For the gravy: combine all the gravy ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. The “gravy” will be on the thinner side and very flavorful. Set aside until needed.
Preheat a grill to medium – medium-high heat.
Cut the peppers in half and discard the cores, stems and seeds.
Toss the defrosted meatballs and pepper halves with the Italian dressing to coat and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Thread the meatballs on metal skewers (or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes). This will make turning on the grill much easier.
Wrap the rolls in foil.
Grill the meatball skewers and pepper halves over medium high until browned, turning as needed. The peppers will take longer and should be nice and soft; move to a cooler side of the grill if browning too quickly. If using wooden skewers, keep watch to make sure they don’t burn.
On the cooler side of the grill or on the upper rack, warm the rolls while the meatballs and peppers are grilling.
Remove everything from the grill and reheat the gravy if needed. Cut the grilled peppers into ½” thick strips and combine with the gravy to warm through. Slide the meatballs from the skewers into the gravy as well and give a stir to combine.
For each sandwich, place 3-5 meatballs on a warmed, split roll and top with 4-5 pepper strips. Spoon some of the gravy on top or, if you like it “wet”, give the whole split side of the sandwich a good dip in the gravy. Top with 1-2 spoons of giardiniera and serve hot with a lot of napkins.
Chicago-style giardiniera is a key component of an Italian Beef. It is a mix of chopped pickled vegetables – most commonly cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and hot chile peppers – marinated in olive oil. If you can’t find it, look for other pickled peppers or pickle mixes. Pepperoncini would work as would any hot pickle mix, though you may have to chop them up to a more chunky relish type consistency.
Traditionally, Italian Beef Sandwiches are eaten standing at tall counters and there is a very particular way to eat them known as the “Italian Stance”. Place your elbows on the counter. Spread your feet apart. Lean into the counter. Eat. This insures you don’t dribble on your shirt or your shoes.
Additions: though not traditional, grilled onions are nice on this sandwich. Slice into rounds, marinate and cook along with the peppers. Slice or separate into rings after grilling. It helps to slide a skewer through horizontally to hold them together on the grill and make turning relatively easy.
While it is delicious and certainly a personal choice, a Chicago Italian Beef never has cheese. That treads into cheesesteak territory, something very different.