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Primanti Bros.
Various Locations
15 Restaurants in the Pittsburgh area and 4 in Florida

My wife is from the PIttsburgh area, so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time there, and unless her parents decide to relocate to Lewes, DE permanently (please, oh please!) then I see even more trips in the near & distant future.

One of those Pittsburgh institutions that’s hard to ignore, especially these days is Primanti Bros. – a sandwich shop famous for big, meaty sandwiches – sliced meat and cheese stuffed between two slices of sourdough bread along with – get this – cole slaw and fries.  Yep, right in the sandwich!  Odd?  Yes.  Delicious?  Oh, yes!!  And there’s a reason behind this, of course, and I’ve copied it directly from there website:

A Photo From The Original Primanti Bros.

Back in the 1930’s, Joe Primanti opened a cart in the Strip District selling sandwiches to truckers on the go. It was decided that he should expand to a small restaurant on 18th Street. The hours were 3am to 3pm to accomodate truckers and the like. His brothers, Dick and Stanley, joined him along with nephew John DePriter who was the cook.

According to John, “One winter, a fella drove in with a load of potatoes. He brought a few of ’em over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. I fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. A few of our customers asked for them, so I put the potatoes on their sandwiches.” And the rest is history. The Primanti Sandwich: a true taste of Pittsburgh.

Joe moved to California in the 40’s for health reasons and the tradition continued on for 30 years with Dick, Stanley and John.

 With the passing of Stanley in the early 70’s and John in 1974, Dick decided to sell the business.  Jim Patrinos bought the business in 1974 and re-opened in 1975 after minor modifications to the existing property. With the business flourishing and the original location expanding to 24 hours, Jim decided to open more locations. The second Primanti Bros. location was in Oakland near the University of Pittsburgh. Business took off with hungry students and doctors in the area, so expansion was on the horizon again, adding Cherry Way (downtown Pittsburgh), South Side, Market Square and, in time, Three Rivers Stadium.

In 1998, Primanti’s started growing into the suburbs of Pittsburgh while expanding the menu. Pizza, wings, salads and more were added to the “Almost Famous” Sandwich menu.

Three Rivers Stadium went out with a bang in 2001, so Primanti’s (ever the sports fans) set up shops in the new venues: Heinz Field and PNC Park.

Chicken Combo Platter

My first Primanti Bros. experience was at the original location.  We got an order of pickles, and chili fries.  There wasn’t much else on the menu besides that, the sandwiches, and beer.  I got the capicola with cheese, their vinegar based cole slaw, and fries.  I’ve since enjoyed a sandwich at PNC Park, and most recently in their Cranberry Township location.

I’ll be honest – the Cranberry location could be any old cookie cutter sports bar.  There’s plenty of sports panaphenalia on the walls, waiters and waitresses who pretend to not care, and greasy, fatty appetizers like the combination of wings, fried mushrooms, chicken tenders, & onion rings.  The food isn’t bad.  Not at all.  And the sandwiches (I had my usual capicola) are just as good as the originals.  What’s missing though is the charm of the old place.  The remnance of a different time when Pittsburgh really was the steel city. 

Capicola w/ Cheese, Slaw, & Fries on Sourdough

My preference will always be to eat at the Strip District location, but if none of that matters to you, then by all means find your closest spot, order up, and enjoy!

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