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Italian bakeries and delis in Chicago area


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I read the recent post regarding the explosion of Italian restaurants ("Italian epidemic" I believe it was titled) in the city of Chicago, and found it pretty interesting. I am originally from the Northern New Jersey area (think Sopranos) where Italian restaurants and food shops are abundant, to say the least, so I guess I'm not too surprised.

I've been a proud Chicago resident for the last 4 years though, and I am curious what those who are fond of Italian flavors and foodstuffs would want, expect, and look for in an Italian-inspired specialty store and deli...possibly in the South Loop area of Chicago. I'd appreciate your honest opinions and input.

Thanks,

John Asbaty

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That's a tough question to answer and I expect you'll get a number of suggestions.

Freshly baked artisan breads are always a priority. You don't need to bake them yourselves. Get them daily from Fulton Street Baking Company and/or Red Hen Bread and you'll have happy customers.

Fresh and frozen sausages, ravioli of various types; a variety of fresh and frozen sauces (pomodoro, tomato cream, white cream, both red and white clam, etc.).

Super-fresh and very high quality produce items are tough to keep in stock, but it would separate an operation from all of the other Italian specialty stores that carry many of the high-quality but ubiquitous cheese, sausage and antipasti that most better delis carry.

You could do some research by shopping in north suburban Highwood. Visit Pastaficio -- particularly on a Saturday around noon. On Saturday you can buy some of their pre-made items from their steam table and sample their quality. Also shop Poeta's Food Market and Bacio's Deli for more ideas.

Edited by mlarue (log)
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3 things: charcuterie, charcuterie and charcuterie. :biggrin:

Seriously, beyond the cured and fresh sausages and other cured meats (prosciutto, coppa, breseola) I think breads, cheeses and wine (if applicable) are also critical.

If prepared (re-heatable) foods will also be offered, that's a real bonus as long as they're top-line incarnations. Perfunctory sauces are not usually worth the price. The same can be said for average-at-best side dishes. Arancini, when they're done well, are a great find.

House-made pastas (dry and fresh) would be great too. And salads, roasted veggies, cured olives etc. are always a treat when they are well-rendered.

Fresh produce and meats would also be a huge plus but that kind of morphs you into an entirely different category in which it may be much harder to compete.

I'd also look to Convito Italiano in Wilmette as a possible model on something like this. The place isn't exceptional but it's very good and they do offer a lot of high-quality prepared foods and good wines too.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I read the recent post regarding the explosion of Italian restaurants ("Italian epidemic" I believe it was titled) in the city of Chicago, and found it pretty interesting.  I am originally from the Northern New Jersey area (think Sopranos) where Italian restaurants and food shops are abundant, to say the least, so I guess I'm not too surprised. 

I've been a proud Chicago resident for the last 4 years though, and I am curious what those who are fond of Italian flavors and foodstuffs would want, expect, and look for in an Italian-inspired specialty store and deli...possibly in the South Loop area of Chicago.  I'd appreciate your honest opinions and input. 

Thanks,

John Asbaty

Salt-packed anchovies. They're rather difficublt to find. other than through mail order.

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I read the recent post regarding the explosion of Italian restaurants ("Italian epidemic" I believe it was titled) in the city of Chicago, and found it pretty interesting.  I am originally from the Northern New Jersey area (think Sopranos) where Italian restaurants and food shops are abundant, to say the least, so I guess I'm not too surprised. 

I've been a proud Chicago resident for the last 4 years though, and I am curious what those who are fond of Italian flavors and foodstuffs would want, expect, and look for in an Italian-inspired specialty store and deli...possibly in the South Loop area of Chicago.  I'd appreciate your honest opinions and input. 

Thanks,

John Asbaty

Salt-packed anchovies. They're rather difficublt to find. other than through mail order.

I am thinking black truffle explosions....definitely black truffle explosions...what do you think John?

Edited by chefg (log)

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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I read the recent post regarding the explosion of Italian restaurants ("Italian epidemic" I believe it was titled) in the city of Chicago, and found it pretty interesting.  I am originally from the Northern New Jersey area (think Sopranos) where Italian restaurants and food shops are abundant, to say the least, so I guess I'm not too surprised. 

I've been a proud Chicago resident for the last 4 years though, and I am curious what those who are fond of Italian flavors and foodstuffs would want, expect, and look for in an Italian-inspired specialty store and deli...possibly in the South Loop area of Chicago.  I'd appreciate your honest opinions and input. 

Thanks,

John Asbaty

Salt-packed anchovies. They're rather difficublt to find. other than through mail order.

I am thinking black truffle explosions....definitely black truffle explosions...what do you think John?

Chef,

Not a bad idea. I've already talked to Pikus about hiring him as a consultant. He hasn't told you yet??

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Speaking for my wife and myself, we believe Chicago is lacking in the area of inventive delis...and as someone who'll be moving to the South Loop (from River North) in the future, I'd love to see something in that area.

While not italian, our favorite is Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. I think there are two things that separate Zingerman's from other delis here (and elsewhere):

-amazing products from all over the world (like the anchovies mentioned), as well as great breads they bake on site;

-a large number of extremely inventive sandwiches using these interesting ingredients.

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We could use something like THIS.  Preferably within a couple of miles of the Loop.

Definitely . . . but with meat too.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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To me the best Italian deli in the city is L'Appetito.

L'Appetito - (312) 787-9881 - 30 E Huron St

L'Appetito - (312) 337-0691 - 875 N Michigan Ave

I like Alpine in the burbs

Business Name: ALPINE FOOD SHOP

Phone: 708-453-3505

Location: 7538 W North Ave

Elmwood Park, IL 60707-4141

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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  • 2 months later...

