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Mike Ditka Da New Face of Al's Italian Beef

 The Coach, who's the new spokeman for Al's Italian Beef, said he liked his beef hot and dipped.
The Coach, who's the new spokeman for Al's Italian Beef, said he liked his beef hot and dipped.
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

DOWNTOWN — Da Coach likes his beef.

"Run it through the garden, everything, hit it hard, put the hot stuff on, I like a little giardiniera on there, I like it to pop a little bit." said Mike Ditka, who announced at a news conference Tuesday he would be joining Al's Italian Beef and Nancy's Pizza as a spokesman.

The legendary Chicago Bears coach and restaurateur helped break in the Italian beef franchise's soon-to-open location at 234 S. Wabash Ave. by busting out his best beef-eating pose.

"Come on, man," Ditka said, looking poised and ready to tackle any sandwich thrown his way.

Dave Howey, president of Chicago Franchise Systems, said Ditka will help bring Al's Italian Beef and Nancy's Pizza into new markets like Dallas, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Currently, the Chicago-based Italian beef joint has eight city locations (the new location will make nine), six in the suburbs and three on the West Coast, including California and Las Vegas.

"As we move across the country, we're educating people about Chicago food," Howey said. "We have some of the best food out there."

"Al's is good," Ditka said. "This is quality Chicago food."

The 74-year-old Ditka knows a thing or two about grub, owning his own restaurant chain Ditka's, which has locations in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Arizona. He said what he does in his restaurants is different than Al's because his restaurants are sit-down style. Ditka also partners with Vienna Beef, but because Al's Italian Beef carries Vienna Beef products, he can work with both companies.

"It's Chicago, and I'm Chicago," Ditka said. "This venue is very special."

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