Yes, I have been to the places that invented these ten classic and iconic foods. Of the most famous ten, here are the three I have visited:
OK, this one is open to heated debate. But many sources say that brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri invented this locally beloved cheese-laden meat bomb when they were running a hot dog stand near South Philadelphia’s Italian Market in the 1930s. The sandwich started out with second billing to the franks, but cheesesteak sales soon took off, leading to the opening of Pat’s King of Steaks.
Served on a long crusty roll, the best-known version of the sandwich features chopped beef, chopped onions, and either provolone or, for the true afficionado, Cheez Whiz. Pat’s is still owned and operated by the Olivieri family. When you go, wear something you don’t mind dripping grease on. (I also prefer the pickled peppers on mine for a little zip) Note: Just about every cheesesteak biz in Philly claims to be the inventor, but Pat and Harry are good stewards of the title!
An escargot shortage led Jules Alciatore, son of restaurant founder Antoine Alciatore, to create this dish in 1889. Jules wanted something with the same flavor profile but needed a more readily available protein. In a nod to how rich the taste is, the name is a tribute to millionaire John D. Rockefeller. Antoine’s version consists of oysters in the shell, swimming in butter and topped with a bright green mix of herbs and bread crumbs. Which herbs are used is a closely guarded secret—but unlike imitators, Antoine’s does not use spinach. It’s possible that absinthe was originally part of the recipe, but not anymore. Frommer’s author Diana Schwam says Antoine’s is “as classic as New Orleans dining gets.” (I found it to be quite rich, heavy, and hardly tasted like oysters!) Note: I prefer escargot.
Pizza may well have been around since the ancient Greeks—they used the word pissa to refer to bread topped with vegetables. But it wasn’t until Chicagoans Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo got involved in the food biz in 1943 that pizza truly became a pie. The pair opened the first Pizzeria Uno (now a chain), serving thick, almost casserole-esque pizzas that were cooked not on a flat tray in the Italian manner but in a circular pan with high sides. The dough was patted up the sides of the pans, and the usual mode of applying toppings was inverted, with mozzarella on the bottom of the vegetables and meats. A generous spread of tomato sauce crowns the doughy, gooey goodness.
The original location is still welcoming guests, with a second, Pizzeria Due, just across the street. Franchised restaurants elsewhere are known as Uno Pizzeria & Grill. (It is a gooey mess, I prefer thin crust always!) Note: Give me my Serious Pie from Tom Douglas in Seattle anytime!
I can’t say I am crazy about Deep Dish or Rockefeller. But I did enjoy the cheesesteaks in Philly. Pizza in Chicago reminds me more of lasagna than pizza. It is heavy and difficult to eat more than a few bites. Oysters should be eaten raw; you can have the Rockefellers. But Philly cheesesteaks are just great, and just about anywhere in Philly serves a good one!
The other famous ten are: Red Velvet Cake, Parker House Rolls, the Ice Cream Cone, California Roll (everyone claims this one too), Brownies (everyone claims this one as well), the Hamburger and Buffalo Wings.