When I was a kid…
Growing up, my parents and I didn’t go to restaurants very often. Restaurants were expensive and my mom was a great cook… so why would we eat out?
Of course there were a few exceptions.
When helping someone move (’cause we never ever used moving companies), we always had KFC. Pizza wasn’t really a thing for us, so you just knew that if there was a moving day there was also a bucket of KFC chicken to enjoy after hours of hard work!
If there was a “fancy” dinner out, it was usually Swiss Chalet. Yup… “fancy” Swiss Chalet. For our friends south of the border, this is a rotisserie chicken place which I happen to enjoy, but is far from being fancy. Hey, it’s what we could afford at the time and it was (and still is) a decent family-style restaurant.
…and the other exception for which I still have fond memories was Italian veal sandwiches. This was the one food that would show up at home, unexpectedly. My dad didn’t need a reason or celebration to surprise us with these sandwiches. That says a lot about how good these sandwiches were–he didn’t take spending lightly.
The two iconic restaurants…
Many restaurants made these veal sandwiches, but there were only two options for us. California Sandwiches and San Francisco Sandwiches (this was my dad’s favourite). You could order the sandwiches as either, sweet, medium or hot, but my dad always asked for hot. I can’t remember if our sandwiches back then had the mushroom and onion toppings…but I know I love them today. Green spicy olives are always a popular side with veal sandwiches.
Our family still loves to visit the original California location at 244 Claremont St. in Toronto. It’s “old school”. It looks like a house and it’s located right in the middle of a residential area. Most patrons order to go, but if you want to sit and eat there, they have a room off to one side with a small number of tables and chairs. Until very recently, none of the tables and chairs even matched…it’s just a place to sit and gobble up your sandwich…it’s not a dining hall…but it’s good enough for me. The icing on the cake for me when I go there is to see an Italian Nonna cooking in the back while I wait in a lineup to place my order (business never seems to be slow). They have other locations around the greater Toronto area, but in my opinion, none of them are as special as the original location. Maybe it’s just nostalgic for me.
My Godchild was scheduled to visit us last night with her family. We weren’t able to connect over the holidays, so we had them over for dinner. Both my Godchild and her husband had similar upbringings to mine, so I guessed they might appreciate some “veals”.
The recipe didn’t disappoint and everyone seemed to be happy with dinner. The sandwiches were loaded with meat, sauce and toppings. I was very happy with the result! This doesn’t mean we’ll stop going to California’s when we visit Toronto, but we definitely have a great homemade option when the craving hits.
Just because the holidays are over, it doesn’t mean you should stop connecting with your family and friends. Invite someone over for a nice dinner–keep that happy holiday feeling alive throughout the year, and always eat well, friends!
Italian Veal Sandwiches
- 4 lbs veal scallopini (about 20 pieces)
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour (all purpose is also fine)
- 4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup2 milk
- 5 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
- 1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese
- 1 litre canola oil
- 8 cups quality tomato sauce (try our nonna approved recipe or your own favourite recipe)
- 10 large round Italian panini buns (doesn't have to be round)
Common optional toppings and sides
- red hot pepper flakes
- sautéed onions
- sautéed mushrooms
- provolone cheese slices
- roasted red peppers
- marinated or spiced olives
- In wide medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Set aside.
- In a wide large size bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, oregano, basil, parsley and Romano cheese. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Set aside.
- Using a meat tenderizer (mallet), beat each piece of veal cutlet on a cutting board until it's thinner and spread wider. I recommend placing a freezer bag cut open, over the veal while tenderizing to avoid splattering.
- Place the three bowls with the bread crumb mixture, eggs and flour mixture side by side... like a production line.
- Place a piece of veal in the flour and carefully coat both sides with the flour mixture.
- Move the piece of veal over to the egg wash and coat the veal completely, making sure it's all wet.
- Move the piece of veal to the bread crumb mixture and coat both sides. Pat the veal down over the bread crumbs to make sure it sticks well. Place the piece of veal in a large serving dish.
- Repeat the last three steps for all the pieces of veal.
- Place the serving dish in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for at least 3 hours.
- Heat the canola oil in a large deep pan on medium high.
- Carefully (caution with the hot oil) place two pieces of breaded veal in the hot oil in the pan (careful not to over-crowd).
- Fry the veal pieces on one side for 3 to 4 minutes and carefully turn them over.
