When I moved from the east coast last year it was with the understanding that I would be leaving certain things behind. I wasn’t upset about this, I understood that if I wanted my shot at the sunshine I would have to leave things like snow and effective mass transit systems behind. I don’t regret my decision at all, but all the same I spend a fair amount of time trying to relate my life out here to the things I knew there, trying to find echoes and impressions of life back east. As my associates and I drove over to the restaurant I wondered how faithful it would be to the establishments I had known and loved in the past. I must say that were I to judge it solely on the design Giamela’s is a wonderful establishment, almost designed specifically for the transplant. Plastic checkered tablecloths covered the tables. The price for a refill was written on a paper plate and taped to the side of the soda fountain. The menu tacked to the wall displayed the restaurant’s original offerings in proper printing, with later additions and revisions written below in all capital letters. The atmosphere was as authentic eye-talian as I was likely to find, but this is not a blog about atmosphere.
As you can see from the photo, the sausage sandwich at Giamela’s includes onions. You cannot see that it also includes sausage and a sharp marinara sauce. All of these things are standard and I would have been more than pleased if they were the only things presented. Giamela’s went above and beyond what I might expect and included peppers, carrots and pickles. I had seen on the menu board that these things were included in the sandwich and I could have asked that they prepare my sandwich differently. I didn’t make that request because when I stopped to consider it, I was very curious about what they had done to the idea of a sausage sandwich. And what they’ve done is….well, they’ve added carrots and pickles. The sandwich was tasty enough, but I couldn’t get past what I saw as interlopers. They added nothing to the sandwich, with the pickles bringing an unwelcome sour crunch and the carrots an equally unwelcome brightness. How had they gotten there? My only guess is this: The idea of a sausage sandwich was, some time ago, carried west via the children’s game of Telephone. From person to person the recipie went, and somewhere around St. Louis “peppers” became “pickles.” 1500 miles later Phoenix made sure to twist “caramelized onions” into “carrots and onions” and in a grimy joint in Los Angeles the whole thing came together. And that left me, pleased with the note-perfect decor but less satisfied with one odd sandwich.