Meatballs served with spaghetti is an Italian-American creation; the dish of “spaghetti and meatballs” became popular in American in the 1920s, just after the first World War.
The Italian-American meatball sandwich has gone under several regional names. The sandwich is usually served on French bread with a thick, tomato-based sauce. Parmesan cheese is often added.
Meatball Sandwich (Meat Ball Sandwich): “Meatball sandwich” is cited in print from at least 1932, when it was served in an Italian restaurant in Chicago, IL. The name “meatball sandwich” (or “Italian meatball sandwich") is still used today, but is usually replaced by the other sandwich names.
Meatball Hoagie (Meat Ball Hoagie): “Meat ball hoagie” is cited in print since 1950. The term is about as popular as “meatball grinder” and “meatball hero.”
Meatball Hero (Meat Ball Hero): Manganaro’s Heroboy, located at 494 Ninth Avenue in New York City, separated from Manganaro’s Italian Groceria in 1956. Manganaro’s has been serving hero sandwiches—and probably meatball heros—since at least the 1940s. “Hero” is the name used in New York City. The plural is “heros,” but is often spelled “heroes.” The name “meatball hero” is almost equal in popularity as “meatball hoagie” and “meatball grinder.”
Meatball Grinder (Meat Ball Grinder): “Meatball grinder” is cited in print from 1957. The term is almost equal in popularity as “meatball hero” and “meatball hoagie.”
Meatball Sub (Meat Ball Sub): “Meatball sub” (short for “meatball submarine sandwich") is cited in print since at least 1960. The Subway chain of restaurants placed a “meatball sub” on its “$5 footlong” menu. “Meatball sub” is more popular than all of the other meatball sandwich names.
5 July 1932, San Mateo (CA) Times, “It Seems To Me” by Heywood Broun (NY Telegram), pg. 10, col. 7:
In addition to beer he served ravioli, spaghetti and meatball sandwiches, which is not a bad thing to know on any week-end when Senator Barkley is making a keynote speech.
I am frank to admit that during all these portions of the speech I was at Joe’s eating a meatball sandwich.
(Joe’s, a Chicago restaurant owned by Frank Vitoretti—ed.)
By Albert Halper
New York, NY: The Viking Press
He carried a lunch of cold meat-ball sandwiches under his arm and his pocket bulged with a nice big rosy apple
13 April 1935, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 25, col. 4 ad:
FREE MEAT BALL SANDWICH
With each Glass of Beer
(Orlando Cafe and Beer Garden—ed.)
23 August 1935, Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune, pg. 14, col. 1 ad:
ITALIAN MEAT BALL SANDWICH
11 December 1935, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, pg. 7, col. 1 ad:
DELICIOUS MEAT BALL SANDWICH
12 July 1939, Olean (NY) Times-Herald, pg. 11, col. 5 ad:
Featuring a New
MEAT BALL SANDWICH
A treat if there ever was one—with Olives and peperoni. Only...10c
10 December 1942, Orange Country Star Eagle (Middletown, NY), pg. 10, col. 5 ad:
Hot Meatball Sandwich 15c
(Little Jimmie’s in Middletown—ed.)
13 December 1945, Troy (NY) Record, pg. 26, col. 1 ad:
Hot Meatball Sandwiches with Sauce
(Variety Store Luncheonette in Watervliet—ed.)
Mrs. Candy and Saturday Night
By Robert Tallant
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
“Got meatball sandwiches, roast beef, ham, luncheon meat, salami-and-cheese.”
3 November 1950, Benton Harbor (MI) News-Palladium, pg. 3, col. 1 ad:
TRY OUR MEAT BALL HOAGIE SANDWICH
23 May 1956, Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette, pg. 18, col. 7 ad:
MEAT BALL HOAGIES daily...25c
(New Second Ward Hotel—ed.)
4 June 1957, North Adamas (MA) Transcript, pg. 5, col. 1 ad:
Hot Sausage and Meatball Grinders
(Eagle Coffee Shop—ed.)
28 July 1958, New York (NY) Times, pg. 27:
Business was bustling at the front of the shop, where hero sandwiches filled with delectable cold cuts like mortadella, prosciutto ham and imported cheese or with fried eggplant, meat balls or sausages are made to order.
(Trinaeria Importing Company, 415 Third Avenue at Twenty-eighth Street—ed.)