- Fry the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. The veal should have a nice light golden colour (but not too dark as this will mean the meat is too dry).
- Place the veal pieces on a large dish lined with paper towels to soak the excess oil from the veal.
- After soaking the grease on the paper towel, move to veal pieces to a large oven proof pan with a lid (like a roasting pan). Add a little tomato sauce (a couple of soup spoons) over each piece to keep the meat moist and tasty! This pan can stay in the oven at around 180 ºF to 200 ºF to keep it warm while you cook all the veal. Just keep adding the finished pieces to the pan,
- Repeat the last 5 steps until the veal is all cooked.
- To assemble the veal sandwiches, place one or two (we use 2 because we like it stacked) pieces of veal on the bottom half of a bun. If using cheese, place the slices next. Add mushrooms, onions, peppers or other favourite toppings. Pour a generous amount of sauce over the veal and toppings (we like it messy so we add a lot!). Place the top half of the bun and serve hot.
- Traditionally, these sandwiches are served with a side of spiced olives. Exercise your jaw before taking a bite... this one's big and messy! Enjoy!
- We used our own Nonna approved tomato sauce, but feel free to use your own recipe or quality purchased tomato sauce.
- Keeping the coated veal in the fridge for a few hours helps flavour the veal and minimizes the moisture, which reduces the splatter when you place the pieces in the hot oil.
- For extra toppings, we used sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions and provolone cheese slices. Feel free to replace or add any other favourite toppings.
I can’t really rate the recipe because I haven’t tried it yet – gave it a 5 because I love all the ingredients. I can say that I am soooo with you on the California Veal sandwiches. I grew up in north York (now in Ottawa) and had veal sandwiches at least 3 times a week – California, San Francescos (my godfather owned a franchise), Nino Da Versa’s and Commiso Brothers!! All of them were incredibly good! I am definitely going to try your recipe, as there are no authentic veal sandwiches here in Ottawa :(.
Question for you though – Veal Scallopini can be tough if not tenderized properly. I heard thinly sliced from the shoulder once tenderized has more flavour and can be more tender, what do you think?
Need to make a trip to TO soon!!
Nelson Cardoso says
Hey Tom, thanks so much for visiting our blog and the bit of history on veals. It’s funny that you should mention those places. My dad used to be a huge fan of San Francescos. That’s where I got my childhood veals from. If I’m not mistaken, it was from the one on Queen St. Was that your uncle’s? The shoulder should work perfectly… flavour, tender meat, good sauce and a big Italian bun… what can go wrong? Let me know how it goes once you make them. Btw… my family loves visiting Ottawa. I love the market in the summer. Take care.
Hey Nelson, sorry hadn’t checked back here in a while. It was my God Fathers, and it was on Saint Clair Avenue – but this was back in the early 80’s. Have yet to try the shoulder or any cut for that matter, but I will let you know as soon as I try! The market has changed a lot over the years here. Definitely a fun place to go!
FYI, I moved from Toronto to San Francisco… thinking I would find something like these in… well… California.
And here I am. Mine are in the fridge now, wish me luck!!
Nelson Cardoso says
Sorry about the late reply, only saw your comment now. Thanks for sharing… I hope sandwiches turned out great! All the best.
David Woodbridge says
Wonderful recipe !
I worked in the Waterloo Ontario store in the late 1980’s which I think was their first expansion out of Toronto.
The owner was john Fernandes and his brothers manny and jack (?) .. they all had worked at Swiss chalet on university avenue the same street the store was on.
I loved all of the food especially the veal and steak sandwiches.
I now live in Australia but when we were back in Canada about 6 years ago I took my wife and kids to San fran’s and they loved the food.
I will def try this recipe .. the only thing missing is the boiled peppers 🙂
Nelson Cardoso says
I love the peppers too! This was such a great story you shared with us. Thanks for stopping by.
i grew up on Queen and Bathurst St. and very familiar with California sandwiches they are incredible still. i was at the Claremont location just last year. i ran into a few old friends from days gone by, it was an awesome day. i also just found out theres one in Barrie, so next week i will have a scrumptious lunch. i also enjoyed San Fransisco.
Thanks for the recipe
Nelson Cardoso says
Hi Sharon, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story. I love connecting food to memories. We’re in Richmond Hill, and might have to visit Barrie to try that location. All the best.