A Spiedie- New York's Unknown BBQ
Updated: Jul 21
I've taken a lot of road trips in search of foodigenous since starting this blog and while
I always enjoy the trek, sometimes the food itself can be a bit disappointing. This trip to Binghamton NY was not one of those occasions. I knew within seconds after unwrapping my traditional 6-inch spiedie (spee-dee) from Spiedie & Rib Pit that I was in for something special. The warm waft of smoky charred pork swept through my nostrils triggering my taste buds to be on full alert. My mouth was already salivating as I sunk my teeth into the freshly baked sesame roll stuffed with chunks of tender grilled meat; vinegar and Italian spices bursting with each chew.
In reality, I was lucky to randomly choose Spiedie & Rib Pit to lose my spiedie virginity. They are just one of many spots in the Triple Cities area (Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott) making this regional dish and I quickly found out not
all chargrilled cubed meat sandwiches are created equally. These guys have mastered their technique over the last 30 years, and are descendants of the Lupo family, famous for their own Char-Pit restaurants and thier Lupo's Spiedie Sauce. Making spiedies is, literally, in their blood.
What the hell is a spiedie?
Unlike a couple other pairs of famous Italian American brothers from New York, Camilo and Augustine Lacovelli don't have a bridge named after their dad and to my knowledge, neither of them ever scoured the city sewers looking to exterminate feisty turtles. BUT this duo did leave an everlasting imprint on The Empire State's culinary world. According to his *obituary, "Augie" immigrated to the US in the 1920's and worked at the Park View Tavern in the Binghamton suburb of Endicott. A cook by trade, Augie started roasting chunks of skewered lamb over an open fire. At that time, he sprayed the meat with his homemade "zuzu" sauce, a combination of vinegar, lemon, garlic & mint. He served the cooked meat on white bread. The sandwich creation became so popular it stayed on the menu. He dubbed it a spiedie, a shortened version of spiedini, the term for the barbecued skewered meat dish which was common in Sicily, Italy.
Camilo began selling a version at his Endwell, NY restaurant aptly named Camilo's and his brother eventually left to open his own restaurant Augie's in 1947. Later that same year, Peter and Victoria Shrak opened "Sharkey's in Binghamton's First Ward. Their neighborhood bar and spiedie joint would go on to have a successful 73-year run, unfortunately shuttering their business doors for good during the pandemic. Other iconic spots like the aforementioned Lupo's Char-Pit gained tremendous local popularity with subtle tweaks to their recipe. Nowadays, lamb has largely been substituted for chicken or pork and many marinades have dropped the mint and have taken on more spices, similar to a zesty Italian salad dressing. The plain white bread is often replaced with a locally baked sesame sub roll, flat bread or pita. If you can't make it all the way to New York State, considering checking out Salamida's , their State Fair Spiedie sauce can be ordered online. Owner Rob Salamida became the first person to bottle the sauce. thus, introducing nonlocals to the deliciousness of the foodigenous for the first time, broadening its regional appeal. Each year Binghamton holds the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally in early August. It's a filled with family fun events, concerts and spiedie cooking contests. It's a great opportunity to sample many different recipes of skewered meat.
Kicking it up a notch
If you make the trip and I strongly suggest you consider it if you live within a 3-hour
drive, order a traditional chicken or pork spiedie first. But leave room for one of the specialty versions like the "Greek", a lemon, tomato, onion, feta and chicken doused with oozing tzatziki , basically a Greek salad on a grilled flat bread or this delicious (to the left) Spiedissimo, Spiedie & Rib Pit's trademarked masterpiece with fried peppers, onions and provolone with hunks a flamed chicken. A bite so good that for a second, you might think you drove to South Philly. Come see why Bon Appetit called the spiedie the "best sandwich you've never heard about." And I might be the first one to say this but if it's cooked over an open flame it's technically barbeque right? I think it's about time we put some "respeck" on New York State's unknown barbecue game. Watch out Kansas City! Better have eyes in the back of your head Carolina! We see you Texas!
*Source- Press & Sun Bullet - 9/26/1986