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The Newark hot dog, also known as an Italian hot dog, is a deep fried all-beef frankfurter – usually two; few customers order a single – inserted into half of a capacious circular bun known locally as pizza bread. The bread is sturdy and absorbent and can be squeezed open like a pita pocket to hold not only the hot dog(s) but also sauteed onions and peppers and a heap of potato chunks that have been either deep fried or sauteed. They in turn are dressed with the eater’s choice of ketchup, mustard, marinara sauce, or fire-hot onion relish.
James Racioppi, proprietor of Jimmy Buff’s hot dog restaurants, believes his grandparents, James and Mary Racioppi, originated Newark hot dogs during the Depression as a snack to serve friends who came to their North Ward apartment to play cards each week. “After a while, people started coming just to eat,” Mr. Racioppi says. “So in 1932 they opened a store at 14th and 9th to sell the sandwiches. That was the beginning.” Today at least a dozen different places in and around Newark sell the distinctive dog; most also offer Italian sausage sandwiches and some offer dog-and-sausage combos as well as meat-free sandwiches that contain only vegetables and potatoes.