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Who are the Primanti Brothers?

The Primanti Brothers are culinary icons from Pittsburgh, known for their unique sandwiches stacked with coleslaw and fries. Starting in the 1930s, their hearty creations became a beloved staple among locals and tourists alike. Discover how their legacy has shaped the Steel City's food scene and what makes their sandwiches a must-try experience. Ready to take a bite into history?
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Brothers Lou, Dick, and Stanley Primanti didn’t know when they opened a dingy little sandwich shop in 1930s Pittsburgh that they would make history in the steel city or reinvent one of America’s culinary staple. Pittsburgh, like the rest of the country, was in the middle of an incredibly difficult time. Everyone was overworked, underpaid, and feeling desperate about the state of their lives. The Primanti Brothers found a delicious way to make the lives of a nice population just a little bit better during this time in history.

The Strip District is a famous market in Pittsburgh where everyone from the city’s top chef to little old Polish ladies with push carts go to get the best produce, freshest meats, cheeses, breads, and just about any other food or spice you can imagine. The Primanti Brothers realized that the men who drove into the city (in some cases, from quite a distance) to deliver goods to the markets had no place to go for a meal at the end of their journey. Deliveries came in the middle of the night so that the markets could be stocked first thing in the morning. So the Primanti Brothers started selling lunch food out of their little restaurant around the clock.

Fried eggs are included in a Primanti Brothers sandwich.
Fried eggs are included in a Primanti Brothers sandwich.

But the ingenuity of the Primanti Brothers did not end there. The Primanti Brothers found that many of these men didn’t have much time to sit around and eat, so they found a way to put an entire meal between two slices of thick, chewy Italian bread. A classic Primanti Brothers sandwich includes grilled meat, chilled cole slaw, a hot fried egg, and fresh French fries. This sandwich, wrapped in some butcher paper and accompanied by a thick stack of napkins, kept the deliver men company on their long drives back to wherever they had come from.

A classic Primanti brothers sandwich comes with french fries.
A classic Primanti brothers sandwich comes with french fries.

The opening of Primanti Brothers made life a little sweeter - or, perhaps, more savory and greasy p for the night delivery men. But soon, word spread, and the entire city of Pittsburgh fell in love with Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Primanti Brothers sandwiches are now served for lunch, dinner, and “midnight lunch” at numerous locations around the city. Now delivery men rub elbows with musicians looking for a bite to eat after a late gig. Those with more normal working hours can now enjoy Primanti Brothers sandwiches as well. The shops are open for traditional lunch time as well as trucker/rock star lunch time.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for DelightedCooking, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for DelightedCooking, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

anon1244

The Primanti Brothers restaurant was established by Joseph Henry Primanti and not Lou, Dick, and Stanley Primanti. Joseph sold the restaurant to his brothers and moved to California due to health reasons at the time. I am Joseph's grandson.

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    • Fried eggs are included in a Primanti Brothers sandwich.
      By: Annfoto
      Fried eggs are included in a Primanti Brothers sandwich.
    • A classic Primanti brothers sandwich comes with french fries.
      By: Africa Studio
      A classic Primanti brothers sandwich comes with french fries.
    • Primanti Brothers' sandwiches are a Pittsburgh icon.
      By: Gino Santa Maria
      Primanti Brothers' sandwiches are a Pittsburgh icon.