I can’t name two more worldly bon vivants than Eric May and Titus Ruscitti. May, caterer, executive director of Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center, and former head chef at Ox-bow School of Art; and Ruscitti, food writer and taco scholar, have eaten prodigiously all over the world—and in every corner and crevice of the Chicago foodscape.

But while you can take the Chicagoan outta da beef stand, you’ll never take the giardiniera stains outta dere Sansabelts. “I think I ate Italian beef once a week from grade school into high school,” says Ruscitti, who grew up on the north side, but thanks to his elders was deeply imprinted by south side Italian beef culture. Back then every Chicagoan had a favorite go-to beef spot but these days there’s only so many left.” (He’s eaten at all of them.)

“In my catering work I’m cooking Malaysian food and Korean food,” says May, who grew up in south suburban Palos Heights. “I love to cook everything. But when I think about my native food it’s goddamn beef, right? In high school we’d ditch lunch every Friday and go to Peppo’s. It was funny because it’s a cop joint and we were always high as hell.”      


Credit: Eric May

To be fair, Peppo’s is a sub shop, for the most part, and both Ruscitti and May name Pop’s as primary among the formative beefs of their youth. But both joints play the muse for Hot Mix Beef, their tribute to Chicago beef stands of yore, coming next week to Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop up series at the Kedzie Inn in Irving Park.  

They’re setting up for classic beef, sausage, or vegan mushroom sandwiches on D’Amato’s bread—or any combo of the three—all available dipped, juicy, or dry; and hot and/or sweet, per your specs. But they’ve really taken a deep dive into regional giardiniera and topping styles too, offering their take on Pop’s fresh celery and jalapeno-dominant hot mix beef blend; hot giard in the potato salad; and Peppo’s pickle-tomato-onion-celery salt “GUTS” sub dressing, which will be tossed in a pasta salad side. Also: gravy bread (R.I.P. Polk & Western Hot Dogs)

For dessert, May has a Chicago Mix cheesecake with parmesan incorporated into the filling; drizzled with caramel and scattered with cheese corn. Lick the phantom neon orange dust from your digits as you gaze upon the menu, designed in tribute to the iconic Southwest Signs, which May profiled in the Chicago Foodcultura Clarion.

Credit: Eric May

Amidst all this delirious talk of the beefy glory days I heard the boys mention something about spiked Green River soda, but I also have it on good authority that Jon Pokorny is working on a dirty mezcal something-or-other, with pickled sport peppers.

It all goes down at 5 pm next Monday, March 7. You can place your preorder right here, right now, but as always there will be a limited number of walk in orders available. Meanwhile peep the ongoing Monday Night Foodball schedule below and stay tuned for some badass chefs to be announced for May MNF.

Sassage. Credit: Eric May

Kedzie Inn
4100 N. Kedzie
(773) 293-6368