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Pucci’s
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Pucci’s

My cousin grew up in in Longmeadow, MA but now lives in Atlanta. There’s one thing he gets when he goes back home: A Chicken Parmesan Sandwich from some local place where he always got chicken parmesan sandwiches. He’s enthusiastic about the sandwich. Of course, he knows I’m a big foodie and when I asked what he was having, he was excited to show off his favorite place in his hometown.

I bit in. It was average. There wasn’t anything truly special about it. It was your standard breaded cutlet with a sauce that could have (or could have just as easily been replaced with one that had) come from a can. I wasn’t pumped about it but couldn’t tell him that (but I can write about it here because he doesn’t read my blog).

People often ask me about my favorite food experience and I respond that it was a creamed chicken I had when my parents were skiing in Switzerland. They’d left me at the base of the mountain and I was crying all morning, but then lunch came around and this creamed chicken made it all better. There were some emotions tied to that meal, and from now on, all meals are fighting not only taste, but nostalgia. I bet if I had the same dish today, I wouldn’t be impressed. I might think it was bland or uninventive or needed this or that to make it better. I doubt it was even that good to begin with, but there may never be a meal that I have that matches the perceived flavor in my mind.

For this reason, I’m going to postulate that your favorite dish from your favorite place growing up probably sucks. If you took me there, I’d probably think it sucks, and asking 10 people who loved (I mean, really loved) food, more than five of them would probably think it sucked.

When Adam brought us here, knowing that he worked here growing up and then seeing the menu, that’s kinda what I thought this experience was going to be like.

Put that aside, look at this place from an economic standpoint and you’ll see a different story. It’s been around 30+ years, hasn’t seen a renovation since, and is still thriving. A lot of bad restaurants can survive because they own the land it sits on and don’t have to deal with increases in rent. Pucci’s has a great take-out business but doesn’t look to be such a hot sit-down place.

To an empty room, the waitress noted; “It ain’t like the old days. Like when you were here, Adam. It’s not fun anymore.” I’d assume that the waitress was here the opening day and has slugged it out through these one-table Saturday lunches with the rest of the staff. The kitchen staff hadn’t changed since Adam left, either, and that was 5+ years ago. I’m only using these plusses because Adam hasn’t responded to an e-mail I sent a few weeks ago (15 days to be exact).

It’s under a bridge:

And they make at least one unbelievable thing here – the Breaded Steak Sandwich. I would tell you exactly what it was called, but again, I haven’t gotten an email back from Adam (after a bit of research, it looks like it’s called … drum roll, please … the Breaded Steak Sandwich). I liked this so much that I did a full on remake of it but used artisanal ingredients. That story is coming in a few months – It’s part of a new video series I’m doing.

This was the best bite I had in Chicago.

Grilled peppers, mozzarella, breaded steak, and light sauce on a hoagie roll. Simple and awesome. If you know how to do all that, you can just make your own tonight, but you cannot substitute sautéed peppers and think you’re getting the same sandwich. I repeat, you cannot make this with sautéed peppers. The char on the peppers make this sandwich work. You can pretty much bread the steak however you want, use whatever kind of sauce you want (or none at all) and thing is going to be fantastic.

The pizza, on the other hand, wasn’t so hot. The other hombres in the cadre were happy with it, but maybe for the sole fact that you didn’t get full after eating a slice. Maybe they didn’t like it at all and were just being nice. It doesn’t matter – the steak sandwich made my day.

The pizza wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good, but I think the same thing about Chicago pizza that I do about NYC pizza: If it’s average pizza, it’s bad pizza. When you’re up against serious pizza behemoths and you bring just a good pie to the table, you’re going to be overshadowed by the big guns.

Forget the pizza for now, the pizza was decent, I just didn’t want to waste any space in my stomach on it when we had two more places to check out today. I don’t want Adam to read this and feel bad about me not liking his pizza, I just wasn’t pumped about it and I’m not going to tell you that this is some must-eat for pizza in Chicago when it’s not. I will tell you that it’s worth the trip for that steak sandwich, though. If I lived in Chicago, I’d give Pucci’s my highest honor: it’s a definite RE-DO.

Pucci’s
10063 South Ewing Avenue
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 375-7229

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • @hawaii2DCdee September 21, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Just came back from Chicago yesterday. Everyone raved about Giordano’s despite it’s touristy nature. I was sorely disappointed. This might have been one of the worst pizza experiences I’ve ever had. I feel the same way about NYC as well. Nothing has wowed me yet and I’m tired of everyone saying “their” pizza is the best. Thanks for the afternoon read.

  • Hagan September 23, 2010, 9:26 pm

    Yeah, it’s true – In DC you have 2 Amys, but I’ve never had that. The owner is a weirdo (Amy is cool, though). In NYC … When you’re here next, let me know – I’ll give you the rundown

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