With thanks to “The Sandwich That Is Chicago” by Michael Stern in Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie.

I know there are readers out there in blogland who love Italian Beef. Seems I’ve been hearing about it all my life. True Confession time: I’ve never eaten it, and I do not even know what it is. I do know lots of people love it. So I decided to use this blog and an essay by Michael Stern to learn about Italian Beef. And, I’m counting on you Italian Beef lovers out there to send recipes and knowledge about Italian Beef. Do tell us where to get the best Italian Beef where you live or at another favorite location. Those of us who know little or nothing about Italian Beef are counting on you.

Michael Stern describes Italian beef as “ a heap of thin-sliced roast beef soaked with brothy gravy piled into a length of sturdy Italian bread and garlanded with spicy vegetable giardiniera or roasted peppers.” (That sentence gives a clue why he is a celebrated food writer and I’m a wannabe.) He tells us Chicago is a mecca for this sandwich. Apparently Italian beef is ubiquitous in Chicago. He describes Al’s #1 Italian Beef as the king of such establishments in Chicago.

Here’s what I learned from the Sterns essay:
1. Italian beef is sliced very thin.
2. It is cooked long and slow.
3. It is often served with sausage cooked over a charcoal fire.
4. It’s almost always served on a crusty sturdy absorbent loaf of Italian bread.
5. The beef cut is usually top sirloin or top or bottom round.
6. Spices perfume the cooking pot along with garlic. (Stern did not reveal the spices) Other sources suggest Italian spice (what else?), cayenne, paprika, red chili flakes, oregano, and basil.
7. It’s a cousin of Philly cheese steak and the French Dip

OK, Italian Beef lovers! Dazzle us with your stories, recipes, restaurants, anything you can tell us about Italian beef. Thanks for joining the conversation. This story is posted on the home page to make it easy for you to comment. Click on Leave a Reply right under the title. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “ITALIAN BEEF

  1. Jay Bryant

    You have the description down. The key elements being thinly sliced beef, slow roasted on a sturdy Italian roll and lots of brothy gravy. A good italian beef is a messy eating experience. I personally like it with lots of melted mozzarella and sweet peppers instead of the vegetable giardiniera or spicy peppers. I have not actually seen it in Chicago with the giardiniera. When we had one in Rochester, that was how they served it and it wasn’t the same as with sweet peppers.

    My favorite place in Chicago for Italian Beef is Portillo’s. You can find Portillos sprinkled throughout the Western Chicago Suburbs. I could eat a beef there every day. Tony’s Steamer’s in Winfield also has a good Italian beef.


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