For Pete McAndrews, “Philly style” is a commitment he makes to customers rather than merely his restaurant’s tagline.
“To me, Philadelphia is honest and it has heart,” said McAndrews, owner of Paesano’s. “Our sandwiches have an edge, a bravado and more gusto. … It’s more in your face than any other place and that’s what is ‘Philly style.’”
“It makes you sit back and say, ‘Why the hell is this sandwich so good?’” he said, while wearing his Paesano’s shirt with the phrase, “Ja eat yet?” — a play on McAndrews’ South Philadelphia roots.
Before Paesano’s, McAndrews said he felt like he could not order a sandwich without having to “fix” it when he got home, inspiring him to create his own sandwich shop and “make sandwiches that don’t need anything.”
“A lot of places make food that’s satisfying your hunger,” he added. “I make food that satisfies your heart and desires.”
McAndrews opened Paesano’s eight years ago. Its fourth and newest location opened shop in the building previously occupied by U Got Munchies on Broad Street near Norris. When the building became available, McAndrews jumped on the “opportunity to expand,” he said.
Paesano’s also has locations in Northern Liberties, South Philadelphia and at Lincoln Financial Field, making the restaurant’s fourth location its first on a college campus.
McAndrews also owns Modo Mio in Northern Liberties and Monsu in South Philadelphia. McAndrews studied in Italy to learn more about the country’s traditional cuisine, and all of his restaurants offer Italian-inspired menus.
Tim Gallagher, the manager of Paesano’s, said the sandwich shop’s offerings are “traditional Italian dishes on a sandwich.”
“It brings a lot to the table,” he said. “It’s not your standard sandwich place. There’s no standard corned beef hoagie or standard Italian hoagie. It’s going to be a little more high-quality.”
From the meats to the cheeses, Gallagher said all of the shop’s ingredients are fresh and none of them are frozen.
Gallagher has been an employee of McAndrews for four years and has worked at least once in every one of his restaurants. He said “nothing’s ever boring” and McAndrews creates fresh, exciting options for customers and employees alike.
“We are in the business to give good food,” he said. “That’s what we can do.”
The Temple location is the first Paesano’s to offer a cheesesteak and fries on the menu, in addition to their regular menu which includes about 20 different sandwiches, soups and salads.
McAndrews created the sandwich shop’s signature sandwich, appropriately named the “Paesano,” about 20 years ago. The sandwich contains beef brisket, horseradish mayo, roasted tomatoes, peperoncino, sharp provolone and a fried egg. The name of the shop and sandwich is a play on the word “paesan,” which means countryman or friend in Italian.
There are also vegetarian options, like the “Giardina” sandwich, which has roasted eggplant, fennel, peppers, mozzarella and basil pesto.
McAndrews said the diversity of the menu reflects the diversity of Temple’s campus and the city of Philadelphia — he said his sandwiches “hit all palates” and there is “something for everyone.”
“Philadelphia is kinda like this melting pot of different cuisine that [McAndrews] has brought all together into sandwiches,” Gallagher said.
To accommodate the “college lifestyle,” McAndrews said Paesano’s will be open until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
“Hopefully, we help out with the hangover cure,” McAndrews said.
McAndrews, who has been cooking since he was eight years old, said his job is “something to look forward to, not something you just do.”
“I love feeding people,” he added. “If a sandwich doesn’t make your day better, it’s not a good sandwich.”
Grace Shallow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.