The Italian hoagie that I'm sharing with Mandy's Pizza owner Steve Negri is fantastic, but it's the crisped, golden-brown roll that deserves a special shout-out.
The roll — made at a local bakery using Negri's recipe — has been made for food-allergy sufferers. If you suffer from allergies to foods like nuts, dairy, gluten and others, you can eat this sandwich, or the shop's pizza, without worry.
"I started making these products because my son, Brandon, has food allergies," explains Negri, who has owned Mandy's for about three years. He recounts how sad it was that Brandon could enjoy only the smell of pizza.
So he worked with Brandon, now 11, developing recipes for the food he serves in his shop. Three weeks ago, he also released a line of allergen-free dessert mixes that are on sale at Mandy's, and in area stores like Soergel's, in Wexford, and Eden Market, in Mount Lebanon.
Great care goes into making Mandy's allergen-free menu items in a kitchen where standard pizza and sandwiches are also made. The crusts and rolls are taken directly from a vacuum-sealed bag and never touch countertops or areas where allergens might be. Mandy's has an employee who cooks only the allergen-free food.
"It's a lot of work and we take it very seriously," says Negri. "Because of my son, I know how important these safety issues are, but I also know how important it is that people suffering from allergies, especially kids, get to eat food that tastes good."