As an Italian-American from Chicago, Jeff's heart pumps red sauce. Good thing Italians are also known for their spectacular sandwiches. Jeff's friend Paula from Danny's Cafe makes his all-time favorite Italian-style sandwich: The fried meatball hero. So the Sandwich King soaks in some inspiration before heading home to have a whack at this special sandwich himself. When he's done with that, it's on to another slice of Italy: a cheesy eggplant parmesan hero. A simple chopped salad rounds things off. Buon appetito!
Sandwiches are pretty comforting to begin with, so imagine the double-dose of cozy that comes with a comfort food sandwich. Jeff's heading to the Palace Grill to get the scoop on a couple of classics from his friend George. You better believe gooey grilled cheese is on the menu, and Jeff takes some of that inspiration home and does it one better with his grilled cheese two ways. Next up, that most famous of all comfort foods, meatloaf! But the Sandwich King pairs his meatloaf with crispy onions and slips it onto a soft potato roll. All this meal needs is a warm bowl of roasted tomato soup. Pass the remote!
During Jeff's formative years as a Sandwich Prince, he worked at a deli working the meat slicer; his constant companions were corned beef, pastrami and lots of fresh rye bread. Classic deli fare really speaks to his sandwich soul and the folks at Fumare in Chicago's French Market know the language fluently. Jeff gets a tasty tour of some of Fumare's favorites, then heads home to put together his special take on that tart and cheesy creation, the Reuben. You can't be truly deli without coleslaw, so Jeff shreds up a fresh batch before slicing and stacking roast beef into a sandwich that reaches new heights of savory deliciousness. You want pickles with that?
There's one thing all sandwiches have in common: bread. Whether white or wheat, roll or hero - good bread is essential for a good sandwich. So Jeff pays a visit to his Aunt Rita and Uncle Joel, who happen to run a deli & bakery, to get some ideas for dressing up the outside of the sandwich. After a little time at the kneading board, The Sandwich King heads back home to get yeasty with it, baking focaccia for a Mediterranean-inspired grilled chicken sandwich and some pretzel bread to elevate a humble hot dog. A show so delicious, you'll want to eat it fresh out of the oven.
Sandwiches can be a lot of things-but dessert?? Jeff definitely thinks so, and he heads to innovative pastry shop Sugar Fixe to prove it. With some pointers from chef and owner Cindy Summers, Jeff gets inspired to whip up a sandwich that would make Elvis proud -- a crunchy, sweet, creamy and fried PB&J. Next, he reinvents the ice cream sandwich by pairing ice cream with homemade chocolate turtles. Wash it down with a decadent chocolate cake shake, and you'll be ready for a nap.
Jeff's first kitchen inspiration came at the knee of his father, Gus, proving once and for all that Sandwich Kings aren't made, they're born. So Jeff goes back home to take part in a spring tradition in the Mauro family, a raucous improvised dinner using Easter leftovers. Inspired by the season and a bracing jolt of family, Jeff heads home to do it all over again, on bread. Baked ham takes a bow on sweet potato biscuits and "a little of this and a little of that" adds up to an eggy kitchen-sink frittata sandwich, paired with spicy hash browns. Leftovers never had it so good.
Most of us think of sandwiches as lunch, but when you're having breakfast for dinner anything goes! Chicago's Deluxe Diner lives up to its name, and makes one of Jeff's favorite breakfast sandwiches: a Monte Cristo on French toast. Jeff works the griddle getting Chef Marcello's secrets and heads home to break out his own version. Then he takes the day-for-night inspiration even further and makes a sandwich as delicious as it is audacious: fried chicken between a pair of waffles. Finish with a side of bacony braised collard greens and you won't care what time it is. Order up!
America is a land of sandwiches: We love the classics and can be fiercely protective of the way they're built. Jeff respects the great sandwiches too, but that doesn't mean he's not going to tinker from time to time. So in this episode, he heads to Gramwich, where chef Merlin Verrier has been tweaking the mainstays of the American sandwich pantheon for years. The visit with Merlin inspires Jeff to reimagine the venerable BLT using pancetta instead of bacon and subbing avocado crema for mayo. Then he dishes up a Sloppy Joe that gets its flavor from the markets of central Mexican, but brings it back stateside thanks to a tangle of crisp onion rings. America's never tasted better!
Sandwiches usually get a bad rap as waistline enhancers, but Jeff's out to change that perception with a little help from friends Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller at Chicago sandwich shop Pastoral. Jeff's been watching what he eats, and he knows that lighter ingredients and healthier preparations add up to sandwiches that cut calories and fat, while still delivering on taste and satisfaction. After hanging with the guys at Pastoral, Jeff heads back to his kitchen, where he uses flatbread as a foil for vibrant grilled veggies and uses tortillas to wrap up a refreshing chicken salad. Spring pasta salad rounds out this menu, which is as healthy as it is tasty.
Burgers hold a very special place in the Sandwich King's foodie heart. Especially the way Jeff's friend Eddie makes them at his beloved lunch-only spot, Edzo's. Using beef he grinds fresh every day, and working up a perfect crust on a cast-iron griddle, Eddie's burgers inspire Jeff to fry up his ultimate burger, topped with tangy secret dressing, and served with easy oven fries. Then Jeff switches it up with a classic patty melt done one better by using healthy ground turkey. A show so mouthwatering, you'll need extra napkins!
One of the reasons sandwiches are so popular is because they're so portable. And the pocket sandwich travels easiest of all. Jeff's favorite - the panzerotti, or pocket pizza - comes out of a place called Massa, owned and operated by one of his oldest friends, Angelo Lollino. Jeff checks in with Angelo for a little joking around and some straight-up pocket-sandwich philosophy, then heads back home with big ideas. His own version of that beloved panzerotti is first up, and then Jeff tucks some juicy steak fajitas deep down inside a pocket, and serves it with a tangy homemade mango guacamole.
Being the Sandwich King is a full-time job, and doesn't always leave Jeff time for romantic moments with his wife, Sarah. So he makes a beeline to see Chef Randy Waidner at Luxbar, a place that's figured out a way to mix the folksiness of sandwiches with the glamour of date night. Call in some classic luxury foods -- steak for mini crostini and fresh lobster on a home-baked hot dog bun -- and Jeff's ready to romance his wife at a candlelit table for two. But don't forget dessert: chocolate sandwiches with strawberries and toasted marshmallow.
You can't talk about Chicago barbecue without mentioning Russell's, and this iconic spot figures prominently in Jeff's food biography as well. This was where his folks would take him to celebrate life's little achievements, and the food has since set up shop in Jeff's heart. He watches with reverence as manager Ben Tarpia takes him into the kitchen and to the pit. Still smelling of wood-smoke, Jeff rushes back home to fire up his own pit, and goes straight-up luau with a Hawaiian BBQ pork sandwich decked in pineapple, then goes stateside for a chicken salad on Texas toast, paired with potato salad. Fire it up!