While most travelers in the Upper Peninsula are familiar with pasties, fewer are familiar with the dish on several menus known as cudighi. We’re going to dig into where this deliciously spicy dish came from and why it’s so popular in certain areas of the UP!
What Is Cudighi?
If you’re traveling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, especially in Marquette County, you might notice a unique sandwich on the menu called cudighi. But what exactly is cudighi?
Origins of Cudighi
Cudighi is an Italian-American dish that originated in Northern Italy. In 1936, Italians who had immigrated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula began selling the sandwich and its distinctive sausage under the name “gudighi” (later changed to “cudighi”).
Interestingly, residents of Italy are unfamiliar with the name and product today. But Yoopers — locals on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — treat this meat as uniquely their own.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Italians sought mining jobs along the southern edge of Lake Superior in Marquette County. According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, one immigrant’s sausage stand changed the culinary landscape.
He set up shop between his family’s barbershop and the local bar, selling homemade sausage sandwiches dressed with chopped onions, ketchup, and mustard. He called the meat “gudighi’ and kept the recipe’s spices a secret.
After World War II, the immigrant’s son opened a bar that offered the same deliciously spicy sausage on a sandwich reflective of American food trends — namely pizza and burgers. He flattened the sausage meat into a patty, fried it on a flat-top stove, and served it topped with pizza sauce (marinara) and mozzarella on a bread roll.
Before long, competitors in the nearby towns of Ishpeming, Negaunee, and Marquette added the dish to their menus as well, and it eventually came to be known as “cudighi.”
Cudighi is a spicy Italian sausage that is seasoned with sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It is typically made from ground pork shoulder and can be bought in links or served as a sandwich on a long, hard roll with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.
No longer a secret, recipes for cudighi instruct home cooks to season ground pork shoulder with red wine, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Garlic, black pepper, allspice, and red pepper flakes round out the flavor, but no hint of fennel — the most popular Italian sausage herb — appears on the ingredient list.
Cudighi vs. Other Sausages
Compared to other sausages, cudighi has a unique flavor profile because of its use of sweet spices. It is similar to other Italian sausages like pepperoni or soppressata but with a spicier kick.
Some say that the cudighi may have originated from Italy’s cotechino, a fresh sausage made of pork meat, rind, and fat. While Italians might not recognize this American update, there is reason to suspect that anyone unacquainted with the Upper Peninsula’s signature, hot sandwich will quickly warm up to it.
While the traditional cudighi sandwich consists of spicy sausage, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce, variations include additional toppings like onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Also, some restaurants offer cudighi pizza or cudighi pasta dishes.
Overall, cudighi is a unique and flavorful sausage dish that is a must-try for anyone traveling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Places to Enjoy Cudighi in the Upper Peninsula
Today, local pizza joints, pasty shops, delis, and restaurants in Marquette County still have this unique sandwich on their menus. Butchers and grocers make everything from turkey-based cudighi to packaged cudighi spice mixes. Families buy links and loose meat to use as a pizza topping, meatball base, and pasta sauce ingredient.
If you’re traveling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you won’t want to miss out on trying the unique Italian-American sandwich known as cudighi. Here are some of the best places to enjoy this local delicacy:
Located in Ishpeming, Ralph’s Italian Deli is known for its delicious cudighi sandwiches. The sausage is made in-house and served on a soft bun with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. It offers cudighi by the pound if you want to take some home too.
Ralph’s is a surprising find along the way. Great selection of Italian groceries and pre-made specialties. Deli features a large variety of award-winning sandwiches, featuring a cudighi. Don’t miss this one at the roundabout in Ishpeming.– Mary B, TripAdvisor review
With locations in Marquette and Ishpeming, Lawry’s Pasty Shop has been serving veggie and meat pasties since 1946. Also, it offers a tasty cudighi sandwich that’s made with homemade sausage and served on a hoagie roll with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.
I’ve already given a positive review of Lawry’s pasties (which, of course, they’re best known for) some while ago. Today I tried for the first time, after all these years living in Marquette, their cudighi sandwich.
Man, I’ve never seen one this large. It is bigger than their large pasty, and has to weigh a pound. I ordered mine with pizza sauce, cheese, onions, and mushrooms. It tasted quite good, and for about $8.50 after tax I can say, ounce for ounce, you will not find a better deal.
Nobody makes it this size — the sandwich is so big I could only eat about 3/4 of it before stopping and saving the rest for later. And, understand, I didn’t eat anything all day, I was starving at 3:30 when I ordered it at the shop (it only was about a seven-minute wait), and I still couldn’t finish it. One sandwich would make a good meal for two people.– David P, TripAdvisor review
If you’re in Marquette, be sure to stop by Vango’s Pizza & Cocktail Lounge for a cudighi sandwich. The sausage is made in-house and served on a soft bun with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. There’s even cudighi pizza if you’re feeling adventurous.
Had read the reviews and was not disappointed Kinda like a chicken parmigiana sandwich 🥪 only with a well seasoned ground pork patty topped with pizza sauce that’s was tangy and lots of great melted cheese 🧀 grilled onions peppers with a soft bun- very yummy and filling- each of us had one and split an order of fries 🍟– Robert K, TripAdvisor review
Tino’s Bar & Pizza is best known for its specialty Zas, but its secret family cudighi recipe has been a local favorite for generations. Located in Negaunee, it offers a cudighi sandwich made with homemade sausage and served on a soft bun with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Tino’s Cudighi Sandwich stands alone in my book. I have been getting this since the 1970’s. They will fix it up with everything but the kitchen sink if you ask. The place hasn’t changed in 50 years, it is a typical bar in a down and out town (I can say that, my family is from Negaunee) but the Cudighi is sill worth the drive every time we are back in the area.– Mary Z, TripAdvisor review
No matter where you choose to enjoy cudighi in the Upper Peninsula, you’re sure to love this spicy, flavorful sandwich.
Celebrating Cudighi in the Upper Peninsula
If you’re traveling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’ll likely hear about cudighi. This Italian-American dish is a staple in the Marquette area and has even made its way into popular festivals and events.
Examples of cudighi’s popularity are the UP Cudighi Cook-off and Festival and the World Cudighi Championships that have been held in Ishpeming in the past. These events celebrated the sandwich and included a competition to see who could eat the most cudighi sandwiches in a set amount of time, as well as a cudighi cook-off event.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find the best cudighi sandwich in the Upper Peninsula?
If you’re looking for the best cudighi sandwich in the Upper Peninsula, you’re in luck! There are many places to find this delicious Italian-American dish.
Some popular spots include Lawry’s Pasty Shop in Marquette, Congress Pizza in Ishpeming, and Ralph’s Italian Deli in Ishpeming.
However, many locals have their own favorite spots, so don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations.
What are the ingredients typically used in Lawry’s cudighi recipe?
Lawry’s cudighi recipe is a closely guarded secret, but it is known to include a blend of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Other ingredients may include red wine, garlic, and pork.
The exact recipe may vary depending on who you ask, but one thing is for sure — Lawry’s cudighi is a beloved Upper Peninsula tradition.
How do you pronounce ‘cudighi’?
We’re guessing it’s been butchered (pun intended) many times throughout its history, but the proper way to pronounce cudighi is: “could-dig-hee”.