A recipe for an Italian Sub Sandwich inspired by our visit to La Jolla, California! This easy sandwich is packed with layers of cured meat, sliced cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomato.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
We loved our short time in the area so much, we ended up going back for a longer trip during Spring Break! I recently shared Pastel de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Pastry) and San Diego, Lavender Lemonade and San Diego: Balboa Park, and Cardamom Latte and San Diego: USS Midway, so today I am covering La Jolla and Convoy Street.
La Jolla is a seaside area in San Diego about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of downtown. We spent one morning here and it was an easy 20 minute drive from our hotel in Mission Bay.
Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
We started our day with Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. It is the only sea cave in the area you can access from land via the Cave Store at 1325 Coast Blvd.
The cave was named by L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, after a character on a cereal box (Force wheat flakes) in the early 1900s.
To reach the entrance to the cave, you need to climb down (then back up to get out) 145 steps through a narrow tunnel. Wear proper footwear as the steps can be wet and slippery and hold the handrail on each side.
Digging of the tunnel leading down to the cave began in 1902 and took almost two years to complete. When it first opened to the public in 1905, visitors had to descend via a rope!
Plan on about 15-30 minutes to go up and down the stairs, hang out for a little bit on the platform in the cave, and walk around the store. Entering the water from the platform is not allowed.
At the time of our visit, the cave was open daily 9-4:30 for self-guided tours. We were lucky to get a parking spot right outside the cave shop first thing in the morning on a weekday, but parking can be difficult during peak times.
La Jolla Cove
Just to the left of the Cave Store, you can see another cave from the sidewalk named Clam’s Cave (due to the entrances on either side of the cliff). During the time of our visit, it was completely covered with pelicans.
We walked along the shore from La Jolla Cove to the Children’s Pool (about 0.7 mile/1 kilometer one way). There were so many birds, seals, and sea lions!
Brown Pelicans were all along the coast during our walk. After nearly disappearing in California following the use of DDTs, they were classified as endangered in 1970.
Their populations have steadily increased and the birds were removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife list in 2009.
During our April visit, the cliffs along La Jolla Cove were also covered with nesting Brandt’s Cormorants.
We mostly saw the sea lions at La Jolla Cove and harbor seals at the Children’s Pool. Trying to tell them apart? Sea lions have external ear flaps. They also loudly bark and are varying shades of brown in color.
As a note, I took these photos at a safe distance using a 600mm telephoto zoom lens (Amazon link). Please do not approach or disrupt the wildlife.
In the 1930s, a crescent-shaped sea wall was built around the beach to create a more gentle area for children to swim. In recent years, it has also become the perfect place for harbor seals to raise their pups.
From December to May, the beach itself is closed to people to allow a quiet resting area for the seals during pupping season. You can still walk along the sea wall during this time to get a closer view.
Even when the beach is open, swimming is not recommended due to the water quality.
Before heading to the Birch Aquarium, we stopped by Cheese Shop at 2165 Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla Shores for a quick lunch. Established in 1972, this family owned shop has fresh made to order sandwiches, retro candy, sodas, and gourmet cookies.
We grabbed an Italian Shortboard ( pepperoni, ham, mozzarella, hard salami, cotto salami, provolone), Evergreen (fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato, sprouts), Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, and a Latte.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is located at 2300 Expedition Way about 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of La Jolla Cove. It is a part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as their public exploration center.
We ended up spending about 2 hours here. Check the official website for hours and current admission before visiting. During the time of our visit, advance reservations were required.
The aquarium houses over 60 Pacific Ocean habitats ranging from the cold Pacific Northwest to tropical Mexico. Many of the exhibits are interactive (particularly in the Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections) to promote hands-on learning.
A few notable highlights found in the aquarium include Weedy Seadragons, seahorses, a rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle, and a Giant Kelp Forest.
We spent much of our time in the Giant Kelp Forest. Spanning two stories with 70,000 gallons of water, this section has a Giant Black Sea Bass, leopard sharks, moray eels, and Garibaldi.
The Tide Pool Plaza was another favorite. This exhibit is located outside with some incredible sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and La Jolla.
These living tide pools are based on the rocky intertidal zones found along San Diego’s coastline. They provide a closer look at sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea anemones, hermit crabs, lobsters, and more.
It was not yet open at the time of our visit, but the aquarium’s newest exhibit is home to Little Blue Penguins, the world’s smallest penguins at less than 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) tall.
