Italian Hot Dogs
By Tamara Remedios
Philly might tout the cheesesteak, and Chicago has the deep-dish pie, but did you know that Newark's known for its Italian dogs . . . aka the Newark Style Hot Dog? These addictive doggies were named in Jane and Michael Stern's book, 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: And the Very Best Places to Eat Them and they've even been featured on the Travel and Cooking Channels. So what is this delicious delight that has travelers trekking to Newark to taste? We've got the answer. An authentic Italian Hot Dog is served in a specially made "pizza bread," which is fashioned into a pocket like a pita, then coated with mustard on one side and sweet ketchup on the other. The pillowy bread is then stuffed with one or two spicy, all-beef hot dogs – preferably made by Best Provisions here in Newark. Next, the onions and red and green peppers are stuffed into the fresh-baked bread.
The dog is finally topped with sliced, deep-fried potatoes. No need to order a side of fries, this overstuffed sandwich has a mountain of potatoes that are guaranteed to fall into your pool of waiting for ketchup. Best bites are found deep down where the flavors mingle, so take your time. Imitators are everywhere, so if you see a hoagie roll. run away. Matchstick fries are no match for thickly-cut sliced potatoes and a fresh pizza roll bun.
The Italian hot dog was invented in Newark in 1932 by Jimmy "Buff" Racioppi, founder of Jimmy Buff's (Restaurant). Authentic places like Jimmy Buff's prepare the ingredients in a slanted stainless steel rectangular pan with oil on the bottom. The toppings are relegated to the side and dabbed in the oil as needed. The Original Jimmy Buff's of the 1930s is still standing, but has been sold a few times and now goes by World's First Italian Hot Dogs (202 14th Avenue, Newark). The location is still frequented by die-hard Italian dog fans whose allegiance has never wavered.
The popularity of this sandwich grew stratospheric and others began making a claim to fame. Dickie Dee's and Ting-A-Ling's were Buff's top competitors. Ting-A-Ling's is now gone, but Dickie Dee's still serves up a mean dog at their Bloomfield Avenue location (380 Bloomfield Avenue, Newark). Dickie Dee's has been a staple in Newark since the 1950s and is rumored to be Jersey's oldest standing Italian hot dog joint.
It's still owned by the D'Innocenzio family who take pride in their ingredients, using peanut oil to fry and hand cutting their veggies daily. In the 1950s, Dickie Dees tried to mimic the success of the Italian Hot Dog and began serving an Italian Cheeseburger. It didn't become as iconic as the hot dog, but has its own fan club. It's still a staple on the Dickie Dee's menu and adventurous eaters can bite into a bit of Newark history. You'll get an overstuffed pizza bread pocket with two beef patties, and topped with fried vegetables, potatoes, onions and peppers. The perfect late night snack.
Tamara Remedios is a Newark resident, a self-proclaimed foodie, mommy, marketing and events entrepreneur and co-founder of NewarkPulse.com, a positive news site for Newark.