. It's nuts at noon. Even at nearly 3 p.m., customers are waiting for sandwiches, customers are waiting to pay at the cash register, and the two phones are constantly ringing. No wonder the most popular sandwich at this longtime Georgetown deli is called Chicken Madness. "Wiseies," as Georgetown students affectionately refer to it, was opened by the late Charlie Wisemiller so long ago, no one quite recalls when. Customer Matthew Donahue remembers coming to the tiny, narrow store when he was a first-grader at nearby Holy Trinity school. "That's more than 50 years ago," he says. At that time, Wisemiller and his wife lived above the store and the sandwich counter was near the front of the store. There's a worn path in the floor from the front door to where the sandwich counter used to be. Now, the counter is in a small addition to the side of the original store. Customers enter the store, say "hi" to Rose and Jackie, and then turn left to where the sandwiches are made. A banner outside advertises the "summer special"--a free can of soda with each sub--which has been going on now for five years, year-round. "It was popular; we kept it," says Jackie with a shrug. Although Wisemiller's sells all the usual subs and sandwiches, their special hot subs sell the most. "Chicken Madness, Chicken Madness, Chicken Madness," that's all I hear, all day long," says Rose about the grilled chicken sub stuffed with onions, sweet and hot peppers, garlic, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. She figures they sell 150 of them a day--at least double that on football Sundays. "When there's a football game, they order them 16 or 20 at a time. And, of course, they all can't be the same. They have to custom order each sandwich," she grumbles. Blackie's Favorite, a hot roast beef, onions and Muenster cheese combo, is also popular. So is the Peggy's Special--a hot turkey and mozzarella sub with grilled onions, hot peppers and all the rest--that was created by a former employee craving something special during her pregnancy. Peggy's was the deli's best seller until part-owner Jenna Vogel came up with Chicken Madness in 1982. Now the CM outsells everything. As for the Super Bowl Sunday sandwich rush, Jackie and Rose say they're ready. Maybe. "It'll be nuts. But we're ready. But will you please tell people to call ahead? It doesn't make our work any easier, but they won't have to wait as long when they get here." No problem. Consider it done. THE SANDWICH SPOTS AT A GLANCE * Place: The Italian Store, 3123 Lee Hwy., Lyon Village Center, Arlington. Call 703-528-6266. Owner: Robert Tramonte Opened for business: 1980 Sandwich specialty: Italian subs Most popular sandwich: The Milano, made with two Italian hams, provolone cheese and Genoa salami. Served on a hard or soft Italian roll with sweet and/or hot peppers, lettuce, onions, oregano, oil and vinegar dressing. Insider lingo: "Large Milano, light hot, tomato, soft." Translation: Large size Milano sub, light on the hot peppers, with tomato on a soft roll. Weirdest request: Meatball and cheese sub, hold the meatballs, hold the cheese. The customer just wanted the roll dipped into the meatball sauce. (Weirdest kid request: One little girl who, whenever she comes in, asks for raw onions on a plain, soft roll.) Super Bowl prediction: "First, can I tell you my dream? My dream is to be named to the All-Madden Team as deli man of the year. That would really be something," says Tramonte. As for the game, Tramonte goes with the Broncos. "They have the better all-round team." * Place: Neil's Outrageous Deli and Liquor Store, 208 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC. Call 202-546-6970. Owner: Neil Shapiro Opened for business: The sandwich counter, located in a 50-year-old liquor store, opened in 1988. Best idea that others should copy: Lots of sports and entertainment magazines at the counter, so customers have something to read while they wait for their sandwiches to be made. Most popular sandwich: There are three: The Redskin Super Sub (ham, turkey, pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, salami, lettuce and tomato), the Dr. Jay (roast beef, turkey, hot peppers, onion, mayo, Dijon mustard, lettuce and tomato), and the Crazy Louie (special rye, pastrami, smoked turkey, Monterey Jack cheese, Thousand Island dressing, Dijon mustard). Insider lingo: "Number 8 1/2, extra hot, multigrain, hold the mayo." Translation: Dr. Jay with extra peppers on Uptown Bakery's multigrain bread, no mayo. Weirdest request: Shrimp salad sandwich, heated in the microwave. "Anything too weird and we make the customer pay for the sandwich first," says Shapiro, adding, "I've had too many customers take a bite of some strange concoction they've ordered and then decide it tastes terrible and they don't want it." Super Bowl prediction: "I personally would like Atlanta to win because I like Cinderella stories, but the Broncos have more experience and I have to go with experience." * Place: Wisemiller's, 1236 1/2 36th St. NW, Washington, DC. Call 202-333-8254. Owner: Nabeel Audeh and Jenna Vogel Opened for business: "Since forever," says longtime employee Rose Tucker. The original owner, the late Charlie Wisemiller, opened his tiny grocery and sandwich store more than 50 years ago. Tucker was hired by Wisemiller in 1976. Audeh bought the store in 1982. Sandwich specialty: All kinds, but particularly hot subs. Most popular sandwich: Chicken Madness, a grilled chicken sub with onions, hot and sweet peppers, garlic, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo. Sandwich with the most colorful history: Peggy's Special, a hot turkey sub with mozzarella, green peppers, onions, hot peppers, garlic, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Named after a former longtime employee who created it almost 20 years ago when she was pregnant and craving something good to eat. She went to the grill and made one for herself, but it looked so good, other customers started ordering it as well. Used to be the best-seller until Chicken Madness was introduced in the early '80s. Weirdest request: Chicken Madness, hold the chicken. "I thought it was a joke the first time the woman ordered this," says Tucker, "but she didn't want the chicken, just the rest of the stuff. So that's what she gets." Super Bowl prediction: Atlanta fans, Rose Tucker is in your corner. "I want to see Dan Reeves get that ring. He didn't leave Denver on good terms and he deserves to wear that Super Bowl ring." CAPTION: Kim Gotcher, above left, and Rosemary Barron fill sandwich orders at the Italian Store in Arlington. Among their popular sandwiches is the muffaletta, top, a New Orleans classic, but they make it with an Italian twist. ec