The Roll Philly Cheesesteaks Traditionally Use

Few classic American sandwiches have as compelling an origin story as the Philly cheesesteak. It all began one fine day in 1930, at Pat Olivieri's hot dog cart in South Philadelpia, according to Philadelphia Magazine. Pat wasn't in the mood for lunchtime hot dogs, so he sent his brother to a nearby butcher shop to get some meat scraps. After cooking up the steak with some onions on his cart grill, Pat was ready to eat. But as he was about to take the first bite, a passing cab driver saw it and said he wanted one, too. They split the sandwich, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As it happens, there's history associated with all of the Philly cheesesteak's ingredients. The steak and onions were there from the first sandwich. The cheese, meanwhile, wasn't added until the 1940s, explains Philadelphia Magazine, when a restaurant manager at Pat's King of Steaks named "Cocky Joe" Lorenza decided to add provolone. Cheez Whiz and American cheese later became popular options as well, observes Visit Philadelphia.

That covers all the ingredients, except perhaps the most important one. "It's all hinged upon the bread," Frank Olivieri, great-nephew of Pat Olivieri and current owner of Pat's King of Steaks, tells Penn Live. "If your bread is not good, your bread's a little stale or if it's too spongey or too crispy — it's not going to be a good vehicle to carry all the meat inside and the cheese and the onions."

This is what holds it all together

Not just any Italian roll will do. As The Stay at Home Chef explains, to make an authentic Philly cheesesteak, you need an Amoroso roll. Philly cheesesteak makers around the country have apparently gotten the message. In 2011, Awesome! blogger Anton Diaz wrote of his excitement at trying a Philly cheesesteak in San Francisco made with a genuine Amoroso roll. In 2013, a Chicago Tribune article on the best Philly cheesesteak makers in the midwestern city observed that the best ones sourced their rolls from a very old Philadelphia bakery named Amoroso's. In 2015, Eater profiled Dallas' Cheesesteak House, whose owner proudly proclaimed that they sourced their bread from — you guessed it — Amoroso's.

What's so special about Amoroso's? The family-owned bakery was founded by Italian immigrants, according to the company's website, which notes that Vincenzo Amoroso and his two sons, Joseph and Salvatore, originally started their business in Camden, New Jersey in 1904. But after 10 years in that location, they moved it to nearby Philadelphia, where it has been ever since.

Amoroso's Italian rolls are known for their slightly crusty exterior, which contrasts nicely with the bread's softer interior. Not only does this provide a satisfying chew, but as Awesome! observes, Amoroso rolls have proven over time to be a perfect complement to the Philly cheesesteak's other signature ingredients. This means that in addition to meshing well with the other flavors, the bread doesn't break, become overly soggy, or overwhelm the eater with doughiness.