Kimberly Segal is a CNN Supervising Producer
People associate the Jersey Shore with casinos, salt water taffy and now reality star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. What does not come to mind, but rightly should, is the South Jersey sub - a signature sandwich is similar to what people in other parts of the country call a hoagie, grinder or hero.
It is not just the medley of meats and cheese that make this sandwich so special. "Atlantic City bread is unlike any other bread that you get anywhere else in the world," says Aaron Marinari, who grew up in this shore town and now lives in California. Marinari has put this theory to the test.
He went to the best deli in his new hometown and bought all the ingredients to try to replicate the sub that he grew up eating. "I put the whole sandwich together but it's nothing compared to home," Marinari adds, "It did not come close to fulfilling my craving for a New Jersey sub."
The bread the local sub shops use is made in Atlantic City. "It is the same recipe that is almost 2000 years old. It's flour, salt, brewer's yeast and water. So there are no secrets here," says Frank Formica owner of Formica Bros. Bakery.
Perhaps there are no secrets but there is a special ingredient, according to Formica: virtually pure water. While serving in the United States Air Force, Formica became a water expert. When he returned to civilian life he decided to use those skills to investigate the water used to make Atlantic City bread.
The water supplying the city comes from the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer. "It literally is the aquifer that holds the water from the edge of the Pine Barrens, which is the purest underground water source, most scientists say, in the United States." says Formica.
What makes it so pure are the cedar tree roots that lend acid to the water, making it difficult for impurities to form. This acid also keeps the water soft, so less of it is used in dough making. The result, according to Formica is that "It gives our bread a chewier, more consistent, denser quality which is very desirable in making sub sandwiches."
In addition to locals like Marinari, these subs have also been enjoyed by icons such as Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra. "Sinatra loved the sandwiches," recalls Sacco.
As for Snooki, if she walked in the shop asking for a sub, Sacco says he wouldn't know who she was - even if she ordered her sandwich with extra pickles. The lack of recognition probably wouldn't bother the TV reality star. She's now rolling in dough - something people from this historic beach town know an awful lot about.
Editors note: If you are in the Atlantic City area, these are the three of the best-known, decades-old shops in the area:
Sack O' Subs
White House Sub Shop
Down beach in Margate, New Jersey