So here’s the meat
of our story

Joe & Peggy Buonavolanto started Buona Beef in 1981 to create a legacy for their children. Italian Beef was in their blood and they wanted to share their family recipes with the Chicagoland community.

40 years later Joe’s & Peggy’s 5 sons are still running the family business. You will find 3 generations of the Buonavolanto family proudly still serving the family recipe throughout the locations.

Buona is a local Family Owned Restaurant group since 1981

Meet the family

Joe Sr. Buonavolanto

Our Founder


Carlo Buonavolanto

The Buona Companies


John Buonavolanto

Authentic Brand of Chicago

Joe Jr. Buonavolanto

President of the Buona Companies

Jim Buonavolanto

The Buona Companies Retail


Don Buonavolanto

VP of Buona Operations


Beef is in our blood. To understand the Buona difference is to understand our proud history, meticulous preparation, and quality of ingredients. From our early years in the suburbs of Chicago to the present day with 20 plus locations (and counting), the Buonavolanto family traditions exist within every mouthwatering bite.


Italian beef history

01 - The beginnings

It's long been established that, circa 1925, Scala's Original Beef and Sausage Company brought an incarnation of Italian beef to weddings and banquets where the meat was sliced thinly so there would be enough to feed all the guests. (The typical fare included peanuts, sausage beer and, of course, wedding beef.) According to Pat Scala, the dish was borne from necessity – the gravy soaked bread and super-thin sliced beef replaced a traditional plate lunch (which was not affordable during the Depression).
Italian beef history

02 - The Originators

The close-knit clan of Italian beef originators were friends, bonded together by their heritage and Chicago's stockyards. In the early days Al Ferreri, Baba Pacelli and the Scala brothers cooked and sold sausage on steel barrel grills at the corner of Cicero Avenue and Arlington Place. Every once in a while, they offered Italian Beef sandwiches (aka 'soakers').
Italian beef history

03 - The Beef Purveyors

This, according to Pat Scala, brought Italian Beef out of banquets and lunch gatherings and into the streets. Pacelli went on to open the first documented Italian beef and sausage stand in 1938. Between 1940 and 1960, the rest of the gang perfected their own recipes and drove the proliferation of beef stands serving Chicago's iconic sandwich. Brothers-in-law Al Vitullo and Elmer Nebren and their wives opened Margie's Beef and Carms Beef and Italian Ice. This led the way for additional Italian beef purveyors to set up shop in the '40s. Scala continued to be the supplier of the beef. The Scala family fostered further growth of the burgeoning market for Italian beef when Robert Scala provided funding for Carl Buonavolanto and Tony Ozzauto to open the now legendary Mr. Beef on Orleans.
Italian beef history

04 - The Mr. Beef Connection

At the dawn of the 1980s, Italian beef came to Chicago's suburbs. Mr. Beef's Carl Buonavolanto shared the secrets of the trade with his nephew Joe Buonavolanto, Sr, who opened Buona Beef in Berwyn, one of the first Italian beef stands outside of the city limits. Joe Sr.'s dream was to own his own business, and to bring Italian beef to broader social circles by creating a neighborhood place that was always clean, always brightly lit and always operated under the watch of a family member. This helped catalyze the spread of the sandwich's popularity. The Scala/Buonavolanto connection is long and deep, as both Carl Jr.'s son (Carl III of the Original Mr. Beef ) and Carl Buonavolanto of Buona Beef both worked for and learned from Pat Scala.
Italian beef history

05 - Buona Begins

The first Buona Beef opened in Berwyn over thirty years ago. Patriarch Joe Buonavolanto Senior took a second mortgage on his home to fund it, and dug the foundation for the restaurant himself, with two of his five young sons in tow. The entire brood chipped in as the restaurant gained a steady following. The original Italian beef recipe was concocted by Joe's wife Peggy, with the help of their Uncle 'Junior', proprietor of Chicago's iconic Mr. Beef. The process is painstaking, and ardently adhered to by generation after generation of Buonavolantos.
Italian beef history

06 - Growth

The family's belief in themselves and each other paid off – over the years, the group has expanded to 24 locations, and their growth plans are aggressive. Joe Senior's five sons each worked their way up from serving customers and washing floors to running the key functions of the organization. The atmosphere in the executive office is harmonious, as love, respect, compassion, and pride are the core values that unite the brothers, and the Buona family of employees.
Italian beef history

07 - Past, Present and Future

While the menu has expanded, the original beef recipe has not been compromised, and for the three generations of Buonavolantos who are active in the company, compromise and quality are never uttered in the same breath. The family's devotion to each other, and to the family legacy, has created a powerful brand that is true to their parents' founding principles.
How It’s Made
The Prep
Lean all-natural choice sirloin seasoned with real Italian spices
The Sear
Flash baked in high heat to lock in natural flavors
The Slow Roast
Perfectly slow roasted for hours, making our famous gravy full of flavor
The Sandwich!
Italian bread, Buona’s famous Italian Beef, and Chicago-style toppings
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