Phantom Gourmet: Chicago Style Eats At Spalla’s In Natick

NATICK – You don’t have to be a detective to figure out what Cara Spalla calls her hometown, as she croons tunes about Chicago. Feeling a little homesick for some Second City snacks, Cara decided to bring a little taste of Chicago to Natick, at Spalla’s.

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“Born and raised in Chicago on the near west side. Our mission was to bring Chicago to Boston, because we lived here and we couldn’t find anything like this.

“Not only do we provide the Chicago food, the Chicago ambiance,” Cara said. “We watch every Chicago sports game that we can. I even have a stock of Chicago maps and site seeing magazines for people who say, ‘I’d like to visit Chicago.’”

Located inside a European specialty market, Spalla’s is a casual counter service spot, and their signature dish is a sandwich known in Chicago as Italian Beef.

Italian Beef at Spalla's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Italian Beef at Spalla’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“If you spent any time in Chicago, you know for certain that an Italian beef is a meal. No one in Boston makes Chicago Italian beef,” Cara found. “It is our own angus roast beef cooked in my own blend of spices, and then it is shaved very thinly and put on fresh baked bread, and topped with giadinara which is a hot or mild pepper mix. It’s a hot, wet, juicy, fabulous sandwich.”

When it comes to ordering, there are a few things you need to know. It’s like its own language. Translating the foreign phrasing is easy, and tasty. You can have your beef ‘dry’, laid simply on the baguette; ‘wet’ where gravy is spooned on to the sandwich; or ‘dipped’ where the entire roll is submerged in that gloriously beefy elixir.

“It’s not thick. It’s really the au jus that comes directly from roasting the beef, but in our case it’s spiced. It’s fabulous,” Cara promised. “In fact sometimes people just order a cup and sip it while they’re eating their sandwich.”

From there, you can add spicy giadinara peppers for some extra kick. No matter how you order it, you’re going to love it.

“You bite into this hot, wet, soft bread. A little bit of crunch left on the crust and the beef is tender as anything,” Cara described. “The salty spiciness of the giadinara mixes with the spice of the juice of the beef, and the roast beef is fabulous. It’s a hot wet, melt in your mouth thing.”

If you want all the essence of that Italian beef, with some added flavor, try the BBQ Beef Sandwich slathered in house made BBQ sauce. For someone with a Chicago Bear-sized appetite, there’s The Overload.

“It weighs almost 3/4 of a pound,” Cara said. “It’s a giant beef. It’s a half a loaf of bread, a half a pound of cooked roast beef, provolone cheese, sweet peppers and giadinara. It’s cheesy, beefy, Italian spicy goodness.”

Chicago style hotdog at Spalla's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Chicago style hotdog at Spalla’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Of course, any restaurant that has ties to Chicago, must have the city’s signature hot dog on the menu- and Spalla’s certainly does. The Chicago Dog is the real deal, made with all the key components that make this sandwich special.

“There are a lot of restaurants around the country that try to make a Chicago style dog. Our dogs are 100 percent authentic. They are Vienna hotdogs, Vienna buns, and the pickles, relish and sport peppers all come from Chicago,” Cara assured us.

Spalla’s also serves creative combinations using that same Vienna Dog. There’s the All American topped with barbecue pulled pork and sweet and sour cucumbers; or the B2 Bomber loaded up with Italian Beef and hot peppers. But nothing puts hair on your chest quite like the so-called Man Dog.

Man Dog at Spalla's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Man Dog at Spalla’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“We put all things man on a hot dog. You’ve got the bacon. You’ve got homemade Mac and Cheese, ooey gooey, and Buffalo sauce on top of one of our all beef hotdogs,” explained Cara. “It is a fabulous hotdog.”

Some of Cara’s other hometown favorites are actually recipes from her own home, like big portions of decadent macaroni and cheese, and award winning chili. Both taste great on their own, but they’re even better together.

“If you really want to do it right, Chicago style chili is usually over macaroni, and it’s even better over our mac and cheese,” Cara said.

Chili with mac and cheese at Spalla's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Chili with mac and cheese at Spalla’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Then there are the meatballs, made with Cara’s husband Tony’s recipe, served on their own, or on a roll.

“People gush over these meatballs. People come in and buy meatballs, 3, 4, 5 without the bread even. They just want the meatballs.”

While to some, this may just be lunch or dinner, to Cara it’s so much more.

“We want this to be an experience. This is not just a hot dog. It’s an experience. It’s not just a beef sandwich. It’s something they never had and will always remember.”

You can find Spalla’s at 229 North Main Street in Natick, and online at

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.


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