March 27, 2016

Hoagie Quest: Matt & Marie's Italian Stallion

Since opening in 2014 near Logan Square, Matt & Marie's has quietly built a solid reputation with their modern Italian take on sandwiches. Co-owners Nicole "Marie" Capp and Justin "Matt" Sapolsky are also expanding the concept to Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square. Apparently, the business plan they wrote at Wharton said to open locations near squares!

I finally visited the original location to find out if I missed Matt & Marie's glory days before the challenges of expansion hit home. The sandwich shop is set up similar to a Subway where you order at one end and the hoagie is passed along the queue. It's quick and efficient, but leaves you wondering if the pre-sliced meat is fresh and high quality.

No need to worry. After the first bite of their Italian Stallion, you know Matt & Marie's brings it with the meat. Their combination of Molinari fennel salami, Genoa salami and sweet coppa hits your tastebuds like a cured-meat Starburst. Unlike bland provolone used by so many other shops, Matt & Marie's uses Claudio's, which is actually sharp. Clearly, the foundation of the Italian Stallion has all the makings of a great hoagie. Unfortunately, a house needs more than a foundation and that's trouble with this place.

The bread lacked freshness and had a Wawa-like quality. Not, bad, but certainly not good enough match Hoagie Quest's best. My two biggest issues, though, were with the hoagie's construction and the pepperoncini aioli.

Good flavor but poorly spread 
As the pictures show, neither the cheese nor the pickled peppers, which were very good, were spread throughout the hoagie. That's a basic hoagie building block and a miscue that should never occur. The menu also says onions are included, but I only noticed a stray slice.

While the pepperoncici aioli tasted quite good, to a traditionalist like myself it's a sneaky trick to get around the no-mayo-on-an-Italian rule. The flavor also overpowers the quality meat and cheese. I would prefer to have a pepperoncini oil instead.

In the end, Matt & Marie's makes a good hoagie and I'd definitely go back to try others, but I'm leery of the expansion since the execution was already lacking at the original location. Also, be mindful of the "modern Italian" tagline and as you will want to hunt somewhere else for a traditional hoagie.

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