Buongiorno TSPeeps! Today, I want to tell you all about my unconditional love for Italian delis. You see, ever since I can remember, I have been going to them. The Knife, aka our dad, would take me to Freddy’s in Cicero on Saturdays and I would wander around the little shop obsessing over all the Italian treats that I would never see at our local Jewel. Dad would go straight to the counter and point to the prosciutto, cheeses, fried artichoke hearts, and their breaded pork. Oh! And their pepperoni bread… You don’t even know how good their pepperoni bread is. I knew we would be eating real, real good for at least a whole day. We would definitely buy enough food for two days, but those deli delights didn’t stand a chance in our home. The items would be laid out on the counter for the duration of the day and, come evening, they were crumbs. It is one of my biggest joys in life to explore Italian delis. It brings me back to my times spent in Italy and as a little kid going to Freddy’s with my dad. Now listen, my dad doesn’t need to bribe me with cured meats and Italian cheeses to visit. But, it just so happens that he knows my adoration for these things and he loves me very much so that, more often than not, when I visit, there is an Italian deli spread…and, these days, it’s usually from Eataly. In the form of Italian deli treats, I’m extremely spoiled. I’ll be the first to admit that. The other day, I was visiting The Knife and he just so happened to have some of Eataly’s finest soppressata laid out on the kitchen counter. It was, hands down, some of the best I’ve ever had. At a certain point I knew I had to stop myself, so I said we should wrap it back up in it’s deli paper and get it out of my sight. Ummmm, as I went to wrap it up, I realized I ate the entire damn package. All of it. Every last piece. I couldn’t be stopped even when I whole-heartedly attempted to put an end to the consumption. I’ll be honest though, I didn’t feel too bad about it. I mean, I felt bad for my dad that I ate it all, but vanity-wise, I didn’t beat myself up for eating like 750 calories worth of soppressata. Why? Because it was that good, people. Knowing some of these details about me now, you may understand why I like to think of myself a bit of an Italian deli-shopping expert and, apparently, eater. If you have never been in a deli from the motherland, it can be a bit overwhelming. No doubt. But fear not, I am here to help guide you. You want to start out with the basics, the Italian deli staples if you will. Add these to your shopping list and you will be well on your way to becoming an expert yourself!
Prosciutto. I do not eat any meat, except for Italian cured meats, so, technically, I am not a vegetarian, I am a self-proclaimed “Prosciuteterian”. Prosciutto is one of the best food items ever to grace a kitchen counter. Whether you eat it straight out of the package, or as a sandwich with mozzarella, tomato, olive oil and arugula, prosciutto is a delicacy in my book. But listen up, not all prosciutto is equal! You must get either Prosciutto di Parma or San Danielle. That’s your first tip. Your second, and just as important tip, is that it must be sliced super, super thin. Like “see-thru” thin. There is nothing more disappointing than thick-cut prosciutto. Nope. For more on this topic, here is Prosciutto In The City.
Chocolate Chip Panettone. I am in love with this Italian “cake”. It’s somewhat of a holiday item, but I am seeing it more on the regular than ever before. Here’s a little secret: About a three months ago, I bought a panettone and put it to the side for a special occasion. One day, I was in need of chocolate in a bad way so I decided to pop it open and grab a chunk off the top. It was pure desperation. For the following two weeks, I had in hidden like a total creep behind some decor on our bar and would go in on it on the daily. I literally hid it from my husband and my cat. Point being, that’s how good this treat is. Tip: cut that funny looking cake up and make bread pudding or french toast with it. Yup!
San Pellegrino Sparkling Water. There is no better way to quench your thirst than with a bottle of San Pellegrino. Have them on reserve in the fridge and, come a hot summer day, you’ll be thankful you saw this post.
San Pellegrino Flavored Drink. Ah, yes! San Pellegrino’s sexy sister. I love me an aranciata rossa and I love it even more when accompanied by a prosciutto sub. I literally just thought of this idea…why not spice it up with some vodka for the perfect summer cocktail. Oh shit.