Have been making weekly trips to Harlem Ave. between Montrose and Belmont. Plenty of Italian eats and stores pack this stretch of Harlem. Our favorites so far are Palermo Bakery one block north of Belmont (east side of the street). The arinchini and sicilan style pizza are wonderful. We buy a few loaves of bread and a box of the freshest and most diverse display of Italian sweets and cookies I have seen. We then travel one block south on Harlem to visit Riveria Deli (west side of the street almost at Belmont). Wonderful salamis, homemade sausages,cheeses and subs made to order. Their marinara sauce in frozen pint and quart containers now excuses me from making my own pasta sauce. Our other favorite spot is on Grand between Milwaukee and Ogden-right along the Kennedy. D'Amato bakery on the corner has the most delicious cherry strudel-not too sweet and very good breads as well. They too sell cookies and some sweets but everyone goes there for the sicilian style pizza ready to go even in the morning. Next door is Bari-it looks like a regular storefront grocery store but go to the back and hit the deli. The sausages are homemade and the made to order subs are really good too. They have some prepared foods-the white beans with escarole is really good-even my kids eat it. (You can combine Bari/D'Amato's with a visit to Blommer Chocolate Factory store-plenty of good eats there.) All places are super friendly and cater to Italian speaking locals and regulars. Ciao!

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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Hey! You missed MY favorites, and they're right in the neighborhood. Pasta Fresh @ 3418 N. Harlem is great for arancine, lasagne (I like their vegetarian lasagna), and a gazillion kinds of ravioli. They do a pretty big volume making stuff in quantity for restaurants, but always have a selection of pasta and sauces in a case for walk-ins. They also make calzone.

Adjacent is a fine deli (Gino's, I think) that has some good buys in cheese and a huge selection of dried pasta including Italian artisanal shapes and what must be the entire De Cecco line, among others. Lots of oil, 3-year old Reggiano Parmigiano for something like $16/pound ($12 for 2 year old), and freshly made sausages, among other things. (Specialty: Barese sausage.)

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I've been going to Riviera for sausage, cheese and everything else Italian for years.  Cosa Nostra bakery used to be right around the corner but it is now closed.  Their bread was phenomenal!  Does anyone know if they are completely out of business or just relocated?

Jean

I don't know where they went, but yes, they did bake very good bread. Their correct name, by the way, was CASA Nostra. One has to do with breaking bread, the other with breaking legs.

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I definitely agree about D'Amato's bread. Great stuff.

A couple places I really enjoy:

Caputo's Market - 2560 N Harlem Ave, Elmwood Park, IL (708) 453-0155

--full service grocery with heavy Italian leanings

Bacio Deli and Market - 424 Sheridan Road, Highwood, IL (847) 432-1090

--similar to Caputo's but much smaller in scale

Serrelli's Food Service - 6454 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60707 (773) 237-7530

--fantastic hot Italian sausage and other house-made products.

I have a few more in mind for which I can't remember the exact details. I hope to be back with more info shortly.

=R=

Edited to add info about Serrelli's

Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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We went to Pasta Fresh and just had the marinara sauce. The fresh pasta looked amazing (especially after reading Heat). The deli next door was superfriendly and the cheese selection was much bigger than Bari and Riveria. We did a comparison of the Italian sausage (hot) and Riveria and Bari fared just a tad better but the place is worth a revisit. It scares me to hear of these independents (Casa Nostra) closing. The prices at these places are so reasonable too-How good is the Mr. Beef at Montrose and Harlem?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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Another place for which I now have details; frequented by several members of my extended family. I've never been here personally but I've had food from Tony's many times and it's always been excellent. They have several outstanding, house-made sausages and other great deli items.

Tony's Italian Deli & Subs

6708 N Northwest Hwy

Chicago, IL 60631

(773) 631-0055

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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L'Apetitto

30 E. Huron, Chicago

Tel: (312) 787-9881

875 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

(312)337-0691

IMO, the best italian deli supermarket in the city. Homemade sausage, mozzarella, pasta sauce, panini's, wicked sandwiches, and out of this world selection of quality salumi including Culatello.

I think the Michigan Av location may have a bigger selection. It is in the bottom level of the John Handcock Building off Michigan Av across from Cheesecake Factory.

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Okay, this isn't an Italian deli but I had to share a find with all of you. Since I couldn't meet my daughter in Cincinnati after all, I wound up doing one of my "food" days. Pasta Fresh, Riviera, Reagan's just to name a few. One of my stops was at a store that sells really beautiful tablecloths so I HAD to buy another. Across the street was a new shop. Kolatek's Bakery & Deli. It's a beautiful Polish deli, bakery, grocery shop. I even spotted a lovely ice cream freezer. Homemade soups and many things Polish to take home that I have no way of describing since I'm not an expert on that kind of food. Everything, however, looked wonderful and I will definitely be back. Too many people in line and my cooler was starting to get full. Ended with dinner at Jacky's Bistro in Evanston. Fabulous! Thanks again, Ronnie!

P.S. I forgot. Picked up some croissants and frozen fennel, raisin bread at Bennison's ( Evanston) also. The bread is unbelievably good with cheese. Off to the treadmill!!

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Went to Caputo's on Sunday. The place was packed. The fresh mozzarella that is made by them is incredible. The price on the various olive salads, fish salad and other treats was a few dollars a pound less than area stores. The pastry counter had a lot of selection but I still favor Palermo. Big selection of vinagers and oils as well as dried pasta.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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