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A Sandwich a Day: Italian Beef at Fontano's Subs

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

A few years ago, Fontano's Subs moved from a cramped and chaotic location by a sad looking Arby's to an open and airy storefront on Michigan Avenue. My first visit was genuinely disorientating. I was used to there barely being enough room for the line, let alone enough space to stand stoically and contemplate the menu. Perhaps that's why I finally realized that along with a collection of subs, Fontano's also serves an Italian beef.

Like the subs (all very good, by the way) the beef is assembled quickly and frantically by one person. This is ridiculously inefficient, but important, because it ensures that the sandwich has some semblance of proportion. Sure enough, the Italian is neither skimpy nor so overloaded that the roll busts halfway through. As for the beef, the thick slices of beef are surprisingly tender, and the giardiniera attacks with just the right amount of heat. The only thing holding this back is good and meaty gravy; it's a tad thin and watery. But it, along with the offering at UB Dogs, is a solid and satisfying option if you're in the Loop and need an Italian beef fix.

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