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Fontano's Chicago Subs [Pictures]

Fontano's Chicago Subs [Pictures]
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  • Fontano's Chicago Subs [Pictures]

    Post #1 - July 1st, 2007, 9:51 am
    Post #1 - July 1st, 2007, 9:51 am Post #1 - July 1st, 2007, 9:51 am
    LTH,

    Jazzfood is one of the most die-hard Mario's fans I know, so when he suggested a lunch time Italian ice and sandwich combo it came as no surprise. What did catch me off guard was his choice of sandwich, Fontano's, where I had never been. Fontano's is a dead-cool sandwich joint which also sells made in-house sausage and dry goods, including their own line of giardiniera.

    Jazzfood contemplating the menu
    Image

    Jim Fontano about to give Steve Z a piece of his mind, Jewish Deli style. :)
    Image

    Unfortunately the interaction with Steve caused Jim to loose both his concentration and a finger.
    Image

    We started with 3-subs, meatball, tuna and the Blockbuster (Italian provolone, Swiss, Genoa salami, capicola, ham). Italian Ice was Jazzfood's call and proved the perfect accompaniment.
    Image

    I'm a sucker for turkey subs, especially with giardiniera. Fontano's is well put together, but they use deli style smoked turkey, which is a deal breaker for me.

    Fontano's Turkey Sub
    Image

    While I quite liked the subs, and am looking forward to buying a few pounds of the made in-house sausage, the best part was Fontano's friendly neighborhood feeling. Red, second generation in the business, came over to shoot the breeze soon followed by sons Jim and Neil.

    Jim, Neil, Red Fontano
    Image

    Angie, the cashier, is as friendly as she is attractive.
    Image

    Jazzfood, Red Fontano, Steve Z
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Fontano's
    1058 W Polk St
    Chicago, IL
    312-421-4474
    http://www.fontanossubs.com/
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - July 1st, 2007, 10:07 am
    Post #2 - July 1st, 2007, 10:07 am Post #2 - July 1st, 2007, 10:07 am
    Fontano's has a Loop location (among others), I'm not sure if it's a franchise or owned by the family, but their meatball sub or Italian sausage sub are some of the better items available to the Loop lunch crowd.

    If I've had a particularly taxing morning and I'm able to get away for a quick lunch, a Fontano's meatball sub with hot giardinera really hits the spot.

    20 E. Jackson
    312-663-3061

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #3 - July 1st, 2007, 11:07 am
    Post #3 - July 1st, 2007, 11:07 am Post #3 - July 1st, 2007, 11:07 am
    eatchicago wrote:Fontano's has a Loop location (among others), I'm not sure if it's a franchise or owned by the family,


    The other locations are franchises, but Neil (pictured above) puts on nearly 200 mile a day driving from franchise to franchise checking up on things and making sure everything is being done right.

    Another interesting thing about the Fontano empire is that Carm's, located just across the street, is owned by Red's sister and that section of Polk Street is named for him. The Fontano family appears to own just about every building in the immediate area. As Red told me, "I can do anything I want, they named the street after me."
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - July 1st, 2007, 12:47 pm
    Post #4 - July 1st, 2007, 12:47 pm Post #4 - July 1st, 2007, 12:47 pm
    They also have a lunch truck, I'm not sure of all the places it goes, but it stops near my office (on Wolcott between Polk and Taylor) and has both cold and hot subs. (note that they are often sold out of things by the time they get to us, we are the last stop, and they are almost never there before 12:30)
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #5 - July 1st, 2007, 3:05 pm
    Post #5 - July 1st, 2007, 3:05 pm Post #5 - July 1st, 2007, 3:05 pm
    Fontanos subs are legendary.
    Years ago (in the '80's) - when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade, the clerks and brokers from various desks on the Trading Floor would place an order- for 20 -30 subs, and not only did they deliver them- they allways got 'em right!
    The Big Al is my favorite. They also make one w/ Cappicaolla, Provolone, and Prosicutto (<b>not</b> Parma)- gotta hav it w/ the Hot Peppers/Giardinara(ya know hen its running down your forearm - that its good!)
    To me- a Chicago classic!
  • Post #6 - July 1st, 2007, 3:26 pm
    Post #6 - July 1st, 2007, 3:26 pm Post #6 - July 1st, 2007, 3:26 pm
    i started going there in the late 60's when i needed a mario's fix but couldn't do another al's. that's when i started w/the tuna/giardinara sub which is still a winner. exactly as it was 40 years ago, no mean feat. very impressive for any restaurant. the all italian and the "wise guy" are also happening.

