Back in the fall of 2020, I—no doubt hankering for a Fuel Cafe fix I hadn’t been able to get for months—developed a copycat recipe for the renowned coffee shop/restaurant’s beloved “Buttafuoco” sandwich. Even if it wasn’t an exact replica, the Cream City comfort food standby helped to get me through some pretty dark days in isolation. It wasn’t perfect (though a longtime manager told me I was “very close” to the recipe), but it would do the job until The Original Fuel Cafe reopened post-pandemic and all was right in the world.
Well, that didn’t happen. The Original Fuel Cafe never reopened, and for reasons I can’t fathom, Fuel’s 5th Street Cafe no longer offers this riff on its famed Cheesy Tomato Sandwich. It is available at the newly reopened and affiliated Comet Cafe, but I haven’t made it there to try it yet. While this sandwich-related skill was forged in tragedy, I now possess the ability to make a passable Buttafuoco at home. Having that solid foundation also means I’m able to make any modifications and adjustments to the sandwich that I’d like to make.
A few weeks ago, I had an idea for an especially unorthodox Buttafuoco customization. The more I thought about it, the more it made me laugh. The more this idea entertained me, the more I thought about possible ways to make this funny rendition actually happen. After a while, I knew I needed to make this happen as part of our “Food/Drink Week” coverage. I was going to make an extremely tiny Buttafuoco sandwich. I planned to call the one-third scale sando the “Babyfuoco,” which my girlfriend immediately improved upon with her “Bittyfuoco” suggestion.
With a name, some small sub sandwich substitutions, and an approximate size in mind, I set out to make this admittedly very dumb dream of a “Bittyfuoco” into a reality. I hit the store and picked up…
Some Glorioso’s breadsticks, which would be a miniature stand-in for the Peter Sciortino Bakery-sourced French bread. Fuel used Sciortino bread for its Buttas and I’m almost certain Glorioso’s uses Sciortino bread for all its sandwiches.
I took out the smallest breadstick and cut it in half horizontally.
Up next is the Hot Giardiniera, which I also got from Glorioso’s. Sadly, they had nothing smaller than regular 16-ounce jars available.
I set the breadstick on my smallest baking sheet and searched for the smallest spoon in my kitchen (knowing no one else would ever see them, but just wanting to be consistent), then put a couple spoonfuls of the giardiniera on the breadstick along with a small drizzle of oil from the jar. I couldn’t find my ruler, so I put a spare house key next to the sandwich to help establish scale. Very scientific stuff!
Up next…tomatoes! Instead of thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes, my “Bittyfuoco” would have teeny tiny grape tomatoes, one of which is pictured here next to the house key for scale.
I carefully cut 2.5 of the smallest grape tomatoes in the container and put them on the bread. Then came the cheese. I cut a thin slice of provolone in half (as pictured) and a thin slice of mozzarella in half, then placed them atop the mini mess of tomatoes and giardiniera. I also added a few small dashes of oregano, black pepper, and garlic salt.
I broiled it in the oven for a few minutes until melted and browned, then proceeded to add the mayo.
Fittingly, the mayo came from a little packet I took from the Cousins in Jackson, Wisconsin.
Then came some lettuce. I couldn’t find any Baby Iceberg at my local Outpost, so (figuring the “Baby” element superseded using the correct type of lettuce) I bought Baby Romaine instead.
I mean, look at how friggin’ small that lettuce is!
My Bittyfuoco, measuring exactly six inches from end to end, was nearly complete.
I added a few slices of raw onion—cut from the smallest little red onion I could find, house key for scale again!—atop the mayo, folded it up, cut it in half, and was left with…
Though it was extremely small and undeniably cute, each three-inch-long piece of this breadstick-turned-sandwich was big on flavor. It could be eaten on just one bite, but what a bite it was! I’m also proud to say that I nailed the proportions.
Seriously, look at how tiny this little sandwich is! Though I don’t exactly know why I was so fixated on making “The Bittyfuoco” happen, I’m glad I was able to make this strange and very stupid idea to miniaturize one of my favorite sandwiches a reality. Take it from me, people: If you work hard, believe in yourself, visit three different grocery stores, and remember to steal a mayo packet from a regional sub chain weeks earlier, your littlest edible aspirations can also come true. Dream small and anything is possible!