Your New Favorite Spicy Italian Sandwich Is at O-Bros Osteria Food Cart

Downtown Portland just seriously upped its grinder game.

Fuck fancy. The spicy Italian grinder is the greatest American sandwich ever invented.

Don't get me wrong. I love the bacon-relish asparagus at Meat Cheese Bread, the five-spice pork at Devil's Dill, and the puffed-up muffuletta and Cubano at Bunk.

But when I think "sandwich"—the Platonic form of sandwichhood—what I think of is the spicy Italian sub the way it's made at O-Bros Osteria, a new food cart perched on the far western edge of the pod at Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street. The O-Bros, Oscar Olalde Oviedo and Jose Marcos Alvarez, started this Italian-style sandwich, panini and pasta spot in March. And their spicy Italian is probably my new favorite in town.

The sandwich contains the holy trinity of cured meat, with ham, salami and pepperoni blooming out of chewy French bread. On top is the other holy trinity of thick-cut fresh tomato, semi-circles of red onion and just enough lettuce to add crispness. There is, of course, provolone. And Parm. And dear Lord, there is banana pepper. Stone-ground mustard, mayo, olive oil and vinegar are applied judiciously and evenly, with no oil overflow or mustard sinus hit.

The fillings outshine the bread, as nature intended. Acids balance fat, as God decreed. It is classic as Jack Purcells. And it costs $8, the price of a sandwich. It is a perfect sandwich—the most perfect rendition of the old-school grinder I know anywhere near, rendered with loving attention to detail.

Are the meatballs good? Yes, the meatballs are good, whether served sandwich-style or as adjunct to pasta, with a housemade, stewy marinara that is neither watery nor acid bath nor sugar syrup, covered on the sandwich with a fat blanket of Parmesan.

The O-Bros' slow-cooked beef is nice enough—though it doesn't touch Devil's Dill's braised beef across the river. And their "downtowner" pastrami is likewise reasonable, although it's unclear pastrami wanted the deli-sub lettuce-onion-tomato treatment.

But oh, man, the spicy Italian. It's the stuff of dreams I've been having since childhood. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

EAT: O-Bros Osteria, Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street. 10 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.

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