Cincinnati Chili is a Greek-style meat sauce, not related to real chili at all.
It is made from hamburger and/or stewing beef, that is first cooked by boiling. The meat is drained, then added to tomato sauce, and flavoured with spices that include cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and chili powder, and simmered.
The sauce is served hot over spaghetti accompanied by Oyster Crackers.
There are a few variations, though, on how you can order it:
- The basic version is called “chili spaghetti”;
- Three-way chili: layer of grated cheese added;
- Four-way: layer of chopped onion on the cheese;
- Five way: layer of beans on top of all that.
A “Coney” sold in Cincinnati is a hot-dog made with a short wiener, mustard, Cincinnati Chili, onions, and grated Cheddar Cheese. A Hot Wiener in Rhode Island is a wiener in a hot dog roll, garnished with a similarly flavoured meat sauce.
Cincinnati Chili is not readily available outside the Cincinnati area.
It is not really served on its own, as chili is, in a bowl. It is always used as a pasta sauce.
Cincinnati Chili was invented sometime in the 1920s by a “Tom (Athanas) Kiradjieff”, who was an immigrant from either Bulgaria or Macedonia. Tom came to America with his brother, where they settled in Cincinnati.
The brothers opened a food stand selling Greek food on Vine Street next to the Empress Burlesque Theatre. Business was initially poor for them, as people were suspicious of Greek food.