    with all the food lth has turned me on to since i've been back in chi, it was an honor to be able to reciprocate in some small way.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #7 - July 1st, 2007, 3:41 pm
    Post #7 - July 1st, 2007, 3:41 pm Post #7 - July 1st, 2007, 3:41 pm
    jazzfood wrote:i started going there in the late 60's when i needed a mario's fix but couldn't do another al's. that's when i started w/the tuna/giardinara sub which is still a winner. exactly as it was 40 years ago, no mean feat. very impressive for any restaurant. the all italian and the "wise guy" are also happening.

    with all the food lth has turned me on to since i've been back in chi, it was an honor to be able to reciprocate in some small way.

    Thanks for the pics, guys. I love Fontano's and used to hit it regularly when I worked on the south side. I'm pretty sure my first time there was in 1979 (the year I got my drivers license). My 2 faves are the Blockbuster and the Big Al. It's been about 4 years since my last visit but I have to admit that after seeing the pics, I'm thinking about making a dedicated trip in the very near future.

    =R=
    Same planet, different world
  • Post #8 - July 1st, 2007, 11:49 pm
    Post #8 - July 1st, 2007, 11:49 pm Post #8 - July 1st, 2007, 11:49 pm
    I lived nearbny for most of the 80's and would go pretty regularly, though at that time my favorite subs were at Corrines on Laflin and Taylor (with the pink secret sauce). Another good thing about Fontano's was the meats, at that time I thought they cut the best steaks in the city.
    Lacking fins or tail
    The Gefilte fish
    swims with great difficulty.

    Jewish haiku.
  • Post #9 - July 2nd, 2007, 6:31 am
    Post #9 - July 2nd, 2007, 6:31 am Post #9 - July 2nd, 2007, 6:31 am
    kuhdo wrote:I lived nearbny for most of the 80's and would go pretty regularly, though at that time my favorite subs were at Corrines on Laflin and Taylor (with the pink secret sauce). Another good thing about Fontano's was the meats, at that time I thought they cut the best steaks in the city.


    Ah Corrines...R.I.P.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - July 2nd, 2007, 7:07 am
    Post #10 - July 2nd, 2007, 7:07 am Post #10 - July 2nd, 2007, 7:07 am
    I feel the quality of the cold cuts used on their subs is marginal.
  • Post #11 - July 2nd, 2007, 12:32 pm
    Post #11 - July 2nd, 2007, 12:32 pm Post #11 - July 2nd, 2007, 12:32 pm
    Hombre de Acero wrote:Fontanos subs are legendary.
    Years ago (in the '80's) - when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade, the clerks and brokers from various desks on the Trading Floor would place an order- for 20 -30 subs, and not only did they deliver them- they allways got 'em right!
    The Big Al is my favorite. They also make one w/ Cappicaolla, Provolone, and Prosicutto (<b>not</b> Parma)- gotta hav it w/ the Hot Peppers/Giardinara(ya know hen its running down your forearm - that its good!)
    To me- a Chicago classic!

    I remember a fontano's subs back then on Franklin north of Van Buren, right? As a CBOE trader, that was my go to place if I had the time. They made some killer Giardinera, and used Hellman's Mayo. And G Wiv, I could not agree more with you about the deli-style "meats" that some places choose to peddle these days - dealbreaker.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #12 - December 1st, 2008, 4:12 pm
    Post #12 - December 1st, 2008, 4:12 pm Post #12 - December 1st, 2008, 4:12 pm
    I have been craving a good Italian style sub for a long time, and have had my eye on Fontano's location in Hinsdale as the place to try. Well I got there today for lunch, and I am still full from the sandwich I had.

    I tried the 10" Wise Guy with everything they could throw on it including oil & vinegar, onions, and hot peppers. This is a darn good sandwich, the meats were pretty good(they could have been sliced thinner, but that is hardly a complaint), and I particularly like the spicy capicola. The Gonnella bread was the topper. I love the chewy texture of Gonnella breads. The peppers were hot, and flaovorfull(I love when I find an olive in my giardinara.

