Ricobene’s – Pulaski
When it comes to finding a restaurant in Chicago, my Father-In-Law is always my go-to. He’s an electrician, so he never spends very long in the same spot when it comes to work. Having worked at different job sites all over the Chicagoland area, he’s a good resource whenever J and I are looking for something new to eat.
Quite a while ago (probably a couple years), he suggested a pizza place that used to have a location not far from where they live in Oak Lawn. That location is now closed, but I passed a different location on 159th Street in Orland Hills a couple days ago which reminded me of the recommendation.
Orland Hills isn’t a terrible drive from my in-laws, but I decided to Google map to see if there were any closer.
I’m not sure if it’s any closer, but I did find a Ricobene’s on South Pulaski Road not too far from I-55. It’s one of four remaining locations in the Chicago area. There’s another one in the city on 25th Street as well as the location in Orland Hills and one in Bolingbrook.
Ricobene’s kind of covers all the bases when it comes to Chicago food. They do pizza. They do beef. They do Chicago Dogs. Yup, all the bases.
Around noon, I asked J and her mom if they were hungry. I told them I was going to order from Ricobene’s. J’s mom knew exactly what she wanted even though she hasn’t eaten there in several years. J sort of remembers eating there when she was younger, but not really.
When I logged on to the website (via laptop because their site uses Flash so the iPad and Nexus 7 were useless), I noticed the option for online ordering. I started the order for myself with the Sicilian beef then asked J what she wanted. She told me to just find some chicken strips or something that she could share with L and an order of fries. As for J’s mom, she immediately said the Breaded Steak Sandwich which is what Ricobene’s is known for .
The estimated time was 45 minutes for pick up and I was probably a half hour away with traffic. J went to put L down for a nap, so I started driving thinking I’d stop for a Pepsi along the way. As I was pulling on to Pulaski from 95th Street, I got a phone call from the restaurant telling me the order would only take about 15 minutes. I couldn’t get there any faster, so I told them to go ahead and have it waitng for me.
When I told J’s mom I was going to the location on Pulaski instead of 159th Street, she had a hard time picturing the restaurant. I knew I had seen the sign before, but I didn’t remember it being in a strip mall. When I said it was right across the street from a Giordano’s, she seemed to know what I was talking about.
The restaurant shares a large parking lot with several other stores and from the outside, it’s a pretty plain looking shop. The interior is rather large and decorated in the style of a 50’s diner. Lots of leather booths and checkerboard patterns adorn the walls and floor.
There’s a large, long order counter in the back of the restaurant with a “Order Here” and a “Pick Up” portion. Both of the ladies working this area were on the phone so I didn’t really know who to ask about where to go. I decided to head down to the “Pick Up” location since I was picking up. There were two guys in front of me ordering pizza who lingered in front of the cash register after they ordered. The lady standing there finally walked down to where I was and asked if I still needed to order. I said I had ordered to go and she had the order slip sitting right there.
The cost was a little under $30 and my order was waiting minus the two orders of fries. Those were pulled up fresh out of the fryer as I was standing there. The clerk double checked the bag to make sure everything was there then put in two bags of fries to finish off the order.
Of course, I hit every red light from 51st Street back to 103rd Street on Pulaski which made the wait to dig in almost unbearable. When I did finally make it home, my Mother-In-Law was waiting, but J was still napping. We didn’t wait for her.
I first dug in to my bag of fries because they were right on top. The large order of fresh cut fries were almost perfectly delicious. They were still good as the greasy kind of fries you can only get in Chicago, but they were a little limp. A little bit more crispy and the fries would have been awesome. They were still very good and it’s a large order
My sandwich was huge. Too huge! I ordered the King Size Sicilian Beef which is Ricobene’s version of the Italian beef. This enormous sandwich comes with thinly sliced beef dipped in a delicous gravy and served on Turano French bread. For a little extra, I added on hot giardiniera and Mozzerella cheese. I have read articles that have put Ricobene’s Sicilian beef as one of the best beef sandwiches in Chicago. I have no problem saying this is one of the better sandwiches I have had. The gravy and bread are what really make a good beef sandwich and Ricobene’s scores on both. The gravy soaked bread actually held up really well while retaining all the flavor that can be lost from cheap bread. The giardiniera was held on by a thick layer of Mozzarella and provided just enough of a spicy kick.
My Mother-In-Law’s Breaded Steak Sandwich is Ricobene’s signature sandwich. The Turano French bread holds a chicken fried steak that is topped with red sauce. She also added sweet peppers to add a little more sweetness. I was actually a little disappointed she ate the whole sandwich. Sure, she only went with the Regular size, but she polished off the whole thing. She was telling me she has looked for other steak sandwiches since the Ricobene’s on Cicero closed and nothing even comes close.
When J got up from her nap, we had her chicken fingers and fries waiting for her in the oven. They were more of chicken fries than what we would usually call fingers. They were small, thin pieces of chicken breaded and deep fried to a golden brown. We usually pull the breading off when we give L chicken, but this time, we just left it on. They were too small to try and get the breading off. I did end up eating one and I thought they were pretty delicious. More deep fried goodness. J was super impressed with the fries. Again, they were pretty limp which isn’t something either of us really like. Just from our perspective, they were close, but not quite.
I’m really amazed that everyone in Chicago is not morbidly obese. I have a bad feeling I would be if I lived here. Ricobene’s is classic, delicious Chicago food. There are so many places in Chicago that do exactly what Ricobene’s do, yet this place has been around since the mid-40’s. Since my normal Italian beef place in Oak Lawn went out of business, I’m actively searching for a new favorite that’s closer than the Al’s near UIC. It’s a little bit of a drive in city traffic to get to Ricobene’s, but the beef is good enough to make the drive.