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Visit Big Nick’s and Lil’ Nicks

Located at 1311 W. Moyamensing Avenue, Lil’ Nick’s Deli and Big Nick’s Cold Cuts & Italian Specialties are serving up some of the best chicken cutlet sandwiches, deli meats, and Italian specialty items you can find in Philadelphia. Lil’ Nick’s is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm and Saturdays 10am to 4pm, and Big Nick’s is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Saturday.

Follow Big Nick’s Instagram here and Lil’ Nick’s Instagram here for specials and updates.


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JL Jupiter's visit to Lil Nick's Deli


To this story in CitizenCast

Big Rube chats it up with Big Nick and Lil’ Nick in this interview edition of his story

And go here for more audio articles from CitizenCast

Big Rube’s Philly: Big Nick’s and Lil’ Nicks

The iconic brand-maker, photographer, chef and Philadelphian talks to an Italian American father and son with side-by-side market and hoagie shops

Big Rube’s Philly: Big Nick’s and Lil’ Nicks

The iconic brand-maker, photographer, chef and Philadelphian talks to an Italian American father and son with side-by-side market and hoagie shops

My friend Nick Miaile Jr. runs a hoagie shop at 13th and Moyamensing, next door to the Italian grocery store his dad Nick Miale Sr. has run for 50 years. South Philly may be changing. How we do business and buy things are changing. There’s something about having these two father-and-son spots on the same block, right here in the neighborhood, that I love and keep going back to. Big Nick’s and Lil’ Nick’s.

Nick Miaile, Sr. inside Big Nick’s.

Big Nick’s is where I go for my cheeses when I’m making pasta: fontina, pecorino. Lil’ Nick’s is famous for his hoagies, chicken cutlet sandwich and his sidekick Gary “Sauce,” the only guy I know who works in fly sneakers. There’s a caricature of the two of them in the shop.

I’ve known Nick Jr. for 20 years. My cousin James Patterson first took me to Nick Jr.’s shop back when it was on Broad and Jackson. Nick and I bonded over our love of hip-hop and the Black and Italian South Philly friends we had in common. He’d gone to Neumann Goretti. I was a loyal customer — my order back then was honey turkey and cheese, no tomatoes — and I wrote about the spot in the Philadelphia Weekly. That was Nick’s first writeup.

The menu at Lil’ Nick’s.

Nick Jr. recently told me he never liked that shop on Jackson. “When I first opened, I had anything I could buy out of a freezer, out of a box,” he says. “I would deep fry it. That wasn’t me. That wasn’t what I was used to. I tried to be a papi store, and even though the building was bigger and all that, I wasn’t making the food I liked to serve people. I wasn’t happy doing it.”

He closed down. Nick Sr. knew his son was unhappy and told him about a little spot behind his own store. It belonged to “a hairdresser who was old and retiring in a couple of months,” says Nick Jr. He moved in and figured he’d “start out small, make hoagies again, with just a little stove, two slicers — that’s it.” These days, he makes everything from scratch. His ace, Gary, cooks the chicken cutlets to order. “I rock it,” he says.

Nick Miaile, Jr. (left) and Gary “Sauce.”

Father and son both work long hours. “I’m up with the birds,” says Nick Sr. “I get up at 3 o’clock. I leave at 5. I get home at 6. I’m 74 this month, coming up. It’s not easy, but we’re still here.”

I love running into Nick Sr. early in the morning at JETRO, the restaurant supply store by Lincoln Financial Field . He’s 74, and he’s beating me with his cart. We laugh and say, “Nicky, he still in bed!”

Dad’s up with the birds. Son’s up with the owls. “When my dad needs something late, he calls me,” Nick Jr. says.

The rest of the Miaile children, with their dad, Nick Sr. (right).

Big Nick’s is booming before Christmas and New Year’s and busy on weekends. They’re known for their “good cold cuts, good rolls and good cheeses, and a lot of salad, fancy salads,” Nick Sr. says.

Lil’ Nick’s has gotten busy too. One day, I showed up, and the line’s going all the way down the block. The YouTube food reviewer JL Jupiter had come by and posted a video saying their chicken cutlet sandwich was the world’s best.

Still, when I go in, I get my honey turkey and cheese (Cooper’s sharp), topped with roast beef. I bring my own Carangi roll, because that’s my baker. Nick uses Aversa. And, for the freshness, I get tomatoes on my hoagie.

The Miaile family are close. Nick Jr.’s two siblings work at Big Nick’s, and his mom comes by both shops to help make special dishes. Nick Sr. and Jr. have that bond that’s tough and deep. “Nicky’s a well-liked kid,” says Nick Sr. “He’s not me. We’re two different guys.”

Jr. (left) and Sr., in front of Jr.’s shop.

“My son is one of a kind. Can’t teach him nothing. He’s teaching me now, things I don’t know. What are you gonna do?”

West Philly born and raised with a slosh of Brooklyn New York in between, Big Rube partnered with Mitchell & Ness in 2000 to help make it a global brand marketing and selling high-end vintage jerseys. He has been photographing Philly since 2009, including in a Daily News Column from 2011 to 2017. He’s also a chef, operating Chef Big Rube’s Kitchen seven days a week at Pitcher’s Pub in Manayunk, selling the best handmade food in a Main Street dive bar.


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