Today in the Reader, The Straight Dope explores the origins of Italian beef:
According to [Dave Howey, head of Chicago Franchise Systems, which owns Al’s No 1 Italian Beef], Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr., invented the Italian beef sandwich in 1938 — or more precisely, that’s when they began making the sandwiches for delivery to local factory workers … During the Depression, people in the old Italian neighborhoods had come up with the idea of “peanut weddings,” low-budget celebrations held in church basements and such featuring inexpensive fare. Not wishing to dispense with meat altogether, someone had a bright idea: the beef will go a lot farther if we slice it really thin. Add in some Italian spices and crusty bread and you had a first-rate sandwich.
That’s just the beginning, though — besides just cluing us in to the history of the Beef, Cecil dives extraordinarily deeply into the present and the future of the iconic sandwich (hint: It solves the Middle East peace crisis).
Speaking of Italian beef, when we last checked in with Nick Kindelsperger’s attempts to make Italian beef at home, he had a technique but hadn’t yet made the sandwich. Well, now he has. If you’re looking to go head-to-head against Al’s (or if you’re a far flung Chicagoan pining for the foods of home), Nick’s recipe looks good enough to have us drooling at our desks.
Who invented Italian beef, and why can’t you get it outside of Chicago? [Straight Dope]
Homemade Italian Beef [The Paupered Chef]
Al’s No 1 Italian Beef [MenuPages]
Al’s No 1 Italian Beef [Official Site]
[Photo via The Paupered Chef]