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The final word on spuckies

From "The Answer Guys," Middlesex News, 10/31/93.

The conversation turned, as it so often does in the newsroom, to food. There was Jim eating a sandwich he'd just bought from Sub-Way. Jim, a native Pennsylvanian, casually dropped that where he came from, what he was eating was a hoagie. Other reporters jumped in, in the sort of conversation everybody has surely had at one time or another: how many different names are there for this kind of sandwich? And we quickly exhausted all the possibilities: grinder, sub, hero and, of course, hoagie.

Or so we thought. We were about to turn back to our terminals, when Vanessa, who had been sitting unusually quietly at her desk, exploded: "Spucky!"

Was something stuck in her throat? Was it time for her to switch back to decaf?

Amid the cries of "What?!?" she explained: Back in the old neighborhood, Mission Hill in Boston, an elongated roll stuffed with meat and stuff was known by people of a certain age not as a sub but as a "spucky." Most of us sort of just accepted this new bit of information, filing it away with the other mental flotsam reporters constantly collect.

But one editor, who shall remain nameless so she doesn't mess around with this column, expressed a certain, shall we say, disbelief. This was one factoid she just could not digest. Vanessa refused to budge. But there it stood. Was this really true? Didn't we have better things to do than to call up folks in the old neighborhood?

A couple of days later, in one of those miraculous coincidences that makes you believe in a higher authority, Vanessa reported that, while driving through Milford after an assignment, she spotted a sub shop named "Spuckys."

We couldn't resist. Even though *we* believed her (after getting confirmation from a checkout lady at the Roche Bros. in West Roxbury), we called Spuckys up. Yep, owner Steve Donofrio confirmed, a spucky is indeed what they called a sub in the old Italian wards of Boston.

A native of Roxbury himself, he said they were the stuff of childhood. "A lot of people were brought up that way you know, I remember back when my aunt used to say `spucky,' " he said.

But it's far from a dying term, he said. Go anywhere in the North End and ask for a "sausage and pepper roll on a spucky" or even just "a sausage on a spucky" and they'll whip one up for you quick as a flash, he said.

There's even a Spukies 'N Pizza Shop in Dorchester, he said, expressing what surely could not be disdain for the way they spell it.

Donofrio said people whizzing through Milford are always stopping in front of his store the name alone brings back memories, he says. Then they come in and order one up.

Donofrio said he's heard several possible origins for the word. One is that it comes from "spuccadella," which is a particular kind of Italian roll. Spucky rolls, he said, tend to be more pointy at the ends than normal sub roles and are split on the top.

On a roll ourselves, we dialed up Bova's, the 24-hour bakery on Prince Street in the North End. Owner Joey Bova says he doesn't hear the term as much as his father might have. But he said the bakery's order forms still list "spucky" as an option.

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