San Jose Metro Magazine (Vol.14, No.31) Week of October 1st - 7th 1998
Two Fisted Hoagies
Amato's dishes up seriously humongous sandwiches for the non-dieting crowd
HAVE YOU EVER EATEN A HOAGIE with a fork and knife, one so big it takes about a yard of butcher's paper to wrap? If you have, you've probably been back East-or you've been to Amato's. Amato's sits in an old strip mall along Saratoga Avenue in San Jose, less than a mile from the Westgate shopping mall. A clean, charming place, it is anchored by a long white formica counter with red upholstered stools, which marks it as a real American diner.
But, of course, Amato's specializes in sandwiches, 34 to be exact, each in three sizes (7-inch shorty, 12-inch half, and 24-inch whole) The selections are categorized in three groups: Hot, Cold, and Specialty. Shorties range from $4.50 to $6.75, halves $8.95 to $13.50, and wholes $17.75 to $26.95.
On our first visit, we glanced at the menu and thought that these babies were a little costly. However, the moment we spied a couple of sandwiches the short order cook was sliding over the counter to waiting customers, we gasped and mumbled that the price was indeed fair, if not a bargain.
The cook turned back to the oven, and it looked like he was leaning on the griddle, his palm casually splayed flat on the hot surface, sizzling. We looked closer and saw that he was pressing on a halved bun that was sitting on a pile of chopped steak, diced bell pepper and onions. When he turned the bread over, it was brown and deliciously greasy with meat juices. Then he put the bun in a basket and heaped on the goodies.
We had "THE WORKS" which included mushrooms, peppers, onions, provolone and chopped steak ($6.75): the turkey hoagie with slabs of white meat, lettuce, tomatoes and onions ($5.65) We unanimously agreed that each made for sloppy, ferocious eating not for the dainty-mannered or weak-hearted. We also had a couple orders of crinkle-cut fries-Hot, Crunchy and Fresh!!! The Cheese fries were sadly topped with orange goo that makes the bill of fare at movie theaters and roadhouse diners.
If Amato's weren't too set on authenticity, we would suggest a variation-perhaps called the Valley cheesesteak- that purses tha beef in crunchy baguette. Very Californian, no? Oh yeah, bigger TV's with ESPN would be great as well. Heck, throw in a couple of La-Z-boys and we'd never go home.
Cheating on the diet and ignoring doctor's orders has never been more fun. Anyway we came at it, wheather we sneaked a couple of piggies home to chomp or we bellied up to the counter and gnawed them shoulder to shoulder with other burly fellows, Amato's dished up fine two-fisted grub.
-Andrew X. Pham
San Jose Mercury News "EYE" Magazine Section, Week of Nov. 7th - 13th 1997
Cheese Steak Secrets from New Jersey
CHEESE STEAKS are a little less common in the South Bay than bagels, but in the same way, mostly disappointing. Philadelphians and all manner of Jerseyans are forever yammering about it, but few take action.
Leda Amato Dill, however, is staking her parents good name on Amato's, a little cheese steak and hoagie house on Saratoga Avenue near Westgate. Leda Dill's parents ran restraunts in New Jersey, whence come the secret recipes. She and her husband William Dill, opened thier own restaurant six months ago. There are five tables, a long counter and red vinyl as the main decorative feature.
The sandwiches run large. Many people would have trouble finishing more than half of even the seven-inch "Shorty" ones, all in the $5-$6 range. The cheese steak hogie ($5.95) presents itself as a large mound of grilled top round and onions, with melted White American cheese, fresh lettuce, good tomato slices, pepper and other spices. They do thier own butchering, and have fresh Italian rolls made everyday locally.
It is a lovely soft roll. Many rolls would have to be hard to stand up to these hot and juicy ingredients.
Among specialty sandwiches there are also meatball, sausage, pepper & egg, and chicken. The house-made sausage is also excellent.
When we had eaten all we possibly could, we went back to the counter for wrapping materials. Perhaps sensing incompetent Californians, the very nice counterman said, "Here, let me wrap it for you."