At 6:00 AM, most people aren’t thinking about lunch, but at Dugan’s Sandwich Shop in Woodbury, a daily baking ritual is underway based on a belief that the art of building a good sandwich begins with the bread.
As the morning sun peaks over Jericho Turnpike, owner John Licastro is in the kitchen portioning individual loaves of whole wheat, and keeping a watchful eye on a large Hobart mixer kneading a batch of white. It is a surprisingly cool summer morning. The side door is propped open to let in the air, but the ovens radiate heat.
Dugan’s extensive sandwich menu includes homemade white, wheat, rye and multi-grain breads. Licastro estimates he bakes 70 loaves of bread a day, seven days a week, and can use between 150 to 200 pounds of white flour each week, supplemented by whole wheat and rye flour.
Fresh daily bread is a mainstay at Dugan’s, going back decades. “It was the thing to do back then,” says Licastro. “There weren’t any bakeries around where you could get rolls.”
Initially established as a 12-acre poultry farm in 1938, Dugan’s sold fresh chicken and eggs. When Bob and Eva Rummell took over the location in the 1950s, they expanded the retail store, offering homemade soups, fried chicken and eventually baked goods and sandwiches.
As Licastro tells it, Mrs. Rummell “wrote a letter to Betty Crocker” to request a bread recipe. The formula she received became Dugan’s go-to recipe. Licastro – who grew up in Plainview and now resides in Massapequa – was first employed at Dugan’s in 1989 at the age of 14. He subsequently went to culinary school and worked a variety of jobs as a chef and butcher. In 2001, Licastro purchased Dugan’s from the Rummell family and continued using Mrs. Rummell’s time-tested bread recipe. He has adjusted the recipe on occasion – and created variations for whole wheat and multigrain bread – but it essentially remains the recipe on which the business was built.
By 7:45 AM, the kitchen is fragrant with the aroma of warm yeast and it’s time to pull the bread from the oven. The loaves will cool for several hours before they are sliced horizontally. The cut means fewer slices per loaf, but assures a more generous sandwich.
And, the sandwich choices are vast. Chad’s Special is grilled honey maple turkey, Muenster cheese, bacon, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette. The Roast Beef Special layers juicy slices of beef, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing. The Smoked Turkey Reuben offers a savory mélange of melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye. The fresh, tender homemade bread and chewy crust sops up all those delicious flavors.
That’s why – come lunchtime – the locals line up for their Dugan’s fix. Patrons can order at the counter and dine on outdoor picnic tables or at the indoor café, decorated with vintage items from Dugan’s past, including a breadbox, a cracker tin, and the store’s original Coca-Cola vending machine.
Given the many demands of a daily eatery, why take the time to bake bread from scratch each day? Surely, it’s a commitment to homemade and an understanding that a taste of tradition can make a good sandwich great.
“With delis, shops and big places on every street corner, anyone can do turkey on a roll,” says Licastro, “but no one else has Dugan’s fresh bread.”