Vinnie Penn learned a whole lot researching restaurants up and down Rt. 1 for his latest book, "Route One Food Run." One of the more interesting tidbits? That the term grinder was born right in Clinton, CT, before ultimately calling Old Saybrook home. According to legend anyway.
Luigi DiBella (1897-1996), an Italian immigrant, brought Luigi's to Old Saybrook in 1956. Originally a shoemaker in Clinton, Connecticut, some years earlier, Luigi began selling what were then quite unique, over-stuffed sandwiches next door to his shoe repair shop, which became increasingly popular around town. By the early 1940’s he met local demand for the sandwiches that he had nicknamed - according to family legend - “grinders” by giving up shoe repair and throwing all his efforts into the “Tasty Sandwich Shop.”
In CT, when it comes to subs (that's the term Penn grew up using), hyperbole is commonplace. Note the attached menu from East Haven's dearly departed Andy's: "The largest sub menu in the area." When it comes to the "Italian Stallion" you can clearly see they implore you to "Watch It Being Built," as if it's architecture, which, Penn learned, it is/was. Food architecture. And the epic "Godfather Sub?" "It'll Blow Your Mind!" (To be sure, a chicken cutlet, sausage, broccoli rabe, potatoes, cheese, onions & tomatoes will do just that.)
"Route One Food Run," which began as a "fun road trip book with music being matched up with restaurants," ultimately became equal parts history and homage.