“Big John” (Vespucci’s)

Today’s sandwich is the “Big John” from Vespucci’s. It combines American, Swiss, Provolone, and Mozzarella cheeses, with ham, Capicola, Genoa salami, and something called “American” salami. The sandwich is also topped with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, chopped onions, and pickles.

Location: 211 Danforth Street
Price: $6.35 (small 6″)
Notes: There’s no reason to tiptoe around the issue. This sandwich is an ungodly mess. While I’m certainly no snob when it comes to sandwiches, having enjoyed Vespucci’s particular brand of downmarket Italian sandwich in the past, the “Big John” really aggressively flies in the face of what I think a good sandwich should be. It’s worth having once in your life, just so you can see how insane it is. Gone are the demure whispers of budget sliced ham, and forgotten is the thick, crusty bread. This sandwich, and likely “Big John,” himself, punishes you with layer upon layer of meat, artlessly slapped onto a weakling of a hero roll, alternated with various slices of different dry, salty cheese. The bread had all but disintegrated into a skinny, soggy mess by the time I got it home. The vegetables were flinging themselves out of the sandwich in abject horror. The gas-station paper towels that came with the sandwich were not enough to sop up the oil that was pouring off the end, with each lift to my mouth.

It felt like I was just eating two huge handfuls of lunchmeat. It was as though I had gone to the deli counter at Hannaford, and asked the butcher to let me come behind the counter and catch a big mitt-full of cold, wet ham, easily two or three sandwiches worth, as it peeled off the slicer, before shoveling it angrily into my mouth. In fact, that would have been preferable: had I gone to Hannaford, I could (possibly) have avoided seeing a 90-pound girl trying to trade her WIC check for a pack of Newports.

My kitchen is a mess, with oil and limp vegetables everywhere. My dog is in a salami-stupor in the next room, and I still have a Ziplock bag full of half-eaten pink lunchmeat that I will never finish, sitting in my fridge. At only a little over $6 bucks, this is a ton of food, for the money…though it’s not particularly food you want to eat. In this case, “value” isn’t really the issue. Going forward, when ordering a sandwich at Vespucci’s, I will remember to stick to the smaller, simpler items, particularly the ones that don’t have a man’s name in the title. This one got the best of me.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as Brocavore, a blog focusing on street food culture, and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.


Leave a Reply