What Makes An Italian Hot Dog Unique?

A hot dog is one of the all-American great bites, a classic food at every baseball game, a common snack at amusement parks, and a staple of July 4th festivities. The concept was brought to the U.S. by German immigrants in the 19th century and has now expanded into regional U.S. hot dog styles like the Sonoran, Chicago, and New York riffs. Another subtype you may not be familiar with is the Italian hot dog, which originated in New Jersey.

Its invention is accredited to Jimmy "Buff" Racioppi, who opened the eponymous Jimmy Buff's restaurant after his hot dogs became such a hit with friends. The business opened in the 1930s and is still going strong. The Italian dog has become popular throughout North Jersey as other establishments have crafted their own riffs of the creation.

The food is comprised of an extra-fluffy pizza dough, shaped into a pita-like shape. A smear of mustard goes on one half and ketchup on the other. One or two spicy beef sausages are the main stuffing, garnished with a generous serving of griddled onions and peppers. It's all topped with fried potatoes, creating a unique hot dog creation that outsizes its predecessor.

The Italian hot dog combines beef sausages with onions, peppers, and potatoes

The original iteration of this delicious creation remains limited to its origins, not even readily found in other parts of New Jersey. It's a hot dog defined by its vessel, the unique pizza bread that's reminiscent of — but not exactly — a muffaletta. And that combination of sauteed onions and peppers is an Italian-American favorite, so it's a dependable topping.

This delicious doughy vessel is hard to find, so many spin-offs of the Italian hot dog have emerged. It's found in the ubiquitous hot dog bun, as well as torpedo roll, linking them with the Italian sub. Establishments across North Jersey showcase such renditions, like historic Johnny and Hanges, which serves the sandwich in a hoagie roll. Alternate breads are a favorite of home cooks, popularizing the Italian hot dog style outside the home state. What remains consistent is the pairing of textures created by thick-cut potatoes, as well as the flavorful cooked vegetables. It all adds up to a delicious hot dog with its own spin, making it a creation worth cooking during your next grill-out.