Seems like Joseph Zucchero and Michael Genevese, co-owners of the cultural and culinary institution at 666 N. Orleans St., overextended themselves at a bad time. Apparently they are delinquent on some loans they took out to help finance the March opening of a new venture, the more upscale Natalino's, a 120-seat restaurant at 1523 W. Chicago Ave.
Zucchero told the Trib that Mr. Beef is not going to close, but the the details reported in the articles above sound like it will be tough for them to stay above water. I recommend you get to Mr. Beef soon for two reasons: They can use the cash flow, and if they go down, there is nothing to replace them. Mr. Beef ranks second only to Al's on Taylor Street, and there's a big gap between them and #3 Johnnie's in Elmwood Park.
Created on the South Side in the Italian enclaves around the now defunct Stockyards, the classic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich (pronounced sangwitch) is a unique, drippy, messy variation on the French Dip Sandwich. It is available in hundreds of joints around the city, and rarely found beyond the metro area.
The exact origin is unknown, but it was probably created by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. The recipe was popularized by Pasquale Scala, a South Side butcher and sausage maker. During the Depression, in the late 1920s, when food was scarce, Scala's thinly sliced roast beef on a bun with juice and fried peppers took off. Today, beef sangwitches are a staple at Italian weddings, funerals, parties, political fund raisers, and lunches "wit my boyz". And Scala's Packing Company supplies hundreds of restaurants and Italian Beef Stands with the raw ingredients.
To learn more about the history of this iconographic sandwich, about the "Cheef", the "Combo", "With Gravy", and the "Soaker", how to order it, how it is made, and how to make it at home, click here.
The best beef stands in Chicago
There are scores of Italian beef stands in Chicago, and Italian beef sandwiches are available at most hot dog stands. Some purchase pre-cooked beef and juice (it's not called gravy) from Scala's, but the best make it from scratch. Prices typically range from $3.50-$6.50 for a sandwich. Below are some of my faves listed in order of preference. Let the arguments begin! Send me your opinions.
1) Al's #1 Italian Beef
2) Mr. Beef
3) Johnnie's Beef
4) Freddie's Pizza & Sandwiches
Buona Beef and Portillo's
Now you tell me which ones you like and why you disagree with my rankings. Gahead. I can take it.
Remember, no rules in the bedroom or the kitchen!
All text and photos are Copyright (c) 2009 By Craig Goldwyn, AmazingRibs.com, and all rights are reserved. Click here for information on reprint rights.