Birch Aquarium has a free (for 3 hours) large parking lot. Allow for about 2 hours to fully see all the exhibits. Sunscreen may be needed if you will be spending a decent amount of time in the outdoor exhibits. The gift shop was another favorite as well.
With this final post from our San Diego trip, I am also including a few of our food stops on Convoy Street about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) east of La Jolla.
We started our trip with a visit to Bing Haus at 4425 Convoy St #216.
Bing Haus is currently open daily 9am-10pm with coffee, tea, rolled ice cream, bingsoo, and Mochi donuts.
We had the Watermelon Bingsoo with milk shaved snow, condensed milk, fruity pebbles, Mochi, and vanilla soft serve, Tiger Latte (Thai tea, coconut milk, and cold brew), and four Mochi donuts (peeps, Churro, coconut, and sprinkles).
After the aquarium, we went to MNGO Cafe at 4176 Convoy Street for a few treats before heading back to the hotel.
They have mango-inspired desserts, kakigori, and drinks with indoor seating and plenty of lot parking.
We enjoyed the Brûlée and Rice (sweet sticky rice and fresh torched mango Brûlée topped with coconut cream), Affogato (vanilla bean/or coconut ice cream with Hojicha/or matcha), Strawberry Cheesecake Kakigori (strawberry flavored Japanese snow ice with strawberry cheesecake pieces, strawberry sauce, and house cream sauce), and Mango Coconut Cream Smoothie.
Steamy Piggy at 4681 Convoy St Suite A was our very last stop before heading back to Los Angeles and it was a fantastic ending to our trip.
The restaurant is currently open daily for lunch/dinner with a delicious variety of drinks, dumplings, bao, rolls, noodles, and more. They had indoor and outdoor seating with a small lot parking.
We loved the Kawaii Buns (steamed pig-shaped buns filled with custard), Steamy Piggy Ramen (12 hr tonkotsu broth, rolled chashu, ajitama egg, black garlic oil and scallion), Soup Dumplings (handmade steamed dumplings with pork and chicken broth- a favorite with the kids), Bulgogi Roll (scallion pancake, bulgogi beef, onion, cabbage, cheese), and Potstickers (handmade pan-fried dumplings with pork and chive).
Italian Sub Sandwich
After trying the delicious sandwiches at Cheese Shop in La Jolla, I wanted to make my own Italian Sub Sandwich at home!
I modeled the flavors after the sandwich we had on our trip with a combination of pepperoni, ham, capicola, Genoa salami, Provolone, Mozzarella, lettuce, onion, and tomato.
It is such a delicious and easy option for lunch.
A Few Tips
Pick a hoagie or sub roll that is about 10-12 inches (25.5-30.5 centimeters) long. It should be sturdy enough to hold all the ingredients without falling apart, but not so chewy that it is difficult to eat.
Slice the roll in half lengthwise, but not all the way through. You want to be able to fully open it to arrange the ingredients, but still keep the two sides connected.
I used a sweet onion, but had this sandwich at the Cheese Shop with sliced red onion.
Toss the lettuce in the dressing immediately before placing on the sandwich.
Adjust the flavors in the dressing to taste.
As you sprinkle the dried oregano, crumble it between your fingers to help release the flavor.
This recipe makes one large Italian Sub Sandwich. It can be sliced in half or thirds to feed 2-3 people or the ingredients can easily be doubled for two sandwiches.
Italian Sub Sandwich Recipe
Adapted from Sip and Feast
Italian Sub Sandwich
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic peeled and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large (10-12 inch, 25.5-30.5 centimeter) sub or hoagie roll
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced pepperoni
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced boiled ham
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced capicola capocollo, coppa
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced Genoa salami
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced Provolone
- 2 ounces (57 grams) thinly sliced Mozzarella
- 1 cup (75 grams) thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
- 1 Roma tomato thinly sliced
To make the dressing:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and red wine vinegar to blend.
- Whisk in the garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Set aside.
To assemble the sandwich:
- Place the thinly sliced onion in a medium bowl and cover with ice water.
- Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain well.
- Slice the sub roll lengthwise nearly in half. Scoop out some of the excess bread on each side to make room for the ingredients.
- On the bottom half of the sandwich, arrange a layer of the pepperoni, followed by the ham, capicola, and salami.
- Top the meat with layers of the Provolone and Mozzarella.
- Toss the shredded iceberg in the dressing, shake off the excess liquid, and arrange over the cheese.
- Add a layer of the sliced onions and finally a layer of sliced tomatoes.
- Drizzle with additional dressing to taste and serve immediately.