By Seth Daniel
Whether it was a 25-cent sub, an animated conversation or the institution of his sub shop, long-time Angelina’s Sub Shop owner Ali S. Ali created a business that made him into an Everett legend.
That legend passed away peacefully on Friday, Jan. 5, surrounded by family in his home at the age of 91.
His passing marked yet another icon of old Everett lost to time, though his shop has been out of existence for about two years now – and he had been retired since 2012.
“He was an icon; he was really someone special,” said his son, Sam Ali, this week. “We take it for granted because we were around it all the time.”
Said his daughter, Amele Ambrosino, “He was just a great guy and he loved Everett and loved the customers who came into his Everett store. Often, he would actually sleep on the counter of the shop because he was so exhausted and had to open up early the next morning. He was so tired because he would never close, never wanted to miss someone who might come in for a sandwich. He instilled that work ethic into all six of his kids. When he was at Angelina’s, he just loved Everett and loved the people in Everett.”
Angelina’s started in Lynn in 1954, and soon expanded to Broadway Everett. After opening in a small store in the 600th block of Broadway, Ali eventually settled at 696 Broadway until he retired in 2012. Family members tried to keep it running, but illnesses prevented it from continuing and they closed for good two years ago – though they still own the building.
The name Angelina’s, Hannan Ali said, came from when the business started with family member Isa Ali. Not wanting to call it Ali’s Subs, the two were searching for a name while taking deliveries of their first products. As it happened, the first product they received was ‘Angelina’s Pure Italian Olive Oil.’ It hit a chord with the two, and that became the name that grew to legendary status in Everett.
Part of the legend was the fact that the sandwiches were chock full of ingredients, and that they were just 25 cents.
His favorites were the Regular American (Salami, American Cheese and Bologna), the Italian and the Steak Bomb with Salami – all of which were made with Piantedosi breads.
“He just had it; he knew what to do,” said Sam Ali. “He would pile on everything. He said it had to have lots and lots of ingredients. The Regular American was his first big one. It was simple, but that was the beauty of it – the regular. Then he expanded to the Italian and others. He used to sell them for 25 cents. That was the big thing; you could go to Angelina’s and get a sub for 25 cents. A jumbo was like $1, and it was three feet long.”
Added Amele, “The funniest thing was that most of his sandwiches had pork on them and we are Muslim so he never ate any of them. That is so funny. My father had never, never, never had a Regular American or an Italian or a Steak Bomb with Salami. He never even tasted his own subs.”
Tom Rogers of Everett said he can recall going into Angelina’s for an Italian as a 10-year-old kid on a newspaper route. He said the 25-cent sub was a huge draw, and Ali was a great guy.
“He was actually quite famous,” said Rogers this week. “I actually had a job working the graveyard shift over in Cambridge when I was 19, and I would bring in an Angelina’s sub for my lunch, which was at 4 a.m. One night I was eating it, and another co-worker asked me if it was from Angelina’s. I told him it was and he asked if I would bring him one in the next day. Everyone knew him. The 25-cent sub was a big thing…Definitely in Everett, he was an institution. His passing will be noted.”
Family members said Ali was devoted to his wife of 60 years, and that he had come to America from Palestine with nothing. Amele said that Ali’s parents came to the United States when he was young, leaving him behind to take care of the family when he was only 13. He managed a cigarette factory and had to quit school at the sixth grade. When he arrived in the U.S., he was ready to find success through hard work.
“My dad only had a sixth-grade education, but he was very smart,” said Amele. “He went door-to-door selling things, whatever worked that would make money.”
That hard work transferred over to the shop, where all six of his children (Adele Mustafa, Amele, Hannan, Essam Ali, Sam, and Hisham Ali) got their first taste of working a job – whether it was making subs, carrying in deliveries or peeling onions.
Amele said that, in the end, it wasn’t about making subs, but rather making people happy that kept her father going for so many decades on Broadway.
“He loved conversations with customers,” she said. “Conversation after conversation after conversation; he would talk about anything. Even when he retired, he would drive to the shop. At the age of 85, he would drive to the shop just to talk to people all day…He just wanted to make people happy. He came with a sixth grade education to this country to better himself, and that’s what he did.”