Our much-anticipated and extensive review of Eataly is forthcoming (we’ll do it after we get at least two visits under our belts). But with Eataly and its associated madness and euphoria now in Chicago, it may be time to remind everyone that our fair city (and the surrounding region) has many, many other places to stock up on domestic and imported Italian cheeses, meats, and other products. But along with them, these stores are local, family-owned, and well-established in the area: aspects that should be appealing to those who object to Eataly on mass-consumerist and New York-transplant grounds.
The west loop, especially west of the Kennedy, is home to some of the city’s oldest Italian groceries. J.P. Graziano Grocery & Company (901 W Randolph), founded in 1937, is a staple grocery in the area, as well as a purveyor of spot-on Italian sandwiches that Yelpers rave about. One of our favorite Chicago food podcasts, Sky Full of Bacon, paid a visit to J.P. Graziano and its fourth-generation owner, Jim Graziano, as he talked about the store, its history, and of course cheese as he lovingly sliced into an unopened wheel of parmigiano-reggiano. Check out their film on vimeo about the experience.
On the north side, we recently discovered Piatto Pronto (5624 N Clark), a full service Italian deli and food purveyor whose wide assortment of Italian products is jam-packed into their small storefront. Close to our home base, we were thrilled to find high-quality prosciutto di parma, mozzarella di bufala, and a wide selection of panettone just in time for the holidays. It’s now become our go-to prosciutto and cheese shop in the city, both for its location and the high quality of its offerings.
Finally, we are going to recommend all Chicagoans who will spend the time to go downtown to Eataly and wait in line to spend the same amount of time, or even less, to head up I-94 over the Wisconsin border to Tenuta’s Italian Grocery and Delicatessen (3203 52nd Street, Kenosha, WI). Founded in 1950, Tenuta’s easily outshines the offering and variety of any other Italian store in Chicago. We regularly make trips to Kenosha to stock up – seemingly endless aisles of domestic and imported cheeses, meats, pastas, olive oils, spirits, and other goodies leave Tenuta’s unparalleled, and make it easily worth the trip. Our standard purchase includes spicy prosciutto di parma, some samples from their Italian olive selection, parmesan and mozarella cheeses, our favorite Sicilian olive oil, and interesting pasta varieties you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. To top it all off, have a house-made panini while you wait.