Great Chicago eats you’ve never heard of at Papa Geo’s

You might not know what it is, but you’ll love it. Papa Geo’s honor.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Papa Geo’s marquee beckons with the allure of “Italian Breaded Steak Sandwiches.” I’m a native Southside Chicagoan who considers himself fairly knowledgeable about his hometown’s cuisine, but I’ll admit this was a new one for me. Apparently, the sandwich is common in the sort of Italian neighborhoods I didn’t spend enough time in growing up. And it’s among the many family recipes at this eatery on Rainbow north of the 215.

The breaded steak sandwich ($8) is kin to the more common chicken Parmesan sandwich, with thin, breaded meat smothered with heaping portions of mozzarella cheese and homemade sauce. The sandwich is magnificently messy and tasty, but buyer beware: The meat can be somewhat sinewy and difficult to bite through, a situation exacerbated by the sole availability of plastic utensils. Still, that’s a pretty minor price to pay.

Restaurant Guide

Papa Geo's
5597 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 110, 440-6490.
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

While the breaded steak sandwiches are good, the marquee really ought to proclaim the availability of the panzerotti, aka the best dish on the menu. Better known as pizza puffs, they’re wonderful in their simplicity—fresh pockets of dough enveloping cheese, sauce and your choice of meats. Folded before your eyes, the resultant package is subsequently fried and delivered as a gloriously gooey treat. They’re terribly addictive and just $3.50 apiece or $6.50 for two.

The beef pizzaiola ($9 with cheese) is apparently Italian for damn good beef sandwich. I suggest getting the shaved beef fully loaded with cheese and sweet and hot peppers. Doused in au jus, this is another sandwich well worth the mess. The Chicago-style tamale ($3), basically chili rolled in cornmeal and steamed, is an interesting contrast to the typical Mexican variation. The chili is mild and the cornmeal light, which makes for a nice complement to the menu’s heavier, sauce-based choices.

Service tends to be friendly to the extreme—I actually got chastised when Papa Geo thought I was leaving without saying goodbye—though things can move slow due to the sort of minimal staffing you’d expect from a family-run operation. Don’t let that dissuade you. Just relax and enjoy the food coming out of that family’s very fine kitchen.

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Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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