    In a suburban landscape blighted by the likes of the Jimmy Johns, Subways, Quiznos, and Potbellys of the world, I now have a good option for a real sub sandwich near my work.
  • Post #13 - December 25th, 2008, 10:11 pm
    Post #13 - December 25th, 2008, 10:11 pm Post #13 - December 25th, 2008, 10:11 pm
    I've been eating Fontano's subs since about 1976, and can honestly say I've never had a bad one! Sometimes the proportions are a wee bit "off" depending on the new help making the sandwich, but the ingredients are without fail absolutely fresh. I have a question for some of you diehard Fontano oldtimers: do you feel they've changed the giardenera since the 70's? Toned it down- even the hot? I remember the hot causing my forehead to sweat, and in a good way! I swear it's different in the last 10-15 years, I'll have to ask them next time I'm in.

    I always make it a point to stop if I'm even remotely close to the Polk Street original location, it's kind of a comfort food since my UIC days. Hope they never change...
  • Post #14 - June 12th, 2009, 9:39 am
    Post #14 - June 12th, 2009, 9:39 am Post #14 - June 12th, 2009, 9:39 am
    LTH,

    Been twice in the last ten day, getting a serious crave for Fontano's tuna sub w/hot giardiniera. Nice thing about eating at Fontano's with Jazzfood is he always stops at Mario's for Italian Ice, the perfect accompaniment. Alan brought a banana/lemon mix which, oddly, tasted like pineapple to me.

    12-inch Tuna w/Giardiniera and a side of Mario's Italian Ice

    Image

    6-inch Turkey w/Giardiniera

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - June 12th, 2009, 10:46 am
    Post #15 - June 12th, 2009, 10:46 am Post #15 - June 12th, 2009, 10:46 am
    Grew up in Roselle and there was a Fontano's in Bloomingdale right off Lake St. when you enter Bloomingdale going west. Haven't been out that way in years and moved out of there 10 years ago so not sure if it's still there. I was addicted to Fontano's. I love that smoked turkey sub. Loved how the mayo, oil, giardinera and spices all melded together with that smoked turkey. It could get kinda sloppy, but in a really good way. When I moved out of the area I asked if they had any city locations and the guys that owned it said they had one on Jackson also. I was super excited as I was going to school at Columbia College down the street and would always be looking for a good quick lunch. I totally took advantage of that, eating there a few times a week. Obviously I realize now that those two locations were franchises but I could always tell they cared about what they did. Which is always great.

    Haven't been back in quite awhile and this post reminded me how good it is. I can taste that turkey now. I'll have to try the Polk location and grab a Mario's Italian Ice before. Sounds like a perfect match.
    "I Like Food, Food Tastes Good" - The Descendants
  • Post #16 - November 30th, 2009, 1:09 pm
    Post #16 - November 30th, 2009, 1:09 pm Post #16 - November 30th, 2009, 1:09 pm
    really nice sub @ Fontano's in Hinsdale today for lunch. I have been craving an Italian style sub for a while, and this hit the spot.( I work too far from Augustino's in Carol Steam(my favorite since 1986), but Fontano's is a good substitute)

    Had the 8" Big Al - Mortadella, Cotto Salami, Genoa Salami, and provolone - loaded down with Italian Dressing and xtra hot peppers. That a can of coke and a bag of Doritos was under $10.00.
  • Post #17 - October 23rd, 2012, 7:46 am
    Post #17 - October 23rd, 2012, 7:46 am Post #17 - October 23rd, 2012, 7:46 am
    Once upon a time, I was a big fan of Fontano's and their various Italian subs. The Jackson location in the Loop is the only location I've visited, and recently, after not having visited for some years, I returned. I was really disappointed. Cheap, soft white sub rolls and average grocery store meats (translation: bland). Yeah, the sandwich was stuffed full with meat and cheese, but it was really not much better than what I could expect to find at Subway, Quizno's or the like. I refuse to believe that my tastes have changed that dramatically over the years that I once would have been excited by the sub I was served the other day. But there are so many places in and around the city to get a better Italian sub. I wish I had just gone an extra mile and had Pannozzo's!
  • Post #18 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:10 am
    Post #18 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:10 am Post #18 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:10 am
    Anyone been to the Hinsdale shop lately?
    I think I may try to hit it today.
  • Post #19 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:41 am
    Post #19 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:41 am Post #19 - October 23rd, 2012, 8:41 am
    For those who have been to both locations, could you compare the Loop franchise with the original? I've only been to the Loop shop and I thought there was not much to praise. Italian cold cuts were dry and flavorless, giardiniera was weak, and vegetables limp. The only good thing was the roll which was a fresh Gonnela-style chewy roll I believe. I like the old-school sandwich counter charm of the Loop location but food-wise I would honestly rather eat at Potbelly or Jimmy Johns.
  • Post #20 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:08 am
    Post #20 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:08 am Post #20 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:08 am
    I agree that Fonano's Jackson St location isnt really that much better than Jimmy Johns or Potbelly's. But I'd argue that they never were and it isnt so much a drop in their quality but that tastes have changed. They always used that squishy airy bread and they always used cheap processed deli meats and cheese, nothing special ingredient-wise. It is kind of a bland sandwich.

