Legendary Denver chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno knows his way around a sandwich. First of all, he hails from Dirty Jersey, as its affectionately known by residents, land of Taylor ham, real bagels, and delis galore. He brought a taste of his sandwich haven home to Denver when he opened a deli, Salt & Grinder, in the Highlands last year.
His trail of sandwiches across Denver at his many restaurants is long and meandering. A French Dip with smoked provolone at Lou’s Food Bar. A Tuscan panini at Osteria Marco. The Burnt End sandwich on a potato roll at Russell’s Smokehouse. And at Salt & Grinder, The Frankie, served on a grinder roll made as closely to Bonanno’s NJ specs as possible by Grateful Bread Company. Yes, it’s safe to say, Bonanno knows how to put together a good sandwich.
In honor of National Sandwich Day (Tuesday, November 3), we asked Bonanno for his tips on how to make the ultimate sandwich.
The bread: “A sandwich is all about the bread,” Bonanno says.
- Go for a soft (not crunchy) baguette.
- If your baguette or bread is too thick, remove some of the middle.
- Slice your meats paper-thin, and don’t be afraid to insist upon this at the deli. “You have to stand up for your sandwich,” Bonanno says.
- If you’re buying salami or prosciutto, make sure they’re sliced extra thin and layered individually on parchment paper. Otherwise, they’ll stick together.
- High-quality is important, and Boar’s Heads meats is Bonanno’s trustworthy brand of choice.
- If you can, cook your own meats at home. Salt & Grinder roasts its own beef for sandwiches like the
Rare Beast, with rare roast beef, mayo, salt, pepper, lettuce, and tomato.
- The rule of thin slicing applies here, too. Overly chunky vegetables will fall out of your sandwich.
- For lettuce, Bonanno prefers iceberg shaved as thinly as possible so it’s not just a “flat soggy piece of lettuce.”
- Bonanno also likes adding pepperoncini for spice and marinated cherry peppers that he makes himself. “Anything homemade really makes a difference,” he says.
The cheese: Bonanno loves a high quality American cheese in small doses, so as not to overpower the other flavors.
The condiments: Bonanno likes to make pesto from his garden, and makes all his vinaigrettes fresh daily—both at home and at Salt & Grinder.
Secret ingredients: “Salt and pepper are the most left behind ingredients,” Bonanno says. “Don’t forget to season—I can’t stress that enough.”
General sandwich-making wisdom
- “Create your sandwich like you are creating any other dish. Balance the ratio of meats, veggies, and condiments.”
- While a bag of chips is fine now and then, stellar sides take the sandwich experience to the next level. Salt & Grinder puts as much thought into their sides as they do their sandwiches.
- Don’t forget about breakfast sandwiches! “The fried egg sandwich is the quintessential East Coast breakfast,” Bonanno explains. A few times a year, he takes his boys back East and starts the day at a bodega or local deli with a simple sandwich on a toasted Kaiser roll with an over-easy egg, salt, pepper, and pork roll or bacon. “Typically, you put ketchup on it, but my kids hate ketchup on their egg sandwiches,” Bonanno says.
For more sandwich-making wisdom, see our tips from sandwich slingers across Denver!
By Maya Silver | Editor