Aug 10, 2023 - Food and Drink

How Hoagie Dom earned his sandwich hype

One of Hoagie Dom's sammie masterpieces. Photo: Courtesy of Dominic Rocconi

Philadelphia's self-described "nomad sandwich maker" is nearing two years since he broke into the city's cutthroat hoagie scene.

Why it matters: Since launching his Northern Liberties pop-up in 2021, Dominic Rocconi, better known as "Hoagie Dom," has turned his one-man operation into a contender for the city's "hottest sandwich."

Driving the news: Rocconi is ramping up his pop-ups at Bardot Cafe this fall. He tells Axios his next sammie pop-up is scheduled for Sept. 10, and he's planning two more events for Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 to close out the year.

  • He'll share more information on Instagram about how to reserve your spot the week of the event.

How it started: Rocconi started out on Instagram reviewing hoagies around Philly. When the pandemic hit, he began making his own sandwiches at home and traded them with local businesses.

  • They were a hit, and people took notice. "How can I get one?" they'd ask. Naturally, the pop-ups followed.
  • And then came strategic planning and branding — after all, Rocconi's day job is in advertising. His wife designed the logo.

Pulling off one of these pop-ups is "no small feat." On the day of an event, Rocconi rises — just like his culinary creations — early. He has an espresso, then heads to Kismet Bagels in Kensington to bake his own bread.

  • An architect of the artisanal, he uses the finest meats and cheeses, some imported from Italy or purchased at well-known Philly spots like Di Bruno Bros.

He's fastidious to a fault. Gutted center loaves — a strict Philly tradition — create room for more ingredients, folded in like fresh clothes.

  • Not a spread of mayo too thick, nor a leaf of arugula out of place.

What they're saying: "Is it a pickled onion or is it a marinated onion? Is it a grated grana padano or is it a grated pecorino romano?" says Rocconi.

  • He's cooking for posterity after learning from the best — his late nonna and aunt. He recalled enjoying bountiful spreads of ravioli and polenta, and thimbles of espresso, during family gatherings and holidays.
  • Rocconi also draws inspiration from regular trips to Italy.

His North Star? Keep it simple, stupid.

  • "Let the quality of products speak for itself," Rocconi tells Axios. "You don't need to overcomplicate things."

It's working. Securing reservations to this pop-up is like scoring a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. They're usually booked up within minutes.

  • During a recent collaboration with Cuzzy's Ice Cream Parlor, Philadelphians snapped up 126 focaccia sandwich and ice cream combos in 105 minutes.
  • "Philly's a big fan of Philly," Rocconi says, explaining the infatuation with the homemade hoagies. "We're really proud of the product we produce."

What's next: Might a brick-and-mortar shop be in Hoagie Dom's future? Maybe, he says coyly.

  • "Every Italian American's dream is to own a sandwich shop one day," he said.

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