Probably the most famous place to get a cheesesteak sandwich is still Philadelphia, where the sandwich originated in 1930. Two rival shops in particular produce this specialty, Pat's and Geno's, and they both make them pretty much the same way. On a long roll, much like an Italian sub, they pile sauteed beef and melted cheese - usually Cheese Whiz, but sometimes American or Provolone. That's really all there is to it! Of course, other toppings can be used, such as peppers, onions, condiments, and even lettuce and tomatoes, but, in my opionion, the key to a great cheesesteak sandwich is the roll that holds all those juicy ingredients.
If you ordered a cheesesteak sandwich and was given a pile of drippy, melty, cheesy steak in the center of two slices of Wonder Bread, you'd know something wasn't quite right. That's because you know, for such a hearty and mouth-watering treat, you'd need a great roll to handle those drippings. It would need to have a little density and a crusty shell to soak up all that goodness while not being chewy or tough, and long enough to hold comfortably in hand, giving you the benefit of a mobile meal. I'm not sure which exact roll Pat's or Geno's uses, but we have a few options that work perfectly. The 6", 8", 10", and 12" club rolls from Rockland Bakery, the Cuban Hero from Hudson Bread, the Italian Hero 12" from Settepani: all of these rolls have just the right amount of crust and density, which is perfect to work with that "drip factor" that is so important to the original Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, and can easily be held in hand for portability. Not unlike a muffaletta, the bread soaks up the juices and cheese without soaking through the bread, and that makes everyone happy!
Interested in reading more about the Philly Cheesesteak origins or the rivalry between Pat's and Geno's? Check out this link: http://www.visitphilly.com/restaurants-dining/authentic-philly-cheesesteaks/.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.unco.edu/dining/chef/featured_spring2012phillies.html)