Italian beef sandwiches are a staple of Chicago cuisine, though fans who observe Lent have to make do without on Fridays until Easter. Luckily, the pepper and egg sandwich has been tiding Chicagoans over for generations.
Italian-American Catholics in particular love “pepper ’n eggs,” which are usually made with green peppers cooked until they’re soft, scrambled eggs, crispy Italian or French bread and — depending who makes it — cheese, onions, garlic and black pepper.
Though specific Lenten practices vary, Catholics in the U.S. typically do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, which lasts 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. (This year, it falls between Feb. 26 and April 9.)
Not every restaurant that sells Italian beef does pepper and eggs, however, but the sandwich is incredibly popular at the ones that do make them.
Tony Dominici, the owner of Tony’s Italian Beef on the South Side, said his restaurant goes through 800 eggs on a Friday during Lent. With three to four eggs per sandwich, that’s almost 230 pepper and eggs. He said his recipe is exclusive — Dominici got it from his grandparents — and uses six different spices to create its flavor.
Olivia Martinez, who works at Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery in Bridgeport, has seen similar love for the pepper and eggs at her restaurant.
“I couldn’t even tell you [how many we sell],” she said with a laugh. “We go through a lot.”
The Fabulous Freddies version consists of sweet peppers and eggs with butter.
And the best bread for holding the mixture together? French and Italian are the most popular options. Martinez said most customers choose French bread. Dominici’s pick is Turano’s bread — though don’t ask him to compare his sandwiches to his competitors’.
“I don’t really eat everybody else’s, so I couldn’t tell you what makes ours better,” he said.
Check out our map of pepper & egg sandwich spots across Chicago:
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