Vertucci's Chicago Style Eats

Vertucci’s Italian Combo
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

After last night’s disappointing Italian beef outing, I decided I had to try again. This evening, the Midget and I dropped by Vertucci’s Chicago Style Eats in East Peoria to see what they’ve got.

They definitely play up the Chicago angle: they’ve got signage along the road announcing things like pizza, Polish sausage, gryos, and yes, Italian beef. The interior is a modest sports bar setup adorned with Chicago Bears posters and memorabilia and a Red Hot Chicago neon sign.

The waitress asked if we needed a moment to order. Nope! I ordered the combo with hot peppers and mozzarella, onion rings and a cheeseburger and fries for the Midget. A few minutes later, I got the basket of food pictured above (I added the ketchup).

“This was supposed to be a combo,” I told her. She said they built it with the beef on the bottom, and sure enough, I found some beef when I spread the bun. Not a good sign, as I’m used to then being packed full of beefy goodness.

Before I get too far, I’ll say that the Midget’s cheeseburger was excellent. I stole a bite and it reminded me of another restaurant who boasted Alwans burgers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Vertucci’s uses the Peoria Heights butcher as well. The onion rings were top notch, and the fries were sliced from the potatoes right there in the kitchen. Good stuff, Maynard.

The Italian combo, though…

I wanted to love it. I really did. On the plus side, this sucker was wet, and though they offer all kinds of peppers and onions and they offer mozz or provolone, I was able to get the proper hot peppers. Slices of mozzarella meant less cheese than I’d prefer, but I’d live. The real bummers were most of the flavor came from the peppers, and there couldn’t have been more than two or three slices of beef hiding under there. This was by no means a bland Italian beef sandwich like I’ve been running into in Peoria, but the flavor still wasn’t very bold, and the minimal beef meant a few bites that were mostly bread.

The final verdict: a decent sandwich and a good effort, but still not quite the quality you get in Chicago. You’re killing me, Peoria!

I wasn’t up to ordering a gyro, but I did order a 10″ sausage pizza to take home for the family to sample. Good news here: the Wife and I agreed it’s great pizza. Between Vertucci’s and Leonardo’s, we’ve now got a couple of options for proper pizza. (The next problem will be finding a good stuffed pizza.)

I’ll be bringing the family back. It got a bit pricey compared to a typical sandwich shop, but for the most part they live up to the Chicago Style label and I’m betting they are as close to the real thing as I’ll get in Peoria.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.


  1. Eric says:

    Nothing like polishing off a medium stuffed pizza from Michael’s in the warehouse and being too stuffed ourselves to continue doing any further work. ahhh, the good ole days.

    • Mike says:

      Amen, brother. There’s a Giordano’s right down the street from there now, too. Would have been awesome if it had been open back in the day.

  2. Karen McKillip says:

    I’ve been in the Peoria area for 20+ years and those old Chicago cravings die hard.., there was a little “Dairy-Hut” were I grew up and it’s those Italian Beef sandwiches I crave, not to mention the dogs, Greek owned restaurants and of course, pizza. It’s hard to explain Chicago food to a spouse who grew up on Kansas BBQ. Someone suggested Mr. G’s on Main St. in Peoria but I can’t imagine them making I.B. from scratch. A note about pizza- at least once before you die-plus it’s across the street from the scene of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre! Good luck on your quest, oh wait, if you like Lebanese there’s always the Friday garlic chicken special at Haddad’s on Main in Peoria

    • Mike says:

      It’s amazing, isn’t it? We’re only a couple hours out of Chicago and most people hardly know what Italian beef is, much less what makes a good one. I spent the last ten years south of Joliet and could still find good beef sandwiches. Another sixty miles and I may as well be in China.

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about Haddad’s. I haven’t spent near enough time downtown, so I’ll have to rectify that this summer.

  3. […] a few years ago. The place used to be Vertucci’s, which also claimed Chicago-style eats but fell short. Where Vertucci’s felt darker and dingier, The Fifth Quarter felt open, cleaner, and more […]