In a food-obsessed city such as Portland, Ore., chef Gabriel Pascuzzi saw a niche he could fill. He wasn’t overly impressed by the sandwich scene, and he observed the crowds lined up at other chef-driven fast-casual concepts in the city.
He settled on opening a fast-casual sandwich shop. But, fresh from a turn at the legendary Noma in Copenhagen and following stints at upscale restaurants such as Colicchio & Sons and db Bistro Moderne in New York City, the Portland native wasn’t about to open just any sandwich spot.
Thus, Stacked Sandwich Shop was born. Opened in February 2017, the 49-seat restaurant features a vast open kitchen under a huge, carefully lettered chalkboard menu of sandwiches, entrée salads, snacks and sweets. Diners have a front row seat as Pascuzzi’s culinary team, including chef Alex Ditton, combines traditional and family favorites, modern sensibilities and classical techniques to reinvent the sandwich.
The heart of Stacked’s menu is a selection of 10 sandwiches that are more composed than assembled, a reflection of Pascuzzi’s training. “There’s a technique that goes into all the products—how we treat them, how we decide what to put on a sandwich or salad. It’s in the flavor combinations, and the way we prepare things, the extra attention to detail,” he says. Everything but the breads, kimchi and gochujang is made in-house, and he sources top-quality ingredients.
Typical of Pascuzzi’s imagination is Oxtail French Dip, served with cast-iron-skillet-charred onions and cremini mushrooms, melted havarti and rosemary jus on a hoagie. Simple yet complex, the sandwich quickly earned a place on a list of the city’s must-try sandwiches and is the top seller, thanks to the media exposure.
Another fan favorite is Korean Pork Shoulder, a flavor riot of brined, then gochujang-rubbed roasted pork, kimchi mayo, fresh slaw (cilantro, cucumber, Napa cabbage, carrot, jalapeno, yuzu vinaigrette) and pineapple on a hoagie roll. Turkey is featured in two menu items: Smoked Turkey Hero, with bacon, provolone, veggies, dijonaise and Italian vinaigrette, and Smoked Turkey Reuben, featuring Granny Smith apple, provolone, sauerkraut and “2000 island spread.”
Some of the recipes draw from Pascuzzi family favorites, such as the Meatball Polpetta, made with pork and bison meatballs, or the Roasted Lamb Leg Sandwich, a mix of pesto chevre, oil-cured tomatoes, pickled onions, Calabrian chili aioli and arugula.
Vegetarians get some love, too. “We don’t believe in phoning it in just because it’s vegetarian,” Pascuzzi says. Two of the 10 options on the sandwich menu are plant-based, and one of the salads features shiitake “bacon,” a revelation for some.
Pascuzzi considers the bread and the protein the stars of any sandwich, but a great sandwich also layers flavors—essentially, pickled, fresh, salty, meaty—and each of those separate elements demands its own seasoning. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I like to cook with a healthy dose of acid,” he says, adding that a pickle or a vinegary dressing elevates all the other flavors. Pascuzzi also doesn’t routinely slather mustard on the bread or “put plain aioli on anything. It has to add a flavor or meaning,” he says.
It’s attention to details such as these that can help operators elevate their sandwich offerings and stand apart from the competition. By focusing on composition, flavor and classical techniques, operators can offer one-of-a-kind options and boost sandwich sales.
This post is sponsored by Butterball Foodservice