The sign hanging outside says 1913, but Fiore’s House of Quality, at 414 Adams Street near 5th Street in Hoboken, was actually founded in 1903. John Amato, Sr. bought the store in 1965 after working there since 1948, and after his recent death, it’s been taken over by his son John Amato, Jr. — we’re talking what amounts to royal succession in the Mile Square City.
The Italian deli, its tightly organized shelves lined with pastas, sauces, taralli, olives, and pickled peppers, has been celebrated for over a century for its homemade mozzarella, the signature foodstuff of Frank Sinatra's hometown, which is made fresh daily and often referenced as “mutz.” There is no official menu, but all you need to know is that every Thursday and Saturday, that mutz is used to make a sandwich unique in the metropolitan area, except for isolated pockets of Brooklyn: the hot roast beef and mozzarella hero with gravy ($20 whole, $10 half).
This sandwich deploys a hero loaf about two feet in length formerly sourced at Dom’s Bakery Grand in Hoboken, which recently closed, but now coming from Amato’s Bakery in nearby North Bergen. Half is plenty for most people. The bread is split, the roast beef — you can smell it across the room — is sliced thin and generously layered into the loaf. The beef has been marinated and needs no extra seasoning.
Thick slices of mutz are tucked under the roast beef, and then gravy, meat juices flecked with tiny bits of beef, is ladled on from a water bath over by the wall. The gravy is definitely not canned gravy. Trust the sandwich maker to control the gravy. The moisture balance results from the cheese, the gravy, and the rare roast beef, which glisters with meat juices. Garlic-laden sauteed red peppers may be added as an option.
Yes, the roast beef sandwich is a mess, and there’s no place to eat it. Cover your car seats with a tarp, or stand outside and eat, even in cold weather. If you live nearby, you may be able to get home before it dissolves into a kind of savory bread pudding. By all means, eat it immediately.