Al's celebrates 70 years of Italian beef

CHICAGO Al's Italian Beef, at 1079 W. Taylor: for 70 years now they have been turning out taste bud-busting Italian beef sandwiches. That's why Wednesday afternoon Taylor Street became honorary "Al's Italian Beef Boulevard." All of it just because of Italian beef that isn't even Italian.

"No, it originated in Chicago by my grandfather. Back in the late teens or early twenties," said Christopher Pacelli, co-owner of Al's Italian Beef.

Christopher Pacelli's grandfather was Anthony Ferreri and he developed the secret Italian beef recipe that was then passed on to his son Al and nephew Chris. In 1938 they opened a small sandwich shop at Harrison and Laflin, and you could bet on how good the beef would be.

"Well, we had bookies in the back, and my father and my uncle used to serve beef sandwiches out front ... as a front," said Pacelli. "But the place became so popular that they just bought out the bookies and got rid of them."

The family moved to Taylor Street in 1964 and business has been sweet, spicy and hot ever since. Needless to say, the recipe is top secret.

All I could find out is how long they cook the beef in the secret juices.

"Three and a half hours," Pacelli said.

Just in case you're wondering how many calories are in one of these things, don't even ask. Nobody knows and apparently it doesn't matter anyway. That's according to family history. You can eat tons of these things.

"My father lived until 85 and my uncle lived until 92," Pacelli said. What did they eat? "Beef sandwiches every day ... just like me."

Al's Italian Beef Boulevard, a new street with the same old flavor.

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