Standard, typical fast-food restaurants hand you a bag through the pick-up window, complete with entrée, side, and drink. You then have to take said contents out of the said bag, place the drink in your cup holder, peel down the paper on the entrée so you can eat with one hand and drive with the other, and… do what with the side? Maybe you put it in your lap, or maybe on the passenger seat, maybe still you leave it in the bag. If it’s French fries, what do you do if you have the desired dipping sauce?
Blue-collar workers in Pittsburgh don’t have time for all that, especially those in the Strip District along the Allegheny River in the 1930s. They needed to be efficient, make every hour and dollar count, and get back to driving their trucks. Fumbling with sides and sauces during an obligatory lunch break just didn’t make sense.
Joe Primanti ran a sandwich business in Pittsburgh’s Strip District - hearty sandwiches wrapped in newspaper meant to cater to the busy workers and truckers. One day he was randomly provided with a potato delivery and he grilled them up. Joe was not in the habit of serving up “sides” so when a few customers asked for the fries, he put them on their sandwich, wrapped all together in the newspaper- completely practical. This simple addition became a huge hit and was later perfected by using egg as a binder. The truckers along the Allegheny River loved these sandwiches, as they pumped themselves with extra needed calories while simultaneously working efficiently, one hand on the wheel at all times. No fumbling required. Joe’s sandwiches became so popular he had to bring his brothers, Dick and Stanley, on to help.
86 years and 16 storefronts later, the Primanti sandwich is now an initiation staple in Pittsburgh, an icon of what it means to be a Yinzer.