Merigan Sub Shop Liza Shaw SoMa Italian Sandwiches | Tasting Table San Francisco

Merigan's got hot subs, hot peppers and a prime location

There's a reason that Merigan Sub Shop butchers Llano Seco hogs, pickles its own "hots" (peppers) and makes its condiments. "I'm a control freak," says owner Liza Shaw, with a smile.

The former A16 chef has been tossing around the idea of a sandwich shop modeled after Philadelphia's Italian delis for years. In fact, Shaw designed her arista sandwich ($13) in homage to Paesano's, a favorite from her research trips.

The arista is the best of the hot subs we have tried at the SoMa deli so far: The bitter jolt of broccoli rabe and the acidic bite of pickled peppers offset braised, shredded shoulder and roast loin meat, perfumed with star anise, rosemary and lemon.

Also key to the arista's appeal: the crackle of the warm sesame-seed roll the pork is stuffed into. "Bread was first and foremost," Shaw says. It took ten bakery auditions, and then another ten recipe tests, to settle on the bread Pinkie's Bakery now produces especially for Merigan.

The menu board at Merigan

For the moment, Shaw doesn't have the space to make cold cuts. But she turns those hogs into coppa di testa, liver paté, fennel-laced sausages and another early success: the crazily tender meatballs ($11) that seem to exude tomato sauce with every bite.

Sometimes a control freak is not a bad thing to be.