You can take the sandwich out of South Philly, but can you take the South Philly out of the sandwich? In the case of Shank’s & Evelyn’s, the answer is no, and that’s a good thing. The luncheonette which has become an Italian Market staple over the past 48 years, is known far and wide for their breakfast, lunch, and most notably their sandwiches. In recent years, Evelyn felt that the 10th and Catharine location was becoming too old, tired, and eventually sold the building earlier this year. Under direction of new owner/operator Marcello Ciurlino and Evelyn’s daughter, Pamela Poppa serving as manager, the shop has moved uptown to Center City, reborn as Shank’s Original.
A stone’s throw away from City Hall, Shank’s is afforded the ability to serve many new customers who never ventured out to the original location. These new customers are quickly becoming regulars, and familiar faces from the old shop are gladly making the journey to check out Shank’s new digs. The long and narrow space is reminiscent of the classic sandwich shop, dripping with personality from the celebrity photographs that adorn the walls, and the shiny aluminum that outlines the kitchen. The lovely, all female counter staff, are transplants from the old Shank’s, and oh do they know how to work the grill. Orders are placed at the register on the far end, and customers can watch their sandwiches being made from stools that line the wall as they wait.
The sandwich Shank’s is most famous for, and has solidified their name in publications across the nation, is the Chicken Cutlet Italiano with greens. Chicken breasts are breaded, lightly seasoned and pan fried to retain their juiciness and flavor. The cutlets are topped with their mouthwatering broccoli rabe, which is arguably the best around. Sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and salt and paper, the secret to the rabe’s flavor lies in the aged, seasoned roasting pan that Shank’s has used for years. Topped off with melted provolone, the fillings are scooped into a long, seeded hoagie roll from New York Bakery. Second in popularity to the chicken cutlet is the Eggplant Parmigiana, again topped with broccoli rabe, and provolone, but also smothered in a homemade red gravy.
With the move comes some menu changes, old neighborhood favorites like the tripe and veal scallopini are no more. In light of this, new menu items have been developed to cater to the calorie conscious crowd. Sandwiches like Grilled Chicken Balsamic and Tuna Al Olio are served on wheat buns, and several salads are now available. Still, it seems that standbys like the chicken cutlet, roast pork, and hot sausage, no matter how fattening they are, are staying on top.
The opening of Shank’s Original in Center City is an all out winning situation. The bustling business district has been aching for some classic sandwich options, and Shank’s delivers. Owner Marcello Ciurlino emphasizes Shank’s devotion to real, Italian home style cooking, with fresh ingredients, and a little friendly attitude. What’s next for Shank’s Original? Plans are in the works for a second location at Pier 40 on Columbus Blvd. (more details) and slow development of additional locations in the Tri-State Area is forthcoming.