R.I. Hot Oven Grinder

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"Grinder," pronounced "grahyn-dah" by native Rhode Islanders, is Italian-American slang for dock worker. Aptly named, it took a lot of chewing or grinding to eat the hard crusted bread used to make the sandwich.

Lore has it, the grinder was invented by Giovanni Amato, an Italian baker, who came up with a portable inexpensive lunch for laborers. Mr. Amato started selling fresh baked rolls fresh baked rolls from a pushcart to kindred Italian immigrants working the docks. At the workers' request, he added meat, cheese, and veggies.


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crusty bread - preferably a loaf of italian bread cut in half; optional - oblong torpedo roll
olive oil
red wine vinegar
seasoning (optional): black pepper, crushed red pepper, or oregano
1 small
onion, thinly sliced
tomato, thinly sliced
veggies - lettuce, shredded or torn; instead - thinly sliced green or red pepper rings or hot pepperoncinis
variety - 2 -3 slices each of at least three italian cold cuts: genoa salami, mortadella, sliced pepperoni, capicola, or prosciutto
4-5 slice
provolone cheese

How to Make R.I. Hot Oven Grinder


  • 1Cut loaf of Italian bread in half; slice through sandwich half - lengthwise, deep enough to open and fill with ingredients.
  • 2On one side of bread - layer onion slices, tomato slices, lettuce, pepper rings, or pepperoncinis.
  • 3Spread Italian meats and cheese, overlapping.
  • 4Generously drizzle olive oil and add a few splashes of red wine vinegar. Add seasoning if you wish.
  • 5Press sides of bread together and voila!
  • 6Rhode Islanders often leave the sandwich open and place it in the oven until the cheese melts - let the temperature rise to 350 degrees.
  • 7NOTE: After WWII, as Italian food grew in popularity in the United States and many cultures became assimilated, the use of other meats and cheeses infiltrated the grinder - turkey, roast beef, American and Swiss cheese. Even mayonnaise and mustard elbowed their way in. With the advent of chain restaurants, all sorts of grinders can be had and named for the type of bread used - baguette, ciabatta, barra, foccacia. In Rhode Island, the Italian grinder has hit the sauce big time: meatball, chicken parm, and eggplant grinders abound.

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