Years ago Jane and I came across a roadside tourist attraction with a sign outside that said, “Prepare to be Amazed.” I offer the same advice to anyone who goes to Carbone’s Market for a grinder (Connecticut’s word for a hero or hoagie). These sandwiches are huge. Lengthwise, yes – available as an 8-inch regular, as a Super-Sub, which seems about as long as a healthy newborn baby, and as a family-sized Extra Large, which I hadn’t the courage to order. But length is not their most outstanding trait. What’s truly amazing is girth. Each torpedo is a half-foot tall with an 18-inch circumference – far too large for any human jaw to encompass. In addition to the main ingredient of choice, which ranges from bologna to veal loaf – piled on in superabundance – all sandwiches come festooned with lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, oil, and spice. Other garnish options include bacon, onions, olives, pickles, and peppers.
The roast beef grinder, recommended by indefatigable Roadfood.com contributor ketteract, is sensational, its beef velvet soft, rich, and flavorful. It would not be exciting on its own, but piled high in grinder form and boosted by a hail of pepper and salt and sliced onion and tomato and mayo and peppers, it is a hugely satisfying package. The bread that holds all these ingredients is sturdy enough. However, as is typical of Connecticut grinders, it is not a memorable loaf.
Grinders star, but Carbone’s also has a steam table with hot dishes. A sign above the cauldron of chili warns HOT; but it is not. It’s good northern-style chili with great clods of ground beef and beans in a tomato-red emulsion that is a little bit sweet and just whisperingly peppery.
Carbone’s is a neighborhood grocery store where just about everyone ordering sandwiches at the counter is a regular customer known to the staff. There is no indoor seating and just a trio of picnic tables along the sides of an adjoining parking area. Grinders are presented firmly swaddled in heavy butcher paper, making it easy to carry them to wherever they’ll be eaten. But do not expect to munch one while driving anywhere. They’re cut in two pieces, but even half a sandwich is a two-handed proposition, and some sort of drop-cloth is necessary to catch all the ingredients that inevitably tumble out.