I’m guessing most people go to Buona Beef for the namesake meat, and the Italian beef served at Buona is just fine.
Recently, though, a friend brought me along to his Friday ritual of having the Pepper and Egg Sandwich at Buona.
Pepper and Egg Sandwiches are very popular during Lent, when the devout forgo the foods they love, and on Fridays, when eating meat has traditionally been discouraged by the Catholic church.
Italy, a Catholic country, has many days throughout the year when abstinence from meat is encouraged. It’s not surprising that many Italian Beef places offer Pepper and Egg Sandwiches to the faithful who demonstrate spiritual discipline by denying themselves their favorite foods.
There’s the spiritual side…and there’s also the taste side.
The Pepper and Egg Sandwich is a light and flavorful combination of fluffy eggs, sweet peppers and, if you like a little punch on your palette, some giardiniera, the piquant blend of chiles, celery, carrots, olives and other vegetables (Buona charges 40 cents extra for this condiment – insert eye roll here). Giardiniera is about as hot as Italians ever go: we love garlic, but even though Italian mariner Columbus introduced the chile pepper of the New World to the Old World, many paisanos have never warmed up to the idea of putting a lot of heat in the food. Me, I recommend going with the giardiniera “upgrade” as it adds dimension to the sandwich.
The Pepper and Egg Sandwich is also a decent vegetarian option, which in these times is very important. I’ve noticed that Chicago places that traditionally celebrate meat are now starting to make the effort to throw a little something toward the other end of the food chain. The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan, Chicago) for instance, has over 20 vegetarian items on their menu, and even an unabashed steak-lovers sanctuary like Mastro’s (520 N. Dearborn) will knock together a special vegan dinner if you call in advance.
The Pepper and Egg Sandwich is also a little lower in calories than an Italian Beef (especially if you, like me, order it “wet” with sauce). You can “correct” that by getting your sandwich with excellent house-made Parmesan chips or an order of fries – and if you get the fries, please do follow Hammond’s Rule of Ordering: Ask for Crisp Fries.