Best Italian Beef in Illinois? Novi's Beef!

Buona comes in a very close second

A few things are undisputed about the Italian Beef Sandwich: it originated on the “Sout” Side of Chicago by Italian immigrants, is served in hundreds of places around the city and when made correctly should leave a trail of juice down your arm.

  • Al's Italian Beef
    Chicago

    Al’s claims to be the original Italian beef dating back to 1938 when it started off as a neighborhood beef stand in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood . Al Ferreri and ‘Baba’ Pacelli were friends with the Scala brothers of Scala’s Original Beef & Sausage Company and created their Italian beef recipe in Al’s home kitchen; they use that same recipe today. Al’s Beef is dry roasted in a secret spice blend, and most Al’s connoisseurs prefer their beef sandwich wet or dipped right into the gravy with sweet and hot peppers.
    Photo courtesy of Al's Italian Beef

  • Johnnie's Beef
    Elmwood Park

    Open since 1961, Johnnie’s is how Italian beef started – a fast food stand with a line out the door. Diners say the lemon ice is a must but return often for the Italian beef, which is thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned with peppers and onions sprinkled throughout to create a great sandwich to veggie ratio.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel Zemans / Flickr

  • Bob-O's Hot Dogs
    Chicago

    Famous mostly for its Chicago Dogs and loyal customer base, Bob-O’s has also received many accolades for its homemade Italian beef which they cook and slice on-site, then soak in a flavorful gravy with plenty of garlic and oregano and top a with homemade giardiniera with cauliflower, carrots, celery and peppers.
    Photo courtesy of Bob-O's Hot Dogs

  • Jay's Beef
    Chicago

    Jay’s claims to have been serving “the Finest Italian Beef since 1976” with a third generation Italian Beef recipe. Owned by the Fortuna family, Jay's serves not only their popular beef sandwiches, but  also burgers, hot dogs and meatball subs in their three Chicago locations.
    Photo courtesy of Afshin Darian / Flickr

  • Tony's Italian Beef
    Chicago

    Before opening the doors of his South Side sandwich shop in 1975, Tony spent hours developing his recipe for Italian beef while Grandpa worked tirelessly to create the giardiniera, which would be the mainstays of the restaurant. Within hours of opening, their work paid off and they soon earned a reputation with their customers as serving the “best beef in town”.
    Photo courtesy of Tony's Italian Beef / Facebook

  • Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery
    Chicago

    Located in one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods and the lifelong dream-come-true of Fred Bertucci, Fabulous Freddie’s is family-owned and prides itself on its “fast food made with love from scratch every single day” including their juicy Italian beef made in-house daily.
    Photo courtesy of Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery

  • Portillo's
    Statewide

    The Italian beef menu at Portillo’s is a classic example of the many ways this iconic sandwich is enjoyed: Dry (very little gravy), Extra Gravy (extra splashed on) and Dipped (gravy on the side). No matter how you take your Italian beef, Portillo’s has become known as one of the best in Chicagoland with its original recipe served on fresh baked French bread.
    Photo courtesy of Portillo's

  • Original Mr. Beef
    Homer Glen

    The Original Mr. Beef opened its doors in 1963 when Carl Bonavolanto Jr. and Tony Ozzauto opened a small beef stand in downtown Chicago, funded by the Scala brothers. Mama Ozzauto was said to spend countless hours on her beef recipe, and today that tradition lives on in the Original Mr. Beef located in Homer Glen and owned by Carl Bonavolanto, III who started in the business at age 9. Mr. Beef makes and slices their beef fresh every day and strives for perfection in every sandwich , making it one of the most sought-after Italian beefs in Chicagoland.
    Photo courtesy of Eugene Kim / Flickr

  • Buona
    Chicago

    Buona’s was one of the first Italian beef places outside the city limits and is related by recipe, history and family to the Original Mr. Beef – co-founded by Carl Bonavolanto and funded by the Scala brothers, who are credited with creating one of the first Italian beef sandwiches. Buona has ranked among the best Italian beef spots in the world with an original family recipe that takes no shortcuts.
    Photo courtesy of Buona

  • Novi's Beef
    Berwyn

    Novi’s claim to fame is a their time-honored recipe of beef sliced thin and coupled with a selection of tantalizing spices that they claim makes theirs the best in Chicagoland. Founded by Nick “Novi,”  a man with a vision to create a local restaurant where  “ordinary people could stop in and get a great beef sandwich for a good price,” Novi's still uses its original recipe  today.
    Photo courtesy of SkyVid.net

USA TODAY 10Best and Sandwich America set out to find the best Italian beef in the state of Illinois. To do so, we recruited a panel of local food experts to nominate their favorites before handing things over to our readers, who have been voting daily for their favorites for the past four weeks.

Two eateries dominated the battle for top honors, and in the end, it was Novi's Beef that earned the crown.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Italian Beef in Illinois are as follows:

  1. Novi's Beef - Berwyn
  2. Buona - Chicago
  3. Original Mr. Beef - Homer Glen
  4. Portillo's - Various Locations
  5. Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery - Chicago
  6. Tony's Italian Beef - Chicago
  7. Jay's Beef - Chicago
  8. Bob-O's Hot Dogs - Chicago
  9. Johnnie's Beef - Elmwood Park
  10. Al's Italian Beef - Chicago

In Depth: How Chicago's Best Italian Beef Ended Up Outside the City

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Beth Peterson (Yummie Nation) and Dawn Reiss (10Best Local Expert) were chosen based on their knowledge of the Illinois food scene.

Additional nominees for Best Italian Beef in Illinois included Augustino's Rock and Roll Deli in Carol Stream, Bari Italian Subs in Chicago, Bombacigno's J & C Inn in Chicago, Fontano's Subs in Chicago, Frangella Italian Market in Palos Park, Joe Boston's Italian Beef in Chicago, Luke's Italian Beef in Chicago, Mama D's in Lemont, Pop's Beef in Chicago and Scatchell's Beef & Pizza in Cicero.

Congratulations to all our winning sandwich shops!

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Jennifer Daskevich

Jennifer Daskevich

Terry French

Terry French

Beth Peterson

Beth Peterson

Dawn Reiss

Dawn Reiss