The One Chicago Food Jeff Mauro Thinks Beats Deep-Dish And Hot Dogs - Exclusive

Jeff Mauro's been not-so-secretly waging a campaign to beat deep-dish and hot dogs for years now. It's not that the Chicago chef doesn't like a good pie. The Sandwich King has been known to stuff his chicken with pizza on "The Kitchen" (via YouTube). And hot dogs — Mauro also grew up eating Johnny's Red Hots on North Avenue, which we're told is authentic Chicago. He tops his Chicago-style hot dogs with yellow mustard, white onion, pickled hot peppers, and celery-salted fries, as he shared on Food Network. Mauro, by the way, is with Alex Guarnaschelli:  Hot dogs are sandwiches. Don't shoot the messenger (via Cheddar News).

To reiterate: Mauro's not anti-establishment. He's no James Dean of Chicago cuisine. No, Jeff Mauro is an admirer of pizza and hot dogs. But there is one Chicago food that tugs at the "Kitchen Crash" host's heartstrings like no other. "I have several pages dedicated to it [in my cookbook]," Mauro gushed to Mashed during an exclusive interview. His cupboards and his fridge are stocked with it. He even sells shirts on Mauro Provisions that are $30.00 lessons in how to pronounce its name.

Jeff Mauro thinks this food is Chicago's 'greatest gift'

What is giardiniera? Chicago Tribune calls it Chicago's fiery substitute for ketchup. Basically summarizes it as a pickled vegetable garnish. Twitter says that where you see chopped garlic in a recipe, you should use giardiniera instead.

Jeff Mauro, on the other hand, told Mashed, "I think it's our greatest gift — even beyond the hot dogs, and the deep dish, and the Tavern style, thin-crust, great sausage culture, and all this stuff." To be clear: Mauro's not talking about the mass-produced bottles of giardiniera that you can buy nationwide. He's talking about the "true fermented, pickled, oil packed Chicago-style giardiniera." As the Chicago chef explained to Mashed: "It's the greatest thing. You'll never not eat it every day. I mean, we eat it every day."

Mauro's such a devotee that he's developed his own giardiniera, which he swore to Mashed that he eats himself. As per Mauro, it's got "five different kinds of peppers. It's the greatest stuff on the planet, I think." He'll eat it with anything. For example, eggs and avocado toast (via Instagram). But also, Fourth of July sausages. Listening to Mauro talk about giardiniera on Fourth of July sausages is like drinking in poetry. "It's easy to do," he said. "But to me, it's something you could pick at, too, the rest of the night. Right? As the night winds down, you sit there, you go back and you make another sandwich. You put the giardiniera on it, and the oil, the peppers, everything." Then, you watch the fireworks.

To hear more from Jeff Mauro, new episodes of "Kitchen Crash" air Wednesdays on Food Network.