Recent Al’s openings include Chino and San Jose, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. The 76-year-old brand plans to open soon in Alhambra, California to satisfy Chicago fans who can’t get their fix. Nancy’s, now in its 42nd year, has expanded throughout the Chicago suburbs as well as into Atlanta, Georgia.
The name recognition that Dikta brings will certainly help non-Chicagoans find and enjoy these iconic brands.
“You don’t eat it, you experience it,” says franchisee training manager for Al’s Beef, Adam Bufano. He took us through the sandwich-making process, starting with fresh-baked bread from Gonnella bakery. A mound of beef is piled on with a wide-tined fork, dipped, and then smothered with roasted peppers and home-made giardiniera. The sandwich is wrapped up tight so the juice seeps into the bread. After all, there’s no point to a dry Italian beef.Want to know if your beef is wet enough? Check to see if the paper is orange with juice.
According to Bufano, there will be secret menu items available to fans-in-the-know. Ask for the Italian Soaker, a beef sandwich without the meat that was originally designed for people who didn’t have enough money for the regular sandwich; or for Gypsy Fries — a meal of fresh-cut fries, beef, gravy, provolone cheese, and giardinare.
As for customers who aren’t as savvy, “All we can do is offer our advice. It’s like ketchup on a hot dog — I would like to dive across the counter at that person but, ya know? Instead you give them a hug.”
And how does Da Coach like his Al’s Beef? “Run it through the garden, everything. Hit it hard. Put the hot stuff on. I like it to pop a little bit.”
As for pizza, Ditka admits his order wouldn’t be typically Chicago, “I’m more thin crust than I am deep dish. I haven’t been accustomed to that ’cause I’m from Pennsylvania originally.”