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In a city known for its sandwiches, which one represents us best? That’s what we set out to answer with our Ultimate Philly Sandwich Bracket.

The contest — which was presented by Yards Brewing Co. because Philly beer + Philly sandwiches = the best, obvs — started off with 32 contenders chosen from all corners of Philadelphia. There were longtime standards like the Schmitter from McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill and new favorites like the cauliflower hoagie from Enzo’s in West Philly. Traditional best-sellers like DiNic’s pulled pork Italiano and runaway upstarts like Paesano’s Arista. The Wawa Gobbler even made it on there, though it lost in the first round.

(Quick methodology note: We made the decision to exclude cheesesteaks, burgers and hot dogs from the conversation, because for one thing, we didn’t want to get into a debate about what actually is a sandwich, really? and also because each of those categories deserves their own bracket. In other words, stay tuned.)

When we got down to the Final Four, we held a free tasting in the Rotunda at the Shops at Liberty so people could sample the options in person. We had adorable miniature Federal Donuts fried chicken sandwiches, baby versions of John’s Roast Pork with spinach and provolone, slices of old fashioned Italian hoagies from Ricci’s and petite pita pockets filled with falafel from Mama’s Vegetarian.


After the in-person ballots were combined with the online votes, the two finalists were set, and they couldn’t have been more classic: John’s Roast Pork’s namesake and the Italian from Ricci’s.

The owners of these two South Philly institutions each consider themselves a winner. “The way we look at it, I won the hot sandwiches side, and Ricci’s won the cold sandwiches,” said John Bucci Jr., the third-generation proprietor of the Snyder Avenue shack his family opened in 1930.

True, all true. But someone has to come out on top, and after more than a thousand votes in the final round, we have a winner. Billy Penn readers have spoken:

John’s Roast Pork is the Ultimate Philly Sandwich.

Congrats! And major thanks to Yards, all the sandwich makers who came out for the Final Four tasting and to you, for helping determine the answer to this important  and pressing question.


Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...