Credit: Courtesy of Villains Chicago

The Italian Beef sandwich is a Chicago staple. Thin cuts of long-cooked, perfectly-seasoned beef, piled onto a roll with giardiniera or roasted peppers, and dipped in beefy jus, leaving it proudly, gloriously messy — it’s a perfect sandwich.

But that doesn’t mean that chefs can’t have fun with it. At Villains in the city’s South Loop, chef Dennis Stover riffs on the Italian beef with his “Smoked Beef Tongue Sandwich.”

“I’m originally from Chicago and the quintessential Chicago sandwich is the Italian Beef,” chef Stover says. “My favorite Italian Beef is from Johnnie's in Elmwood Park – it’s the best in Chicago. Everything about it is just right. The beef, the giardinera, the bread, everything. I wanted to do a different take on the Italian Beef and thought smoked tongue would still make it a ‘beef’ sandwich.”

While the idea of smoked tongue may turn off some, Stover says that the customers who like it, really like it. “People who have ordered it have loved it; they've just lost their minds over it.”

The bread: Italian rolls from Turano Bread — a proper traditional Chicago bakery that makes the rolls best suited to Italian beefs.

The filling: Tender smoked tongue satisfies the “beef” quotient, plus Stover’s own giardiniera — charred and pickled jalapeños, plus pickled celery, carrots, and red onion. All dipped in jus, of course.