The breaded steak sandwich is a specialty of South-Side Chicago that is little known beyond the Bridgeport neighborhood. Although similar in girth to the city’s widely-beloved Italian beef sandwich, the Italian steak sandwich is a whole other animal. It is a steak that is pounded to the thinness of a potato chip, then lightly breaded and fried, and rolled inside a length of Italian bread. Topped with sweet peppers, hot peppers, or the spicy vegetable-pickle mélange known as giardiniera, this is one hefty sandwich!
Only a few places continue to make a specialty of Italian steak sandwiches; one of the best-liked is Ricobene’s, which has been a local institution since 1946. Now a big, modern dining room with evocative pictures of old Chicago on the walls, Ricobene’s is a good place to eat not only breaded steak but also good versions of many other Chicago specialties, including red hots, Italian beef, and a curious “Vesuvio Italian Classic” sandwich. That’s a crisp, garlicky breaded chicken cutlet dressed with onions, lettuce, tomato, and mayo stuffed into a length of Italian bread – a quick-eats version of the knife-and-fork meal known in Chicago as Chicken Vesuvio.
Alongside any of these fine meals, you want French fries. While it is possible to get your fries gilded with melted cheese, Ricobene’s are so good straight from the fry kettle, we recommend only a sprinkle of salt. Chicago in general and Ricobene’s in particular have so many wonderful street foods to occupy one’s attention that excellent French fries like these are sometimes overlooked. Once you’ve eaten your way through a bag of Ricobene’s celestial potatoes, you won’t soon forget them.