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 The essenTial iTalian
More Than Just a Sandwich story and photos by Aranka Matolcsy
 The Amato’s Italian is the original of all, invented by Giovannni Amato in the early 1900s.This unique combina- tion of vegetables, meat and cheese made this simple sandwich the institu- tion it is today.
“Too few people understand a really good sandwich.”
~ James Beard
I always thought it was funny that the cheese on Italian sandwiches is Ameri- can cheese. And after decades of loving Italians, I learned why, and so much more on my search through western Maine for the perfect Italian.
I was born and raised right here in western Maine. One of the first foods I ate outside of my home was an Italian sandwich. Since it did not come out
of our kitchen, it seemed so magical! During my adventures to other states, I craved Italian sandwiches more than anything else, and I caused quite a bit of confusion trying to order them anywhere west of the White Mountains.
Writing this story has been a real “dream job.” It doesn’t get any better than meandering through beautiful mountain settings, quaint town centers, and lush valleys on a quest for my favorite concoction. And the people I talked to along the way galvanized what I have always suspected: what some call the Maine State Sandwich is SO much more than “just a sandwich.”
I figured I would get sick of eating Italians at some point along the way. I surely devoured the most ever, and in the shortest period of time in my life. Did I get remotely burnt out on them? Nope! I had real revelations! And I would book this tour all over again, in a heartbeat.
To clarify, I am talking about the Original Real Italian, not to be confused with the ubiquitous classic Italian cold cut sub, common at any sandwich shop, anywhere in the country, and known by names such as “hoagie” and “grinder.” No, we are talking about a sandwich that is as intrinsic to Maine as the chickadee; a sandwich that spread in popularity like wildfire, that has fu- eled generations of workers, and left travelers from all over the world longing for a taste of more.
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