I assumed for years that all the great Italian beefs had already been accounted for, so I was thrilled to learn recently that a number of Italian delis serve great Italian beefs. This opened up the genre to a whole new cast of characters, and breathed life, at least for me, into a classic Chicago sandwich. But are there other Italian beefs hiding in plain sight, perhaps at newer restaurants?
I found my answer at Roots Handmade Pizza in West Town. It is best known as the city's only purveyor of the oddly appealing Quad Cities-style pizza, which features a malty crust and occasionally strange topping choices (watch out for that taco pizza). Not that we need some Iowa perspective on our native sandwich, but it's obvious that the restaurant is attempting to address certain issues of most Italian beefs, which is mostly a good and noble thing.
The giardiniera is freshly pickled, clean and curt, instead of overly oily. The biggest improvement is the bread, which has a pleasing crust, yet remains relatively light. It's not all perfect, though. For one thing, the slices of beef are a bit dry and overcooked, even if they are still flavorful and extra beefy. But I'm just happy new places are tackling the precarious Italian beef, because it's a sandwich that deserves more attention.