Some things are clearly the work of experts. Like the pyramids, or those tiny ships in glass bottles. You’re not sure exactly how they were put together, but they obviously took a lot of work. The sandwiches at Tempesta Market also fall into this category. They’re complicated, thoughtfully designed, and occasionally they seem to defy the laws of physics. But you don’t have to be an archaeologist or a grizzled sea captain with above-average fine motor skills to appreciate them. You just need to show up in West Town with an appetite.
Like most impressive structures, the sandwiches here are made with quality materials. The meats are cured in-house, the toppings are made from scratch, and the bread comes from great local bakeries. There are only about seven sandwiches on the menu (along with a few rotating specials), and each of them has a lot going on. The Dante involves basically an entire deli counter’s worth of different meats, and it’s one of the best Italian sandwiches we’ve ever had. Another one of our favorites is the vegetarian Beet Streets, with thinly sliced marinated beets, almond butter, apple, and pickled onions on toasted rye. It’s sweet and savory and just kind-of-healthy enough, and because everything is assembled so perfectly, nothing goes sliding out of the bread while you’re trying to eat.
All that being said, Tempesta isn’t just a sandwich shop any more than the pyramids are just some buildings in the middle of the desert. It’s also a deli and market, with picnic-friendly things ranging from cheese and charcuterie to potato and pasta salads. It’s a perfect stop for takeout, but it’s also comfortable to hang out in, with large wooden tables and a small outdoor patio. And while the sandwiches are pricey (they start at $10 and can go up to around $15), the portions are generous, and the high-quality ingredients and overall deliciousness make them worth the price.
Generally speaking, sandwiches are pretty simple things to make at home. But Tempesta Market’s are on a level of their own - you could assemble an entire Thanksgiving dinner with the amount of energy it would take to recreate one of these things in your own kitchen. Luckily, there’s no need. All you have to worry about is getting here and letting the experts do their thing.
The people behind Tempesta also own a meat company that makes ’nduja. So the spicy pork spread appears in much of the food here, and on the Dante sandwich, you’ll find it in the aioli. It adds another layer of spicy meat flavor to a sandwich that already has soppressata, mortadella, porchetta, coppa, and finocchiona - plus provolone, lettuce, tomato, and giardiniera, all on a baguette. This is one of the best Italian sandwiches in Chicago.
The Southside Johnny
The last time we ate a sandwich and said, “You know what this needs? Broccolini” was never, but we can’t imagine this sandwich without it. It also has porchetta, brun-uusto cheese, pickled fennel, and a rosemary broth on the side for dipping. And it’s fantastic.
The vegetarian sandwich here is light and fresh. It’s made with thinly sliced marinated beets, apple straws, almond butter, sprouts, and pickled onion on toasted rye. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and savory, and because of how it’s built, nothing slides around. Even if you love meat, you need to try this.
D.D. Brindisi’s Grand Pastrami
This is the simplest sandwich here, but the tender wagyu pastrami makes it stand out. It’s on toasted rye with Swiss cheese and bread and butter pickles.
Let’s be honest, turkey sandwiches are usually pretty boring. Tempesta’s isn’t, because of pickled fresno chiles and a sofrito aioli. It also has avocado, sprouts, aged cheddar, and a perfectly soft sourdough.
Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich
There are always a few specials to look out for, and if you’re lucky, one might be the Nashville Hot Chicken. It’s a juicy fried chicken thigh on a brioche bun with pickles and enough hot sauce to get all over your face while you eat it. It’s worth the mess.
One of our favorite non-sandwich things here - the ’nduja adds a nice level of spice. Get these if you’re eating in (they’re best when they’re still hot).
The Beatrice Salad
Like the sandwiches, the salads here are complicated, and seem like the product of someone running through the farmers’ market on speed. But they also really work. This one has summer squash, whipped feta, avocado, corn, sprouts, wheat berries, red gem lettuce, shabazi spice, and croutons. It’s a farmers’ market trip we want to go on.