14 August 1958, New York (NY) Times, “Food-Stores on Ninth Ave. A Paradise for the Epicure” by Craig Claiborne, pg. 20:
Manganaro’s (488 Ninth Avenue—ed.) is widely known to some New Yorkers for its hero sandwiches. At the noon hour, customers arrive by the hundreds to select their sandwich fillings. There is a list of ingredients that may be used in any combination. THese include salami, cheese, prosciutto, peppers, pickled eggplant, tuna, meat balls or sausages in tomato sauce and eggs scrambled with green peppers.
11 April 1959, The Derrick (Oil City, PA), TV Guide, pg. 3, col. 1 ad:
MEAT BALL OR SUBMARINE SANDWICH
(The Pizza Villa—ed.)
1 July 1960, Lebanon (PA) Daily News, pg. 10, col. 4 ad:
Meat Ball Subs
7 July 1960, New York (NY) Times, “Midday in Manhattan: The Sandwich Is King” by Craig Claiborne, pg. 34:
Perhaps the most fascinating sandwich list in the city is that of Manganaro’s Hero-Boy Restaurant, 488 Ninth Avenue. THere is a host of sandwich makers behind the counter filled with fried sausages, meat balls, peppers cooked in olive oil, eggs and pepper, ricotta, caponatina, and pepperoni.
24 September 1960, Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA), pg. 18, col. 7 ad:
If you’re hungry, try our hot sausage or meat ball grinders (with or without sauce)...
20 November 1960, Bridgeport (CT) Post, pg. C19, col. 8:
Meat Ball Grinder 30c
(Johnny Kay’s Restaurant in Milford—ed.)
What Cooks in Suburbia
By Lila Perl
New York, NY: Dutton
“LITTLE HEROES” (YIELD: 8 SERVINGS) These diminutive, but far from dainty, hot sandwiches are a shaved-down version of the famous Italian meat-ball hero.
23 June 1961, Naugatuck (CT) Daily News, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
Sausage & Submarine Grinders
23 March 1964, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, pg. 16, col. 2 ad:
MEAT BALL HERO SANDWICH
Reg. 75c 65c
9 January 1965, The Derrick (Oil City, PA), pg. 2, col. 3 ad:
Meatball Subs 45c
25 February 1965, The Capital (Annapolis, MD), pg. 32, col. 4 ad:
Meatball Sub Sandwich
Re. 50c Value
6 August 1965, Benton Harbor (MI) News-Palladium, pg. 7, col. 3 ad:
“A Meal In Itself”
2 December 1965, New York (NY) Times, pg. 32:
THOMAS PEARSALL FIELD HOVING, the newly appointed Commissioner of Parks, is a dashing man of action who flits around town on a Jawa motorcycle and eats meatball hero sandwiches.
22 April 1966, Aiken (SC) Standard and Review, pg. 9, col. 4:
2 lbs. ground beef chuck
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic flavored monosodium glutamate
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 cans tomato soup
1-3 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
8 hero rolls, split
Place meat in a large mixing bowl. SPrinkle bread crumbs over meat. Toss lightly. In a small bowl, lightly beat together onion, monosodium glutamate, pepper, seasoning salt and eggs. Pour over meat mix, and combine, using a kitchen fork. Shape into one to one and one-half inch meatballs. Melt shortening in a skillet. Brown meatballs on all sides. Set aside. Meatballs may be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point, then reheated at party time in the following sauce: combine soup, green pepper and seasoning in a saucepan. Simmer five minutes. Place three or four meatballs on bottom of split rolls, add a little sauce. Then add tops of rolls and serve. Enough for six to eight.
12 February 1971, Morgantown (WV) Dominion-News, “Heroes stretch ground beef” by Aileen Claire (NEA Food Editor), pg. 5B, col. 1:
Pickle meatball hero stretches ground beef. (Photo caption—ed.)
PICKLE MEAT BALL HEROES
A guide to student finances
By Harvard Student Agencies
New York, NY: Dutton
Sell them meatball subs, water beds, typing services.
12 March 1973, New York magazine, pg. 86, col. 2 classified ad:
The good olde days are back at McGinnis’ nostalgic Pianola Room just west of Broadway at 48th Street. Enjoy foot long chili dogs, meatball heros, burgers, fish ‘n’ chips, booze, beer in pitchers and wine in carafes while singing along to the piano roll music of yesteryear. Nothing over $1.95.
Man Against Work
Compiled by Lloyd Zimpel
Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
He must hump cargo late into the night, eat meatball heroes for supper, drink coffee that starts to taste like oil, and then hope that his car starts when it’s time to go home.
The Poppy Children
By E. B. Sachem
Published by Myrmidon Pub. Co.
He walked through the crisp, night air to a sub shop and ordered a meatball sub and a coffee.