Italian Hot Dogs of Newark

by Ralph J. Chin


Does anybody remember the Italian Hot Dogs of Newark, New Jersey? They used to be made at every respectable pizzeria claiming to be a real Italian food place! I remember eating them during the week but mostly on the weekends. Sometimes I would cook them late at night as a snack for my Dad and myself on my Mom’s gas stove but this effort was never as good as the one’s in the pizzeria’s because I didn’t have the pizza bread they used. I understand they are still being made today at various eateries around New Jersey. Most notably at Jimmy Buff’s and Dickey Dee’s. Jimmy Buff’s has been credited for their creation around 1932 and so these type of hot dogs have been around a long time but only in New Jersey! Apparently its status in the Italian food chain has slipped over the decades but my taste buds still yearn for the taste of them from the distant past.

So! If you claim to be from Newark and you’ve never had one of these Italian hot dogs, shame on you! These hot dogs are an experience you just need to try at least once in your Newark life. It consists of an all-natural casing real beef hot dog, sliced potatoes, onions and green bell peppers which are shallow fried in oil with maybe a little seasoning. There was a special round pizza bread which was cut in half and then sliced internally to create a pocket to hold the ingredients. I always added a little mustard…..okay, a LOT of mustard into this pocket before anything else went in. Nothing fancy here, just plain old French’s yellow mustard followed by the hot dog stuffed into the bread along with the potatoes, peppers and onions piled on top of it. A side view would show the half circle of the bread with the ends of the hot dog sticking out on each end with the potatoes, onions and bell peppers piled on above the bread line. Another squirt of mustard on the top of this heap would be a perfect finish to it. Obviously I’m a mustard lover and I personally can’t stand to watch people put ketchup on a hot dog! My stepson puts ketchup on his hot dogs so I showed him the 1983 Clint Eastwood film of “Sudden Impact” where Dirty Harry says to his partner who is eating a hot dog. “You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It’s watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs! Nobody…..I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog!!” I’m with you Dirty Harry, must be some kind of genetic defect. LOL!

At any rate, the skin of the hot dog and potatoes would be a little crunchy from their frying time in the oil. The peppers and onions would be sufficiently cooked so they wilted into a sloppy mess to form a tasty mouthful as you sank your teeth into the delicious bread and all the ingredients inside of it. Sounds simple yet at one time it was only made in Newark and certainly today, only in New Jersey. I haven’t had one since I left Jersey in 1975 and when I asked for it by name at some the hot dog eateries around Hawaii and Florida during my travels, they looked at me as if I was speaking Yiddish or Chinese to them! I would suspect its origin was probably someplace in North Newark because this area had a large Italian population at one time but don’t quote me on this! It was more common as a lunch meal and big enough to require you to use two hands in the process of eating it. You could get one with two hot dogs or sausages but I never, ever, approached the famine level needed to devour this type of meal!


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