Casteveltrano Olives. These are and will be the best olives you will ever eat. They make for the perfect accompaniment to any charcueterie platter, or can be eaten alone as a snack. They have the two “t’s”, texture and taste. One of my favorite places to pick up some of these green goddesses is at Chicago’s very own J.P. Graziano on Randolph St. in the West Loop. And, while you’re at it, grab their prosciutto sub. The truffle mustard they slap on it is unreal. Ok, now once you have your olives, go ahead and gobble some up, but save some to marinate. Here’s the recipe.
Stella D’Oro S Cookies. This is my favorite semi-sweet, somewhat bland cookie. It’s the perfect vessel to soak up my morning espresso so I can basically eat my caffeine. I would think the legendary “S” cookie would be a fan favorite among the kids too. Every time I think of S Cookies, I think of Sebastian Maniscalco and his “having company” bit. From the suburbs of Chicago, Sebastian perfectly explains what growing up as an Italian-American is really like. I laugh/cry every single time we see him live. You need to watch this.
Mozzarella Knots. If heaven is real and it makes homemade mozzarella, this is it. You guys. This is, no joke, one of my all-time favorite things to eat. My husband’s family introduced me to mozzarella knots and, for me, that’s what really sealed the deal with my husband for me. I like a family that knows good cheese. The only downside is that they are not easy to come by, as not every deli chooses to makes these heavenly cheese pillows. Our go-to spot here in the city is Conte di Savaio on Taylor Street in Little Italy, but they only make them on the weekend. TSP tip: pop it in the microwave for 8 seconds then add a pinch of salt. You are so welcome.
Chocolate Pizelles. This is another yummy semi-sweet, sort of bland treat. The chocolate is more of a cocoa and the semi-crunchy, somewhat-chewy texture is what makes my heart swoon. Plus, I don’t feel too guilty while I’m devouring these.
Nutella. DUH. I am a firm believer that every household should have a jar of Nutella in the pantry in the event of an emergency. There is so much that can be done with this hazelnut chocolate spread. Including, but not limited to: Nutella toast, hot chocolate, on a croissant, straight off the spoon, frosting, cake, cupcakes, on pancakes, straight off the finger…the list can go on and on. Might as well get a jar the next time you’re at the store and see for yourself. Just look how much Nicole loves Nutella!
San Marzano Tomatoes. In my opinion and after eating copious amounts of pasta and true Italian wood fire pizza from the motherland and here in the states, these are the only tomatoes that should be used to make such things. Even when you go to certain restaurants, they will specify “made with San Marzano tomatoes”, showing that they know their shit. There is absolutely no comparison between a regular tomato and a San Marzano tomato. Their flavor is so unique that you literally feel as if you are in Italy enjoying a sauce, whether it be on a pizza or over some pasta. When it comes to making your own gravy, it makes a world of a difference to use San Marzanos. Here is a delicious recipe by Michelle using the one and only, San Marzano.
Tuna In A Jar. Tuna, in a jar with olive oil, is the best packaged tuna one can get their hands on. First of all, I like that you can see what’s inside. Second of all, what’s inside has a million percent more flavor than any tuna in a can soaking in water. Gross. Get some tuna in a jar, a hunk of Parmesan cheese and some Campari or farmer’s market tomato and you have yourself a freaking delicious meal you will eat on the regular.
Aperol. Italy’s famous aperitif! There is one thing and one thing only you need this beautiful, orange bottle for. Behold!!!! The Aperol Spritz!!!! Go here for your new summer beverage. Enjoy!
Lupini Beans. I didn’t always love these funky little beans, but as I got older I became not so weirded out by their waxy exterior and super saltiness. As a matter of fact, now I crave lupini beans. They’re an easy snack on the go but also can go well with an anitpasto platter. Heads up, peel off the outer wax first, then go for the bean on the inside.
Giardiniera. A Chicago staple! I love nothing more than some chopped up pepps and veggies soaking in a spicy oil. This concoction goes amazingly well on almost anything from sausage and peppers to pasta and sandwiches. You have options too. Mild or hot, as well as an option for relish giardiniera, which is my personal favorite. Every household should have a jar in the fridge, especially if they have a friend like me stopping by for dinner.
Now listen, I am all ears. What should I be adding to my Italian deli shopping list??? I must know any other must-haves!
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