The spiedie // is a sandwich local to Binghamton in the central Southern Tier of New York State, and somewhat more broadly known and enjoyed throughout Central New York. A spiedie consists of cubes of chicken, pork, lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer (sometimes for as long as two weeks under a controlled environment) in a special marinade, then grilled on spits (if steel skewers are used, they are called "spiedie rods") over a charcoal pit.
The traditional method involves serving freshly prepared cubes of lamb, chicken, or beef on soft Italian bread, and occasionally drizzled with fresh marinade. However, it is common to find them served on a submarine roll, and chicken is now the meat of choice due to cost. The bread is used as an oven glove to grip the meat while the skewer is removed. Spiedie meat cubes can also be eaten straight off the skewer or can be served in salads, stir fries, and a number of other dishes. The marinade recipe varies, usually involving olive oil, vinegar, and a variety of Italian spices and fresh mint.
Spiedies have been celebrated at the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally in Binghamton, New York every August since 1983. The annual event includes a spiedie cook-off in search of the best spiedie recipes.
Commercial marinades are available regionally and can be ordered from various internet websites for shipment throughout the world.
The term "spiedie" is derived from the Italian spiedo meaning spit. The regional dish called spiedini or spidducci in Abruzzo, Italy, most closely resembling spiedie, uses cubes or balls of goat meat, lamb, chicken or beef on a skewer.
The original idea for spiedie was brought by Italian immigrants to upstate New York in the early 1920s. The specific origin of the spiedie is disputed. Traditionally, the early Broome County spiedie was made only from spring lamb, but currently most commercial restaurants prepare spiedie using chicken or pork. The "chicken category" was added to the Spiedie Fest cook-off in 1987, and quickly became the most popular meat choice.
Camillo Iacovelli created the spiedie in Endwell, New York, but his brother Agostino "Augie" Iacovelli and Peter Sharak popularized spiedies, Iacovelli in his Endicott restaurant, and Sharak at Sharky's Bar and Grill in Binghamton.
Augie Iacovelli began serving spiedie sandwiches in 1939 when he opened Augie's, his first restaurant. He emigrated from Abruzzo, Italy (Civitella Casanova) at the age of 25 in 1923. His son Guido continued in the spiedie business into the 1990s, owning as many as 26 restaurants at the peak of his career.
Iacovelli's marinade, which he called "zuzu", originally was made simply from wine vinegar, water, lemon juice, garlic and mint. Italian spices, olive oil, and minced onion were added later as regional tastes and the choice of meat began to vary.
Sharak is also alleged to have invented spiedies. Apparently, patrons of Sharkey’s were served lamb straight from the grill on a metal skewer with slices of bread. Sharkey's promotes itself as the birthplace of the sandwich in television commercials across the greater Binghamton area.
Though the issue is disputed, Sharkey’s began serving spiedies in 1947, which makes Iacovelli more likely to have invented the dish first.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, spiedies also became popular with the families of deer hunters, since venison has a strong game quality and is similar to lamb. Many local families made their own marinade and enjoyed the wild game as a delicacy cooked on backyard grills.
In 1975, Rob Salamida became the first person to bottle the sauce and sell it. He began by cooking spiedies outside a local tavern at 16. After writing letters for over a year, he was allowed to have his own booth at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York. For 12 years he built his reputation at the fair. After a tornado nearly struck his stand in 1975, he decided it would be more lucrative and safer to bottle a spiedie marinade.
Through the 1980s, Danny "Moonbeam" Fallon (a local dirt bike track racing star) furthered the popularity of spiedies by selling them from porches of local bars, including the Headquarter Bar in Johnson City, at night to finance his motorcycle racing hobby. Lori Vesely featured spiedies straight off the grill at The Endwell Pub. Pork was especially good for long grilling times, making the bar spiedie a favorite of both staff and customers.
In 1983, a few families got together and held a Spiedie Fest that was a tremendous hit. Coupled with a Balloon Rally, it quickly grew to an annual festival attracting more than 100,000 attendees (and also one of the top balloon rallies in the country).
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The spiedie was featured in the 2015 Hugh Grant movie, The Rewrite.