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    Posted December 6, 2012 by
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    100 places to eat like a local

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    Culinary Adventure: Tommy DiNic's

    Entering Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market is akin to entering a giant Middle Eastern bazaar - food stalls of varied cultural identity intermix with handmade goods such as soaps and apparel. The phrase, "If you can't find it here, you can't find it anywhere" springs to mind. In the center of this food and merchandise mecca sits Tommy DiNic's. If you didn't know any better you would think that it was just any old sub joint, serving up the usual Philly cheese steak and pork sandwich. The line wrapped around this open air "restaurant" is the first indicator that this place is special. The large trophy sitting in the center - Best Sandwich in America, as awarded by the Travel Channel Show Best Sandwich in America, hosted by Adam Richman - is your second clue. The silence from the patrons perched on the bar stools that line the perimeter of DiNic's proves that these people are enjoying their sandwiches way too much to take a conversation break. From the moment I entered Reading Terminal Market, I had one mission, to try one of DiNic's famous pulled pork sandwiches, complete with broccoli rabe and provolone cheese. And so, with parents in tow, I got in line to try what many others knew to be the best sandwich in America.

    Tommy DiNic's is a Philadelphia institution. The Nicolosi family has been feeding hungry Philadelphians for the last 100 years, since 1918 when Gaetano Nicolosi opened a butcher shop and called it Nicolosi's. In the 1970's DiNic's was born - the brain child of cousins Tommy Nicolosi and Franky DiClaudio. By combining their names they came up with DiNic's. The original DiNic's was located at 10th and Oregan. In the 1980s, the cousins decided to split up the business; Franky taking his half to 10th and Reed and Tommy making Reading Terminal Market his home. The Reading Terminal Market location of DiNic's is now run by Tommy and his son Joey. It is their commitment to the made-from-scratch process that keeps people coming back for more.

    This being my first visit to the Reading Terminal Market I was initially overwhelmed, both visually and aromatically. After a slight detour to a stand that boasted homemade honey and candles made from beeswax, I got back on track and made my way down the center aisle toward DiNic's. Located roughly in the center of Reading Terminal Market, DiNic's is hard to miss, both because of its signage but also because of the large crowd surrounding it. We got in the line, which wrapped 3/4 of the way around the restaurant. The menu is short and to the point: roast pork, roast beef, Italian sausage, and homemade meatballs. You can also get hand carved roast pork or beef brisket. As for toppings, you have your choice of broccoli rabe, provolone, sauteed spinach, or roasted peppers. As I had been planning this visit to DiNic's for months, I knew what I was going to order and did not need to consult the menu board. As luck would have it, three stools opened up as we were waiting in line to order our sandwiches. We quickly claimed them and I commenced my surveillance of the other diners. All were elbow deep into their sandwiches and all had the same blissful expression on their faces - like there was nowhere else they would rather be at this moment. I could not wait to experience my own food nirvana. A server quickly took our order and while we waited I checked out the food prep process.

    Because of its location the whole place is open for viewing. The dining counter surrounds the kitchen area. There are soda fountains in one area and the sandwiches are built on the other side. Our sandwiches were created right before our eyes - first the bread was sliced up the middle, next came a few slices of provolone, sliced fresh off the cheese block, then a heavy helping of pulled pork, extracted dripping with goodness from the slow cooker, and finally, the broccoli rabe, piled high on top. The sandwich is cut almost in half and wrapped up in wax paper before being placed in a red basket. As business was booming, this whole process was done quickly, but with practiced precision. My first bite was one of shock - I was not expecting the bitterness of the broccoli rabe having never tasted it before. On its own, probably not my favorite green, but when combined with the pork, cheese and bread, was a fascinating taste bud experience. The broccoli rabe is slow cooked with garlic and other spices. The pork was juicy and tender, each bite an explosion of flavorful juices. The provolone cheese was delicious and gave a salty zing to the pork and rabe combination. The roll was fresh baked and fluffy - the stuff bread-lovers dream about. While consuming my sandwich bits and pieces of other people's conversations floated into my ears. Many of those in the line had not been here before, their visit prompted by the Travel Channel show, Man vs Food. Almost all were planning to order the sandwich that I was quickly consuming. Before I knew it, I had finished the first half of my sandwich. I had the second half packed up for a future lunch. We left DiNic's with happy, full stomachs and thoughts of return visits.

    When I was a kid, food held no special significance for me. I knew what I liked and what I didn't like - at least I thought I did. This would explain why it took me so long to explore Reading Terminal Market and Tommy DiNic's. What I couldn't appreciate as a kid, I am making up for as an adult. My visit to DiNic's was everything I expected it to be, delicious, slightly hectic, and a family affair. It was only fitting that my first DiNic's sandwich was experienced with my parents on either side of me - one family enjoying another's culinary heritage.

    "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
    -Andre Gide
    This iReport is part of an assignment that we created with Travel + Leisure:  100 places to eat like a local
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