    Places like Panozzo's and Graziano's have lapped Fontano's in terms of the quality of their ingredients and care they take in assembling their Italian Subs. People are expecting a lot more from their Italian subs these days I think.
  • Post #21 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:29 am
    Post #21 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:29 am Post #21 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:29 am
    zoid wrote:Anyone been to the Hinsdale shop lately?
    I think I may try to hit it today.


    Check through Groupon if you have a min and you are into that sorta thing. I'm pretty sure I saw the Hinsdale Fontano's on there very recently.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #22 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:30 am
    Post #22 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:30 am Post #22 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:30 am
    BR wrote:Once upon a time, I was a big fan of Fontano's and their various Italian subs. The Jackson location in the Loop is the only location I've visited, and recently, after not having visited for some years, I returned. I was really disappointed. Cheap, soft white sub rolls and average grocery store meats (translation: bland). Yeah, the sandwich was stuffed full with meat and cheese, but it was really not much better than what I could expect to find at Subway, Quizno's or the like. I refuse to believe that my tastes have changed that dramatically over the years that I once would have been excited by the sub I was served the other day. But there are so many places in and around the city to get a better Italian sub. I wish I had just gone an extra mile and had Pannozzo's!


    A few months ago, there was a death in the Fontano's family as well as a fire at the flagship store on Polk. The guy who died was the person who used to travel to all of the remote locations to do quality control. This event really took a lot out of the family and there was a shakeup in the day to day management because the patriarch of the family as well as the mother of the guy who died just couldn't bear to be there any more. I think the changes you speak of took place after the "new regime" took over. I had lunch at the flagship location on Polk shortly after the change and it just wasn't the same, although I didn't notice any change in the actual bread.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #23 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:44 am
    Post #23 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:44 am Post #23 - October 23rd, 2012, 9:44 am
    seebee wrote:
    zoid wrote:Anyone been to the Hinsdale shop lately?
    I think I may try to hit it today.


    Check through Groupon if you have a min and you are into that sorta thing. I'm pretty sure I saw the Hinsdale Fontano's on there very recently.


    I found it - it's closed, but thanks for the heads-up.

    Edited to add - I was wrong! I found it!
    Thanks again!
  • Post #24 - October 23rd, 2012, 11:25 am
    Post #24 - October 23rd, 2012, 11:25 am Post #24 - October 23rd, 2012, 11:25 am
    The franchise in Naperville has excellent subs, exponentially better than the junk from Subway or Jimmy John's. They also do Italian entrees.

    However, if I lived in the central part of the city, I would take Graziano's any day of the week.
  • Post #25 - October 25th, 2012, 2:44 pm
    Post #25 - October 25th, 2012, 2:44 pm Post #25 - October 25th, 2012, 2:44 pm
    zoid wrote:Anyone been to the Hinsdale shop lately?
    I think I may try to hit it today.


    I went there today for the first time in about 6 months. Everything tasted the same as it ever has.
  • Post #26 - November 6th, 2014, 1:41 pm
    Post #26 - November 6th, 2014, 1:41 pm Post #26 - November 6th, 2014, 1:41 pm
    Can anyone tell me whether Fontano's was the restaurant on the first floor of 180 North Wabash in 1976?
  • Post #27 - May 25th, 2021, 9:05 am
    Post #27 - May 25th, 2021, 9:05 am Post #27 - May 25th, 2021, 9:05 am
    RIP Red Fontano who passed away Sunday. Bumping this LTH classic thread to the top in memory of the Fontano's family patriarch.
  • Post #28 - May 25th, 2021, 9:52 am
    Post #28 - May 25th, 2021, 9:52 am Post #28 - May 25th, 2021, 9:52 am
    So sad to hear. Best meatball sub in the area.
  • Post #29 - May 25th, 2021, 10:22 am
    Post #29 - May 25th, 2021, 10:22 am Post #29 - May 25th, 2021, 10:22 am
    He was a character as was his family. His daughter used to quiz the college students waiting in line. Need to go to Polk St and get my fave 2na sub in memory.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata

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