LaSpada's Original Hoagies

The sandwich-making line at LaSpada's Original Hoagies on SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale. (John Tanasychuk / Courtesy / October 9, 2013)

If you have an iota of nostalgia for LaSpada's Original Hoagies in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, you'd better get there quick.

Because after four decades, the original, cramped location just south of Commercial Boulevard is moving across Commercial into a former hair salon. The move should be complete by December.

It's the end of an era. Back in 1973, John LaSpada Jr. — a third generation sandwichmaker whose grandfather opened his first hoagie shop in 1938 in Atlantic City, N.J. — opened a restaurant in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. In 1978, LaSpada sold it to Harry and Gale Kappes. The couple and their son Phil now operate five South Florida LaSpada's, with another west Broward location in the works.


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While hoagies — or submarine sandwiches — have been co-opted by mega-chains, folks have been coming to LaSpada's the past 40 years for the real deal.

Bread is baked locally by a wholesale baker. The meat isn't sliced until your sandwich is ordered. Sandwiches are built in such a way that when you pick them up to eat, everything stays put under a layer of meat. I love the hot and sweet peppers, which I'd like to say are house-made, but the Kappes family brings them in.

If you want to sample what LaSpada's is all about, order the first item on the menu: Italian special with boiled ham, provolone cheese, Genoa salami and Italian capicola ($6.95, 8-inch/$9.20, 12-inch). It's a bit magical that they keep the large sandwich under 10 bucks, because these subs are stuffed full.

As many as nine people work the sandwich line at LaSpada's. The location on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale is often so packed at lunchtime that you yell your order to an employee, and the process begins. One guy places meat slices on a square of waxed deli paper. That pile of meat then gets thrown down the line to your assigned sandwichmaker.

Somehow, the system works. It began as an efficient way to move meat at the cramped Lauderdale-by-the-Sea location. I love the show as much as the sandwiches. The employees are well trained in not only how to make a sandwich, but how to interact with the sandwich-ordering public.

Every hoagie imaginable is here, from simple ham and cheese ($6.70, 8-inch/$8.60,12-inch) to very good rare roast beef ($7.80, 8-inch/$10.90 ,12-inch) and Buffalo wing flavor chicken ($7.55, 8-inch/$ 10.55,12-inch). I'd never heard of Buffalo-flavored chicken, but it didn't deliver the flavor I expected.

Unlike at many sub shops, you can order sandwiches on round rolls ($4.15-$6.90) that use the same top-quality meats. LaSpada's does chicken salad and tuna salad. Order by the pound if you want to make your sandwiches at home.

We ordered a tuna salad platter ($7.15) the other day, and got an overflowing container of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, oversize green olives and a big scoop of not-too mayonnaisey tuna salad. As with the sandwiches, you can add hot or sweet peppers to the salad. I'm not sure why, but the tuna salad platter came with potato salad and coleslaw — both of which you can skip.

LaSpada's offers Dr. Brown soda ($1.35) and soda-fountain-style Coke products. They also offer brownies ($3) from a local bakery in flavors that include double chocolate, red velvet and Rocky Road.

The original location has just a few stools. And if you're sitting at one, you're knocking shoulders with the hungry folks in line. The new place will have 40 seats in and out, much like most of the other locations.

jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

4346 Seagrape Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, 954-776-7893

1495 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-522-3483

2645 S. University Drive, Davie, 954-476-1099

7893 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs, 954-345-8833

2240 NW 19th St., Boca Raton, 561-393-1434

LaSpadasHoagies.com

Cuisine: Sandwiches

Cost: Inexpensive

Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday

Credit cards: All major

Sound level: Loud when full

Outside smoking: Some locations

For kids: Highchairs

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot