Unlike the cheese steak or the Cuban sandwich, the Italian hoagie is not subject to any rules. It can vary in meats, cheeses and condiments. It can be heated or served cold. In Richmond, the tastiest Italian hoagies differ significantly from each other, and they are found in some of the city's most classic establishments.
Chiocca's ( pictured )
Here at least three sandwiches fall into the Italian hoagie category, but it is the creation called "The Downstairs" that draws the highest praise. This sandwich is a salt lover's dream, with a wide variety of cured meats and anchovies. 425 N. Belmont Ave., 355-3228.
With Flour Garden bread, copious amounts of creamy mortadella and large, crunchy, pickled peppers, this is arguably the most complete Italian hoagie in town. 401 Strawberry St., 358-8505.
"The Industrial" would probably make this list even if served cold, but when cooked on the grill it becomes one of the region's elites. Italian meats and cheeses are cooked on top of onions and hot peppers, binding the flavors and making the sandwich the talk of Carytown. 2900 W. Cary St., 359-6969.
Nick's International Foods
This may be the least-assuming place to buy a hoagie, but the No. 13 might be the richest in flavor of them all. Made with sopressata, mortadella and prosciutto, this sandwich does not lack for taste … or calories. 400 W. Broad St., 644-0683.
The "On the Sly" and "Paesano" sandwiches have the parts that qualify them as an Italian sub, but it is the combination of the hot-pepper relish and their signature sauce that makes these sandwiches memorable. 5700 Patterson Ave., 673-3663.