What is an Italian Beef Sandwich?
"An Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (called "hot") or sauteed, green Italian sweet peppers (called "sweet")."
"Italian beef sandwiches can be found at most hot dog stands and small Italian-American restaurants throughout the city of Chicago and its suburbs. They are difficult to find outside the Chicago metropolitan area. In some cities outside of Illinois, however, Chicago expatriates have opened restaurants across the country serving Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dogs, and other foods unique to the Chicagoland area."
"Italian beef is made using cuts of beef from the sirloin butt (Scala's) or the top/bottom round wet-roasted in broth with garlic, oregano and spices until medium rare or medium. The roast is then cooled, shaved using a deli slicer, and then served dripping wet after a reintroduction to its reheated beef broth; hence the need to use a chewy bread, as a softer bread would disintegrate."
"Many retailers purchase pre-seasoned, pre-cooked, and pre-sliced Italian beef with separate cooking broth ("au jus"), and then heat and serve, while the most acclaimed Chicago beef places typically prepare the beef on their own premises according to their own recipes. Some produce their own homemade giardiniera, too."
"Origins of the sandwich are disputed, but one early vendor, Al's No. 1 Italian Beef, opened its first stand in 1938."
"One story has it that the Italian Beef sandwich was started by Italian immigrants who worked for the old Union Stock Yards. They often would bring home some of the tougher, less desirable cuts of beef sold by the company. To make the meat more palatable, it was slow-roasted to make it more tender, then slow-simmered in a spicy broth for flavor. Both the roasting and the broth used Italian-style spices and herbs. The meat was then thinly sliced across the grain and stuffed into fresh Italian bread."
"Italian beef became popular at Italian weddings, where it was an inexpensive meal for the guests. The women would make large quantities, and then make individual sandwiches which they wrapped in paper and served."
"By 1954 a local restaurant was advertising its "Pizza, Spaghetti, Ravioli, [and] Italian Beef Sandwiches" in the Chicago Tribune."
"In the 1950s and '60s this dish was commonly known as "Dago Beef" and signs on local taverns (and the menus within) would advertise it as such well into the '80s. As the term Dago became more widely understood to be offensive, the term Dago Beef has begun to vanish."
"There are varying degrees of juiciness, depending on your taste. Nomenclature varies from stand to stand, but wet or dipped means the bread is quickly dunked in the juice; juicy even wetter; and soaked is dripping wet."
Most Chicago beef joints also offer a "combo," adding a grilled Italian sausage to the sandwich. Different eateries offer hot or mild sausage, or both.
Typical beef orders are:
- Hot dipped: Italian beef on gravy-wetted bread and giardiniera.
- Hot dipped combo: Italian beef and sausage on gravy-wetted bread with giardiniera.
- Sweet dry: Italian beef placed on dry bread, topped with sweet peppers.
- Gravy bread: meatless Italian bread soaked in the juice of Italian beef, often served with peppers or giardiniera. Also known in some places as "Soakers"
- Cheesy beef or cheef: Italian beef with cheese (Provolone, Mozzarella or, rarely, cheddar); not all stands offer this.
- Cheesy beef on garlic: Italian beef with cheese (Provolone, Mozzarella or, rarely, cheddar)and the bread being pre-cooked and seasoned like traditional garlic bread; not all stands offer this.
Some order the "triple double," which consists of double cheese, double sausage and double beef. Other even less common variations include substituting Italian bread with a large croissant or topping with marinara sauce.
Shop Bread Related: