August 26, 2013
It's not just a sandwich. It's an obsession. The meat and cheese on the Mr. G sub ($8.25) at J.P. Graziano (901 W. Randolph St. 312-666-4587) is sliced in the same order every time: provolone followed by prosciutto, Genoa salami and hot sopressata (or "supersod" --like Tony Soprano, Jim Graziano uses the Neapolitan dialect to describe his meats. If the meats aren't cut that way, the order is restarted. It's a quality control mechanism so the sandwich makers know what they're making. Graziano said, "It's might seem controlling, but that detail is what makes great food."
If you've ever scraped the roof of your mouth on a crusty sub bun, you can appreciated that Graziano cuts the sandwich on a bias, which makes it easier to take the first bite of the crispy-crusted coal-fired Italian loaf from D'Amato's Bakery.
The condiments--Roman-style artichokes, basil, red wine vinegar-dressed lettuce and tangy funky truffle-mustard vinaigrette (whipped up daily from products Graziano sells to his wholesale customers) offset the richness of the meats. The vinaigrette is slathered on both sides of the bun, while a spicy oil, reserved from hot giardinara brine, is drizzled on only one side to prevent sogginess.
The sandwich was inspired by the Will Special--a sub invented by local foodie Will Philpot with the folks at Riviera Italian & American Imported Foods (3220 N. Harlem Ave.)—that a local food writer asked Graziano to recreate at his shop. Graziano said, "I love the guys at Riviera. They're one of my oldest wholesale customers. I recreated the sub they do, but then I started thinking of ways to improve it to my taste." His father, also Jim Graziano, but known as Mr. G, had recently passed away, so the younger Graziano named the sub after him. Graziano said, "It puts a smile on my face to hear my dad's name with every order."
If you've never ordered a Mr. G, Graziano will try to steer you away. He said, "I always tell people to order an Italian sub first. If we can't make an Italian sub, why would you try anything else?" Graziano has impeccable taste, but don't listen to him. Trust us, he makes a great Italian, but it's the Mr. G you want.
Michael Nagrant is a RedEye special contributor. Reporters visit restaurants unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyeeatdrink
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