Pete Nestos is a peace-loving man, but his stock-in-trade is a Bomber.
But it’s only vaguely explosive to the taste buds, though. And it’s not spicy. The concoction is delectable in contrast to what it was named for, via a big helping of Italian beef, French bread, Swiss cheese, pickle, onion and special home-made mayonnaise-based dressing. Sweet peppers and an overall soggy sandwich dipped in beef juices always are welcome additions.
The Bomber is Nestos’ best-selling sandwich at Spiro’s Deli, 1210 Waukegan Road, and is a tasty link to the 1966 origins of the shop a half-mile north at the northeast intersection of Waukegan and Lake Avenue. The Bomber and the Nestos family ownership of Spiro’s is one of the longest continuous business connections in Glenview.
Not long after Spiro Nestos, Pete’s father, started the deli in much bigger quarters with 125 seats and 4,000 square feet in 1966, military personnel and from the nearby Glenview Naval Air Station stopped off in the eatery to prime their palates.
“A squadron came in every Saturday and asked Spiro, ‘When are you going to name a sandwich after us?’ Nestos recalled one busy lunchtime as he balanced supervising his two kitchen helpers, taking phone orders, working the cash register and walking down memory lane.
With naval aviation on his mind, Spiro Nestos came up with the beef-sandwich idea via a dream, according to the story.
‘Bomber’ had some spare parts
“It was a huge hit,” Pete Nestos said. “It’s what we had in the fridge that night. My dad was always whipping up new things. Some of the greatest (food) inventions are things are you just have at the present time, and you just whip up. This is one of them. Everybody just loves it. I can’t blame him. I can’t find a better beef sandwich.”
At least in Glenview. While Italian beef emporiums or hot dog stands predominate in Chicago and some suburbs, the former home of the naval-air training base has a paucity of the pair of Midwest delicacy purveyors. That means the Bomber rules the ground locally after its namesake dominated the sky.
Spiro’s has been Pete Nestos’ passion in a lifetime spent in Glenview. Spiro and Catherine Nestos moved to town in 1962. Pete still lives around the corner from the store. Between the deli and palling around with the late Hall of Famer Ron Santo’s sons, Ron, Jr. and Jeff, at the Cubs star’s home in the Valley Lo subdivision, youthful life was good.
The elder Nestoses had their dream business, after Spiro had worked in the family grocery just northwest of downtown Chicago, while Catherine had toiled at a hair salon. Santo was its most famous regular customer, next to the National supermarket and other now long-gone businesses at Waukegan and Lake. But then the relationships with another Greek-American family who owned the shopping center changed as the older generation passed. The original Spiro’s lost its lease.
18 years at present location
And after Spiro Nestos passed away, Pete – who had worked at the Board of Trade downtown – took over the family business. He moved to the present location 18 years ago and downsized to basically a fast-food operation with a handful of tables and only a small deli counter. But it’s a living, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and he can walk to work, rain or shine.
The Bomber isn’t the only taste-bud booster at Spiro’s. Poor-boy sandwiches vie with beef for sales leadership. As Nestos talked about old times, the phone rang again. The caller had a big lunch order.
“One chef salad, no onion, with chicken,” he repeated, upping the volume so his assistants could start the preparation.
“We’re out of Polish. One burger, plain. Two Greek chicken pitas. And a cheeseburger, catsup, mustard and mayo.”
Autumn also means Nestos makes a homemade soup of the week. His Greek lemon soup, though, was featured for two weeks ongoing.
Nestos is grounded in tradition, keeping “deli” on the name even though he’s primarily a sandwich shop.
“I recently wanted to change the name to ‘Spiro’s Beef and Subs,’ because that’s basically what we are,” he said. “I think it would have attracted more business (with the name change). “
But, “absolutely, 46 years of business, it’s a long time,” and Nestos did not have the heart to throw away a family legacy with three generations of customers coming in.