National Hoagie Day is celebrated on May 5th of each year. The staff at National whatever Day were unable to discover the origin of National Hoagie Day.
The Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen’s Manual offers a different explanation, that the sandwich was created by early twentieth century street vendors called “hokey-pokey men”, who sold antipasto salad, along with meats and cookies. When Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta H.M.S. Pinafore opened in Philadelphia in 1879, bakeries produced a long loaf called the pinafore. Entrepreneurial “hokey-pokey men” sliced the loaf in half, stuffed it with antipasto salad, and sold the world’s first “hoagie”.
Another explanation is that the word “hoagie” arose in the late 19th-early 20th century, among the Italian community in South Philadelphia, when “on the hoke” was a slang used to describe a destitute person. Deli owners would give away scraps of cheeses and meats in an Italian bread-roll known as a “hokie”, but the Italian immigrants pronounced it “hoagie”.
Other less likely explanations involve “Hogan” (a nickname for Irish workers at the Hog Island shipyard), a reference to the pork or “hog” meat used in hoagies, “honky sandwich” (using a racial slur for white people seen eating them) or “hooky sandwich” (derived from “hookie” for truant kids seen eating them). Shortly after World War II, there were numerous varieties of the term in use throughout Philadelphia. By the 1940s, the spellings “hoagie” and, to a lesser extent, “hoagy” had come to dominate lesser user variations like “hoogie” and “hoggie”. By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term “hoagie”, with many selling hoagies and subs or hoagies and pizza. Listing in Pittsburgh show hoagies arriving in 1961 and becoming widespread in that city by 1966.
Former Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell declared the hoagie the “Official Sandwich of Philadelphia”. However, there are claims that the hoagie was actually a product of nearby Chester, Pennsylvania. DiCostanza’s in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania claims that the mother of DiConstanza’s owner originated the hoagie in 1925 in Chester. DiCostanza relates the story that a customer came into the family deli and through the series of the customers’ requests and the deli’s offerings, the hoagie was created.
A local Philadelphia variation on the hoagie is the zep made in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It is a variation on the traditional hoagie, with no lettuce and only one meat. It is made on a round roll, with provolone cheese covering meat, chunks of raw onion, and slabs of tomato. It is dressed with oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil, and hot pepper relish.