I’ve written a lot about Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwich. The easiest way to explain it to those not familiar is to say it’s a highly seasoned French Dip, but the “Dip” part is not on the side but involves dunking the entire sandwich in au jus (only if desired). You can read my explanation of the origin if you like.
There are myriad restaurants that sell these marvels, many supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef Company, some shops that make their own. Used to be another big supplier, Scala, but I don’t see their product anymore, so don’t know if they are around or not. Devanco is another one, each of these probably does private label as well, and there are undoubtedly a number I don’t know about.
Enter Buona Beef, a mini-chain of Chicagoland restaurants specializing in Chicago foods – Beef, hot dogs, burgers, pizza. I visited one for the first time a few weeks ago, and it’s quality, good food, efficient (counter) service. They are supplied by a commissary/factory that they own, and they are also in the private label business, but lately, I’m seeing product in the stores under their own label. Italian Beef, Meatballs, and a couple other things in their line.
The product comes frozen solid in different weights. It is priced competitively, (but I think they are all too high, actually, I’d buy more if it cost less). I can tell you from experience (and the instructions on the package) THAW FIRST. On an analog basis! (Meaning in the frig overnight or on the counter for a few hours – not in the microwave!). Then eat on a very gentle basis in a saucepan, select your bun/rol (in Chicago, Turano’s seems to be the preference).
Tong the meat into the bun if you want it “dry,” add some jus to the bun if you want it “wet” or dunk the entire bun in jus for “wet.” Chicagoans often have the sandwich dressed with “giardiniera” a mixture of finely diced pickled vegetables, which can be hot or mild. Melted mozzarella on top? That’s called a “cheezy beef.” Wanna feel like a real insider? Ask for a “Combo” which is an Italian Beef sandwich with an Italian sausage nestled in the beef (pictured).
Buona’s grocery product is good, very flavorful, nice slices of pure muscle beef, not a chopped, pressed, formed product like some companies. The ingredients list (pictured below) is straightforward and free of additives. Up to this point in my life, as far as grocery store Italian Beef goes, Ditka’s was my favorite. But now it’s a tie. So I’ll buy by price from here on out.
Haven’t tried Buona’s meatballs, will get around to that soon, I hope. Buona does ship product, if you have a craving.
Buona Beef Grocery Review
Buona Beef Grocery Review