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Italian Markets (incl. update on acini di pepe crisis)


Restaurants & Bars

Italian Markets (incl. update on acini di pepe crisis)

Antonius | Feb 25, 2004 07:51 PM

This past Sunday, driven by a need to find top quality acini di pepe (cf. thread earlier this month), the better-half and I betook ourselves to the Harlem/Belmont area to visit a couple of the shops there.

Our first visit to Riviera (3220 N. Harlem, just north of Belmont on west side of the street) was a real treat. The shop was moderately busy and, aside from my wife, everyone present spoke Italian, which was for me a considerable treat. It's an immaculately clean and orderly shop and their selection of all basic Italian foodstuffs was very good. I was especially pleased with two items gotten from the deli counter: the soprassata (mild) was the best I've gotten in Chicago and the mild sausage (with fennel) was first rate, with the spicing properly balanced and subtle. By the way, the Italian community in Chicago is especially dominated by Pugliesi (esp. Baresi, it seems) and, at the older stratum, Sicilians. This shop is run by a very friendly family from Calabria, amusingly enough bearing the name 'Pugliese'.

We also stopped by Caputo's huge italian grocery, further down Harlem (ca. 2700?)... An impressive array of all manner of groceries... especially swell were the things on sale: San Marzano tomatoes (big cans) for $0.88, Divella pasta for $0.99... In the produce section, we got some broccoli rabe to go with our sausage from Riviera that was absoltely fresh, also a nice bunch of basil (a welcome break from the little plastic boxes of basil)...

For me, those shops are rather far away from my home in the South Loop. Two first rate shops closer to downtown Chicago are Conte di Savoia on Taylor Street and Bari (which has a butcher shop and is located next to the excellent bakery, D'Amato's) on Grand, just east of Racine. I've been a long-standing customer of both and, while I will also make the trek out to Riviera and Caputo's from time to time, I shall also happily continue to frequent the more conveniently located old stand-by's (each of which have their own special attractions).

P.S. The odd shortage of acini di pepe is all too real but luckily I was able to find the DeCecco a-d-p at Riviera and the Divella version at Caputo's -- but note, each store had this shape only in that one brand.

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