Avanti’s Gondola

The beauty is in the sandwich’s simplicity.

Next to the calzone, nothing brings me more happiness than a classic Avanti’s Gondola – a submarine sandwich with ham, salami, American cheese, shredded lettuce, and a super-secret sweet bread recipe (that I happened to have finally cracked!)

The Gondola comes from Avanti’s, a central Illinois chain that was a staple throughout college, helping my stomach soak up booze while keeping well fed on a poor college kid’s budget. Some might call it the Mcdonald’s of Italian food, but I like to call it magic.

Everywhere I’ve gone, every one of my happiest memories, they’ve almost certainly had a gondola in it. The Gondola was there for those early unrestrained and frantic college nights, for cabin parties in the woods, for cheap Sunday dinners with friends. It was there to soak up the beer while watching the greatest spectacle in racing at the Indy-500. And the Gondola was even there at our wedding, while we road the party bus to and from the ceremony and reception.

It’s the simplest, yet, somehow most delicious sandwich ever. And now that I no longer live in Central Illinois, I’m so happy to have made a near-perfect clone. Now the Gondola can go with me wherever I go and create a whole new decade of memories along with it.

Oh and the secret to the bread? Generous amounts of honey.

Time You Need

  • ~15 minutes prep
  • ~2 1/2 hours rising
  • ~25- minutes baking

What You Need

For the Bread:

  • 1 tbsp active dried yeast
  • 1 cup warm (110-115 degree) water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp honey

For the sandwich:

  • ~ 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • ~ 7-8 slices of deli ham
  • ~ 11-12 slices salami
  • ~10 slices American cheese or sliced cheddar

What You Do

  • Whisk the beaten egg in a small bowl with olive oil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, dissovle yeast in warm water. Let sit, covered with a towel, for about ten minutes.
  • Then add sugar, salt, and honey to the yeast.
  • Then pour in 1 cup of flour at a time, mixing evenly before adding additional cups.
  • Repeat until all flour is added.
  • Then mix in oil/egg mix.
  • Knead dough for about 10 minutes (by hand or using a mixer).
  • Knead until dough is smooth and stretchy.
  • Let cover, and let sit and rise for about 1 hour or more (up to 2 hours).
  • After time is up, divide dough into two equal halves. Shape into roughly about a foot long loaf (here’s a helpful video on how to get the shape right, then stretch the dough out so it’s about a foot long).
  • Place the two loaves on a parchment or foil lined baking greased baking sheet, and cover. Let rise for 30-60 more minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Place in oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

For the sandwich:

  • Once bread is done cooking baking, let cool for 10 minutes. Then use a serrated knife and slice bread in half lengthwise.
  • Top with layers of ham, salami, cheese, and shredded lettuce for each loaf. Close and form sandwich, then slice into smaller cuts.
  • Serve and enjoy.

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