Woonsocket's Dynamite Sandwich

PROVIDENCE, RI – The dynamite sandwich.

Its ethnic origins have been lost to time but the sandwich's popularity is as strong as ever.

Meet Diane Frenette, owner of the Castle Restaurant in downtown Woonsocket, one of only a handful of Rhode Island eateries that specializes in the dynamite sandwich. "There's a few throughout the city but they only do it as a special," says Frenette. "I don't think anyone serves it every day in the amount I do. I actually sell at least 200 pounds of this mix a week."

To a casual observer the dynamite sandwich could be confused with a Sloppy Joe. But its taste is entirely different because of the addition of celery, onion and green peppers. Just ask Arthur Denomme. a Castle restaurant customer. "It's a matter of taste and it's delicious. I just love dynamite," says Denomme as he wolfs down one of the sandwiches. "There's nothing like it. It's the best meal anybody can have in a sandwich."

Frenette starts by browning 40 pounds of lean ground beef. Then she adds tomato sauce, tomato paste, a dash of crushed red pepper and her vegetables and lets it simmer for two hours. "People just absolutely love it," says Frenette as she chops 30 pounds of onions. "We'll go through about six gallons today. It's almost unbelievable."

Traditionally, the dynamite sandwich is served on a torpedo roll. But at the Castle Restaurant you can get the tasty meat mixture a variety of ways. "We serve it over pasta, spaghetti or ziti with a salad on the side," Frenette explains. "We serve it over hot dogs. People absolutely love it. Over burgers also. We call them dyna burgers, dyna dogs."

Some people like it so much they buy it by the gallon. "I have people come in saying I've got a graduation or I've got a cookout. Can I buy a gallon? A half gallon?' I'll do it that way," says Frenette. "Sometimes I'll give them the rolls with it. I'm happy when it lasts a week and I don't have to make it again but right now we had to make it this morning."

The origins of the dynamite sandwich are unclear. Frenette inherited her recipe from the previous owner of the restaurant. But she has no idea who whipped up the first batch.

"I think that because there were French maybe it could have been out of Canada but I'm really not sure. Nobody seems to know that I've ever talked to."

For restaurant purposes, Frenette makes gallons of dynamite sandwich filling at a time.

Dynamite Sandwich Recipe

Serves 15 to 20 people (but it freezes and re-heats well)
5 lbs hamburger
4 lbs green peppers diced
3 lbs onions diced
Salt, pepper and red pepper
1 large can tomato sauce

Fry the hamburger and drain well. Place hamburger, pepper s and onions in a large pot. Add tomato sauce, adding until mixture is completely covered. Add salt, pepper and slowly add red pepper to taste. Let simmer until peppers and onions are cooked throughout, stirring often. Taste to adjust the amount of kick you want from the red pepper. This always tastes better if made the day before and slowly reheated the next day. Make sure it's completely cool before refrigerating. Serve over grinder roll.

Recipe courtesy of Lucille Denomme of North Smithfield

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