The smell is overwhelming as I step into Esposito’s Porchetta — a six-generation, family-owned pork business in South Philadelphia. Jules Esposito Jr., who is preparing to take over the business from his parents, shows me the brick oven where whole pigs cook for between four and eight hours.
“The fire brick actually retains the heat for a month or so after it’s shut off,” explained Jules as we peer into the hole in the wall that’s radiating intense heat.
Three pigs on giant spits are deep in the oven. About a dozen more are already wrapped, waiting to be picked up.
It’s early, so there aren’t many customers yet. Jules says most of them will try to pick up their orders as close to Super Bowl kickoff as possible.
“That way, they’re nice and hot still,” he said, preparing for the busiest time of the day.
Most Philadelphia-area natives are familiar with the classic roast pork sandwich. “The works” consists of pork, provolone, broccoli rabe, and long hot peppers. But Jules explains the Italian pork sandwich is a bit different.
“The traditional Italian way is just a porchetta on a piece of bread, and a little piece of skin on top,” he said.
Today’s special is a pig’s head on a platter with a label that says “Brady.” Jules says the shop will share with the Eagles the task of taking out the Patriots quarterback.
“We’re gonna cook ‘im, and they’re going to finish ‘im,” he said.
A little farther south, Carangi Baking Company is already packed with customers. Santino Carangi, also among the younger generation of the family-owned business, is busy filling orders and refilling baskets with rolls. He says Eagles game day is always busy.
“But as for a Super Bowl, we are actually treating it exactly like a holiday,” said Santino. “Big, big parties, a lot of catering rolls, a whole lot of food that needs to get out early. It’s chaos, but it’s beautiful chaos.”
Bread, like pork, is something many customers will only pick up on the day they’re going to eat it.
“It’s difficult because we use no preservatives in the bread, so we let everything rise naturally for two hours. For the quality it is, it throws us for a whole time loop. But it’s all well worth it,” he said.
If the Eagles win, Santino expects celebration around the shop, near Broad and Oregon streets, to be jubilant, but — he hopes — peaceful.
“We are praying that none of our bread trucks get destroyed or flipped over, ” he said. “When they were on Broad and Oregon, when [the Phillies] won the championship, it was fine. But I’m praying to God nothing happens.”
Stella O’Rourke, sporting a Super Bowl LII shirt, left the bakery with a paper bag, filled with hoagie rolls, in each arm. Food will not be in short supply at her house.
“Today we’re having a hoagie tray, wings, pizza, everything. Anything that you can imagine, we’re having,” she said.
She walked away and quickly ran into a friend, who was also stopping into Carangi’s for game-day baked goods. Then she turned and offered me what has become a standard greeting in Philadelphia over the past couple weeks: “Go, Eagles!”