August 20, 2022

I don’t often read food reviews, but when the article concerns one of your favorites, you just can’t resist, right?

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Well, as a Chicagoan, when I saw an internet article come up on my screen, by a newcomer to Chicago reviewing the best of Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwiches, I naturally had to click on it.

I didn’t expect to find a political meaning in the piece – and frankly, I’m quite sure that the writer didn’t intend any political undertone either – but there it was, in the subtext, for anyone who knows Chicago.

The Italian beef is a great sandwich.  Over a century ago, Italian immigrants created a way to take a bad cut of beef and make it magnificent. It’s a twist on the “roast beef” that every deli sells, but is shaved thin and loosely, with Italian spices making a wonderfully flavorful gravy.  Served on an Italian roll, with your choice of peppers, it’s an iconic creation.

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It looks simple, but it took generations to perfect not only the beef, but also the peppers.  Most Italian beef joints give customers a choice of giardiniera (a hot Italian pickled vegetable mixture) or simmered sweet peppers, or sometimes pepperoncini.

As I read the article, I could see that the writer was trying her best to be fair; she judged each place’s sandwich by the size of the roll, the quantity of beef it contained, how well drenched in the “au jus” it was, how badly all that gravy compromised the structural integrity of the bread, and of course, the overall flavor.  To all this, she gave some added consideration to the aroma from the bag, the surroundings at each restaurant, and the price.

I cannot stress enough that she clearly tried to be fair.


The article begins with her conveying disappointment at the fact that these places don’t serve it with cheese.  And then she also proudly declared that she sampled each one without any peppers, to be able to be completely fair in judging the beef.

This is like ordering a serving of Rigatoni Bolognese, but telling them to hold the Bolognese sauce, because you want to be completely objective in evaluating the noodles.