Gallery: Better with Giardiniera: 9 Great Sandwiches Featuring with Chicago's Favorite Condiment

Italian Beef Combo at Johnnie's Beef
Italian Beef Combo at Johnnie's Beef

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"The Italian beef ($3.90) itself is like meat origami--delicately cut, then expertly folded up into a Italian roll. Or like meat ribbons on a present you just keep unwrapping. I take mine wet and hot, the bun just lapping up those savory juices. Lots of garlic and black pepper bolster the rich, yet surprisingly not-too-heavy beef. It's the kind of sandwich you finish and feel completely satisfied, yet selfishly want to order another in the event of beefocalypse." Read more here >>

Italian Beef at Al's #1 Italian Beef
Italian Beef at Al's #1 Italian Beef

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"The sandwich toppings are all about accentuating the beef. You can get it "sweet" which is a layer of roasted bell peppers. Some people like this but I find it too mushy. I always get it "hot," which is giardiniera made up of crunchy vegetables, lacquered in oil, and spiked with red pepper flakes. It's crisp, slightly acidic, and spicy. It's the perfect contrast to the tender sandwich." Read more here >>

Italian Sub at J. P. Graziano
Italian Sub at J. P. Graziano

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"The Italian is a flawless recreation of the Chicago classic... But even on a seemingly straightforward sandwich like this one small details stick out. Instead of heaping sliced iceberg on each sandwich, the lettuce is dressed with vinegar in a large bowl for each order. There may be three cured meats, but only a light layer of each is added, so the proportion of the sandwich is always right. And then there is the giardiniera. The mix of pickled vegetables and chiles adds crunch, acidity, and spice to each bite. As I've mentioned a few times, I was never aware of this condiment before moving to Chicago, but now I'm not sure what I'd do without it. Victoria, the brand Graziano's uses, also happens to be one of my favorites." Read more here >>

Gyros Sandwich with Giardiniera at Niko's Gyros
Gyros Sandwich with Giardiniera at Niko's Gyros

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"This glorious pickled concoction helps Italian beefs, so why couldn't it also bring some magic to a sandwich that genuinely needs some spice? To test this theory I went to Niko's Gyros in Avondale, and got a side order of giardiniera with the gyros combo ($7.00, includes fries and drink). And wouldn't you know, the giardiniera did the trick, adding spice and acidity to the sandwich, without completely overwhelming the other flavors." Read more here >>

Sausage Sandwich with Giardiniera at Nottoli & Son ($3.25)
Sausage Sandwich with Giardiniera at Nottoli & Son ($3.25)

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

"Nottoli offers several kinds of fresh sausage; it's in lengths of casing curled up in the case, to be portioned out according to how much you order. They also sell the sausage in a sandwich, served in a chewy sub roll with mild or spicy housemade giardiniera. At $3.25, it's a ridiculous deal, though the ratio of bread to meat is pretty off. So I'd recommend ordering two sandwiches but skip the bread on the second. With two sausages and a heap of giardiniera stuffed into one roll, it becomes a fine sandwich indeed. And I can't help but add a sidenote: this giardiniera is some of the best I've ever tasted." Read more here >>

A Wreck at Potbelly
A Wreck at Potbelly

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"This is the classic Potbelly sandwich, and it's easy to see why. This has so much going on, but never feels busy or awkward. I especially like how the salami adds a nice salty bite. Oh, and giardiniera is absolutely essential." Read more here >>

Breaded Steak Sandwich at Ricobene's ($5.99)
Breaded Steak Sandwich at Ricobene's ($5.99)

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"Take a minute to admire the big glorious feast before digging in--for some reason the sauce is so molten you're likely to burn your tongue. Luckily, enjoying it requires no instructions. Either the crunchy fillets and assertive sauce hits some gut-busting pleasure button in your belly or it doesn't. Like Hickey, this is the kind of yearly tradition I could get into, though definitely remember to add some giardiniera on top." Read more here >>

Gym Shoe at Sun Submarine
Gym Shoe at Sun Submarine

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"Part Italian beef, part gyro, with slices of corned beef folded in just for the hell of it, it's a mess of a sandwich that can be mystifyingly delicious, if done properly... from the moment I took a look at the gym shoe from Sun Submarine, I knew I was on to something special. The meat was thicker and the bread was sturdier, leading to a truly gut-busting experience. More importantly, both giardiniera and tzatziki were included, so each bite had that great push and pull of intense spice and cooling sauce. This looked and tasted like the true love child of an Italian beef and a gyro." Read more here >>

Alpine Sub with Roasted Red Peppers and Portabella Mushrooms at Alpine Food Shop
Alpine Sub with Roasted Red Peppers and Portabella Mushrooms at Alpine Food Shop

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"Jeff Mauro (host of the Food Network's Sandwich King and $24 in 24), grew up in the nearby western suburb, and when we decided to do a tour of some of his favorite local spots, he made sure that Alpine on the list. Though he admires the simplicity of the original, he occasionally likes to add some roasted red peppers and portabella mushrooms to the mix. He got the idea after his wife kept ordering the veggie sandwich. Realizing it was actually good (something I also discovered during my initial visit), he decided to combine the forces of the two subs. The result has all the salty, funky meats you want from an Italian sub, with some sweetness and extra juiciness." Read more here >>