A Chicago original! Three iconic Italian Beef restaurants: Al’s, Buona, and Johnnie’s, share their stories and what makes a great Italian Beef.
Invented in Chicago in 1917, the Italian Beef remains a key part of the area’s culinary scene with fans of various brands swearing by their favorites. WGN’s Steve Alexander spoke with owners of three iconic brands: Al’s, Buona, and Johnnie’s. The oldest and perhaps most colorful history belongs to Al’s, founded in 1938 by Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr. in Little Italy, where UIC is now. That was 21 years after the sandwich was invented by Al’s father. Al’s nephew, Christopher Pacelli, shared the chain’s history with WGN’s Steve Alexander, including its colorful start as a front for a bookie operation. Buona owner Joe Buonavolanto III and Johnnie’s owner Frank Stompanoto shared their Italian Beef stories, too.
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