Cosmo’s Cheesesteaks offers authentic Philadelphia subs without the drive.Jason Riedmiller photo / For Go Lackawanna
As I’m careful not to mess up my order, I can’t help but to overhear all the feedback being given to Cosmo Salerno, owner of Cosmo’s Cheesesteaks and Cheese Fries at 532 Moosic St., Scranton.
“The best damn sandwich I ever had,” said Andrew Rodman of Sioux City, Iowa. Rodman had been visiting town with his wife who was on company business with Wells Fargo. Rodman ordered a cheesesteak with Provolone cheese and mushrooms.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to try the fried onions,” said Rodman.
I went back to practicing my order.
In Philadelphia, ordering cheesesteaks is no joke. As you enter the counter, you state your order either “wit” or “wit out,” referring to onions. Next you proclaim your choice in cheese: wiz, American, or Provolone. The famous “soup Nazi” Seinfeld episode comes to mind, only switch the soup for cheesesteaks.
The strict Philly-style ordering instructions are displayed at Cosmo’s, although the Scranton staff has a much more laid back approach in taking your order. The gal who greeted me was as friendly as possible and explained a few different fry choices.
Cosmo’s in Scranton smacks of a Philly cheesesteak joint; cheese, bread, variations, even the hot sauce instead of pizza sauce. Salerno got it right, and creating a Philadelphia-style cheesesteak stop is no easy feat.
But nowhere did I see the cheesesteaks referred to as “Philly cheesesteaks.”
It seems to me, whenever I see the word “Philly cheesesteaks” on a menu, I am usually let down. After all, in Philadelphia, there just called cheesesteaks.
Another gripe with what are often branded as “Philly cheesesteaks” is that a truly authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak never uses pizza or marinara sauce.
It’s hot sauce. You never, ever, see marinara sauce as an option.
It’s always hot sauce.
So I asked Salerno, why not call them Philly cheesesteaks?
“I don’t need it. People know when they taste my steaks that I do it right,” says Salerno. “I go through a lot to make sure these steaks are authentic. It’s easy to slap the word “Philly” in front of cheesesteak, but the taste is the only way to authenticate the Philadelphia style.”
As for me, I feel confident that I have eaten enough of them to be classified an expert in cheesesteaks.
I am a big fan and I’ve been to all the places in Philadelphia. The first steak I had was at Pat’s. I remember my dad and I were hungry before a Phillies game and we went to Pat’s.
Since then, any time my wife and I pass through Philadelphia, we stop at either Pat’s or Tony Luke’s. I couldn’t tell you which I prefer, each have their own unique taste.
Lucky for me, Cosmo’s is right around the corner from our office here on Wyoming Avenue.
I was thrilled after eating at Cosmo’s. It’s also nice when the owner stops by to personally ask you how the food was. It says a great deal about how important your business is to them.
I must have heard Cosmo Salerno ask 20 times, to all different customers, “How was everything?”
Well, when Salerno asked me, I all but mimicked the guy who proclaimed it was the best damn steak he had ever had. I explained to Salerno that I had been to all the Philadelphia shops, and that couldn’t remember ever having eaten a better cheesesteak.
You don’t have to take the drive to Philadelphia to have the best cheesesteak anymore.
Cosmo’s takes the cake, hands down.