If you think about some of your favorite (or not so favorite) restaurants, chances are, they probably have some sort of signature dish, or at least something they’re known for. Though you will, of course, see this happen at many food establishments (especially big chains), it seems to me that places that have a very serious following (sometimes even cult-like) often have a dish that they are famous for. At Bay Cities, a deli that has an obsessive customer base, The Godmother is this dish.
A signature dish allows competing businesses to define and separate themselves by creating a food (like a sandwich) that will represent the whole of the establishment. This is the dish that people will choose most often, most likely due to exposure and hype, and the dish that customers will equate with the restaurant. For example, anyone who has been to Bay Cities will at least know of The Godmother even if they’ve never eaten it. In fact, the entire front of the market is covered in a sign that says “Home of The Godmother.” And though the sandwich is really just a glorified Italian sub, the role it plays to Bay Cities is what makes it so much more than that. Not only is it the food item that Bay Cities puts its name and reputation behind, it is also the food that customers will choose in order to become a part of the phenomenon. If you go to Bay Cities regularly, but have never had a Godmother, other regulars will not only be shocked, they’ll probably also judge you and your commitment to the deli (yep, even those of you who don’t eat meat…sidebar, I ate this sandwich for years and years before I began eating pig products, and people would give me looks of astonishment when I told them my favorite sandwich place was Bay Cities, but no, I’d never had a Godmother).
There are definitely places that have signature dishes that don’t have such social response, but I think these are places that aren’t “signature” themselves. This is what makes The Godmother iconic instead of being just another signature sandwich at just another deli. The fact is, Bay Cities itself is a cultural phenomenon. It has become, for Santa Monica natives especially, the ideal of what a sandwich should be, and The Godmother is the best of what this amazing place can do. The consumption of this sandwich grants you entrance into the exclusive culture of those who know and idolize Bay Cities for their sandwich prowess.
So yes, The Godmother is a delicious and perfectly executed sandwich that deserves attention for its sandwichness alone. But the following that it creates takes both Bay Cities and The Godmother to iconic levels.