BOSTON - Paul Barker is the hero of heroes, the savant of sandwiches, the guru of grinders.
"Sandwiches are my passion. It's what I do. I love my wife and my kids, but I love sandwiches."
At Pauli's in Boston's North End, he has come up with some crazy concoctions.
"We'll make anything into a sandwich. Whatever you want - we'll sandwichcize that. I don't know if that's a word, but we'll put that into a sandwich."
This sandwich spot may be small, but Pauli's pumps out dozens of mouthwatering grinders that you probably can't find at your average sub shop.
"What we do with sandwiches, we just take it up a notch. We try to do things that are unique and different, and most of all tasty."
Night and day, Paul obsesses over his sandwiches, trying to come up with the next big thing to put on a bun.
"I love to get up in the morning and say, 'Let's come up with something different. Let's come up with a new idea. Let's come up with something that's just off the wall.'"
With so many sandwiches being invented on a daily basis, there's almost too much to choose from.
"We have so many different varieties and so many great sandwiches that people get mesmerized. They don't know what to pick," Paul said. "But once they get a sandwich, they get hooked on that sandwich and they'll have that sandwich over and over again."
There's the Vito sandwich, created by Soprano's star and Pauli's patron, Joe Gannascoli. This monstrous sub will whack out any hunger. It's loaded up with a crispy chicken cutlet, ham, provolone, and roasted peppers with a spicy chipotle mayo.
Then there's the Skinny Vinny, stuffed with eggplant, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and pesto. But nothing is more filling than the Fat Felix, a hangover helper packed with shaved steak, bacon, cheese and French fries.
"You want to get a hangover just so you can have this sandwich" Paul joked. "It's just bacon, cheese, French fries. It's like everything that you shouldn't have, that you want to have, all in one bite."
Big eaters also enjoy The Big Boy Burger. Stacked to the ceiling with cheese, bacon, a crunchy onion ring and plenty of barbecue sauce, it's almost too messy to eat.
"I think everything that's messy is good. If you have that barbecue sauce coming down your arm, that's a good sandwich."
Since Pauli's is just a few blocks from the bay, there's lots and lots of lobster on their menu as well. There's nothing larger than the Lobstitution sandwich: TWO supersized sub rolls filled to the gills with 28 ounces of lobster.
"28 ounces is a lot of lobster. It's probably like four regular sized lobsters go into making a Lobstitution," Paul remarked. "We use knuckle and claw; premium good lobster meat. We don't use any fillers at all, just very light mayo, a little twist of lemon, a lot of love and a lot of fun."
If you want something a bit more manageable, try Pauli's glorious lobster grilled cheese.
"Anybody who tries the lobster grilled cheese is like, 'This is like heaven,' because it's just like everything you want," he said. "You see the big chunks of lobster with the cheese oozing over it on the grilled bread. You have lobster and you have cheese. What else do you need?"
You can also satisfy your lobster and cheese craving with a big bowl of Pauli's Lobster Mac & Cheese, chock full of fresh seafood.
"People are like, 'I can't believe you can actually see this much lobster.' It's almost a half-pound of lobster meat. It's in that gooey cheesy sauce with the pasta. It's fabulous."
Sure, the lobster mac is good, but the Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese might be even better.
"It's made with crispy chicken cutlets, loaded with chicken cutlets. Toss it in the cheese sauce. It's a little spicy. It's a little a little cheesy. Very enjoyable."
While coming up with all of this creative fare day after day may seem tiresome, Paul doesn't seem to mind.
"I love my job. It's not even like work. Every day I love to come in and say, 'What are we going to do better? What's next?' And my staffs the same way. They're like, 'Hey Paul, look at this. Taste this. What do you think?' And that's what we do every day.
You can find Pauli's at 65 Salem Street in Boston, and online at paulisnorthend.com.
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