Having spent time in Chicago and downstate Illinois, I discovered what I consider to be the greatest sandwich on earth — the Italian beef. The sandwich consists of sliced roast beef, which has been marinating in jus, on a hard roll. The entire thing is dipped back in the jus, then smothered in a pickled hot-pepper mixture called giardiniera.
Usually, I can only get this sandwich in Chicago, but recently I stumbled across Yovi's Hot Dogs in the basement of a Market Square building. Owner Lee Yovanof moved to Pittsburgh in 1983 after running his own dog and beef shop in Chicago after college. For 19 years, he operated a hot-dog shop on Liberty Avenue Downtown, before moving to his current location a couple of years ago.
At Yovi's, I ordered the Italian beef, and when I asked Yovanof if it came dipped, he smiled at me: We were on the same delicious page. The sandwich was as good as, if not better than, many I've had in the Windy City, and the giardiniera was among the best I've eaten.
Most of Yovi's business is selling Chicago-style hot dogs. When Pittsburghers want a "hoagie," they want it "real dry" and loaded with lettuce. But converts can be made.
"I've asked some of the folks, ‘Just try it with the peppers on top, just a little,'" Yovanof says. "After that taste, they get hooked on it."