Beefalo Week

Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant is holding Beefalo Week from Tuesday, June 27 through Saturday, July 1. Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner from 5-9 p.m., the restaurant is located in the old train station at 600 E. State St. in Jacksonville. Frank and Susan Whitney own Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant, along with their sons, David and John. The restaurant serves classic Italian dishes, as well as new American dishes created by Chef Richie Frederick.

Chef Richie” said they are excited about the opportunity to showcase beefalo for the entire week. “It is good meat, not as fatty as other beef and much juicier.” Lonzerotti’s has a Beefalo Week menu planned that has options for every taste. The menu includes: Cherokee Chowder, Smoked Meatballs, Johnny Cakes, Mini Gyros, Buffadilla, Beefalo Steak Sliders, Link in the Chain and Pow Wow Pastry, all with beefalo in the ingredients.

This special week and menu showcase the beefalo product from another local business, Gross Farms. Owner William Gross says he has known Chef Richie for some time and contacted him to check if there was any level of interest in incorporating beefalo at Lonzerotti’s. “They are starting into the farm-to-table arena, so they quickly agreed. Lonzerotti’s came up with the idea of a weeklong tasting. Genius!”

In addition to being flavorful and tender, beefalo is very nutritious. See the comparison chart included in this article.

The higher protein level of beefalo, plus the fact that it is very low in cholesterol, makes it possible to satisfy protein requirements while not only eating less meat, but also simultaneously reduce saturated fat intake and gain extra calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A.

What about flavor? Vanessa Tyus, director of New Directions Heating and Cooling Center, a center which assists displaced “homeless” persons in Jacksonville with their emergency shelter-related needs says the response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Gross generously donated half an animal to the center.

We appreciate Mr. Gross for donating the much needed meat to the shelter. All we had to do was pick it up, he had it all processed for us. We were able to cook so many meals during the month,” reported Tyus.

The first thing we made were hamburgers on the grill,” Tyus remarked. “I didn’t tell anyone what the meat was until after they had eaten. I know I was even skeptical because I don’t care for wild meat, but this was wonderful and juicy! Everyone loved it.”

Many of the center’s meals are provided by outside vendors; those vendors have used the beefalo meat for spaghetti, lasagna, chili, tacos and more. “The rib-eyes and t-bones were amazing, as was everything else,” said Tyus.

We were also able to share meat with families that were leaving the shelter,” revealed Tyus. “It was tremendous for the center and its families in need, and we are hopeful that Mr. Gross will donate to us again,” expressed Tyus. “We were also able to ‘pay it forward’ and help at risk families whose Link cards were running out at the end of the month. It was truly a wonderful gift to be able to share the delicious meat with everyone.”

The Gross Farm has an amazing history that began when William G. Gross was born in 1926. As one of eight children raised on a ranch that had been homesteaded by his family in Russell, Kansas, shortly after the Civil War, he grew up knowing that his grandfather was the first acknowledged breeder in the state of Kansas to raise Aberdeen Angus on this ranch, and was also one of the founding members of what would become the American Angus Association. Having been exposed to livestock at an early age by their father, Norman, William Gross and his brothers and sisters grew up with a love for animals and a passion to care for them … so much so that five of the eight siblings became veterinarians, all graduating from Kansas State University. They include: Dr. Glen G. Gross, DVM; Dr. Dean R. Gross, DVM; Dr. Joanne G. Gross, DVM; Dr. Robert U. Gross, DVM; and Dr. William C. Gross, DVM, himself.

Dr. William C. Gross and his siblings moved to the Jacksonville area to all start businesses; the businesses have helped and supported many farmers and animal lovers in this area of the state for almost a century. “Dr. Bill,” as many referred to him, brought with him a passion for the old west. As a child he used to say, “When I grow up, I am going to write a cowboy song and make a million dollars.” While he did write many limericks, and sang many old west songs as he bounced along the country roads between veterinary calls, the fruits of his labors were realized in the care and nurturing of the many sick animals in Jacksonville and the surrounding area.

Shortly after establishing his veterinary practice in Winchester, Illinois, Dr. Bill and his brother, Glen Gross, bought a farm south of Jacksonville. Glen Gross wanted to develop it and sell plots for houses, but Dr. Bill wanted to raise livestock, which would soon include not only the original herd of Aberdeen Angus from Russell, Kansas, but also exotic animals. They came to a decision to split the farm in half so each could pursue their individual interests. Glen Gross chose the eastern half that was bordered by Massey Lane, and Dr. Bill preferred the “more secluded” western half. Dr. Bill soon began to develop his part of the farm with “double high fence” to contain his future hobby … raising buffalo, several varieties of deer and eventually, elk. This was the beginning of what would soon become a most unique training ground and diversified learning opportunity for himself and his family.

In 1958, Dr. Bill went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to the Woolaroc Ranch, which is owned by the Phillips Petroleum Company family and purchased part of their resident herd of American bison. At the time, no one had introduced bison to this part of Illinois. After a highly eventful journey back to Illinois with the feisty animals, he established his herd south of town. Not too long after, he became interested in cross-breeding the American bison with his father’s herd of Aberdeen Angus. Little did he know what would lie ahead with regards to the national promotion of “Certified Angus Beef” being the American standard against which all other beefs would eventually be graded, let alone the future benefits in flavor and health that creating “beefalo” would offer! He would be the first in Illinois to embark on such a project, and one of the first in the world.

The Gross Farm was fairly secluded in the early years, other than the occasional school field trip or private viewing to friends or acquaintances. In 2003, the property was divided by the building of the Corridor 67 highway, so what was once a private haven, is now available for public viewing. Many cars now stop or pause to take in a view of the buffalo and interesting looking Black Angus Beefalo that have inhabited the Gross Farm for decades.

We are proud of our father’s efforts and our family’s heritage in forming the ‘Black Angus Beefalo’ and have enjoyed its lean attributes and superior flavor for decades ourselves,” William Gross explains. “Now we have decided to make it available to the residents of Jacksonville and the surrounding area. We hope everyone enjoys the wonderful flavor, the juiciness and the associated health benefits that we have been blessed with for many years. Try it out during Buffalo Week at Lonzerotti’s. Bon appetite!”

William Gross sells beefalo by the package to customers and also sells quarters/halves and whole animals. Call him for pricing and information at 217-833-2802 or email at willpower62@yahoo.com. 

For reservations during Buffalo week at Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant, call 217-243-7151.

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