-Chicago's Italian Grocers
Happy St. Joseph Day 2012 Chicago. I saved today's destination for this date since it's a real gem of an old school Italian treat that Chicago is lucky to have. Dare I say my beloved city has fallen off when it comes to gems like these. We need more places like Italian Superior Bakery. ISB no doubt gets love and has a loyal following of customers, especially those over at LTH who opened my eyes to it. However more people need to know about this special place. It should have lines like Bari most days, especially Friday's (read on). So if you haven't been let me show you why you need to head on over ASAP. For those that have been, tell me I'm wrong...sounds of crickets.
A Chicago gem on Western ave just off "the West side" of Taylor Street
Back in the day this place used to be run by the Masi family who supplied the neighborhood with fresh baked breads and other goodies like pizza bread, a unique type of pizza pie found in Italian bakeries. The longtime bakery almost came to an end back in 2006 when the Masi brothers wanted to retire. That's where the Saccamenos, sons Angelo Jr and Jake along with their parents, Angelo Sr and Pam come into play. They were genuinely interested in learning the cooking techniques of the specialties at this neighborhood gem and did just that. The brothers taught the family everything they needed to know about the longtime menu items and they've slowly been adding on as the days go by since they first officially took over in 2008.
Since the Taylor Street area has shifted over from being mostly Italian to a wide range of ethnic diversity the Saccamenos decided to put some extra care into it and build a dining room next door as well as add a lunch menu which patrons can order from while dining inside. The menu isn't big and it shouldn't be since they bake bread here and also happen to serve lunch. So they put their expertly baked bread to good use and offer an Italian style muffaletta which is available everyday and an excellent overall sandwich.
ISB's Italian Muffuletta Sandwich
If your thinking this might be similar to Central Market in New Orleans stop right there. This is a little different and having had both I can honestly say I enjoy this version much more. The bread is the star, this is a bakery, and the round loaves with fennel seeds on top compliment the whole damn sandwich which also has high quality Italian deli meats including prosciutto, capicola, soppressata and provolone topped with housemade muffaletta salad. Excellent stuff indeed.
As mentioned before they also sell pizza bread or sheet pizza as some call it. Again I cant stress it enough, this is a bakery first that sells food second. But that doesn't mean the food is 2nd rate, not at all and the pizza here is also fantastic, different but fantastic. The bread in 'pizza bread' is the star and of course it's amazing here.
Sausage Pizza bread
They take that fresh baked bread to another level by adding on high quality toppings and just the right amount of real cheese. If you have no love for cold pizza or pizza at room temp then you might not like ISB's. It's intended to be served at room temp and best eaten that way. I recommend the sausage or giardiniera slices. Keep this place in mind when you need something to serve a group full of people as they are available by the slice or pan. Just like my love for tavern style thin is, this is further proof it's not all about deep dish pizza in Chicago. It's not even about that with most us locals.
Hot Giardiniera Pizza Bread, I love my city and ISB too...
Also available along with a small but very nice selection of imported Italian groceries are some sides which can be eaten there or taken home. The selection can vary but some of the staples are their bean salad and tuna salad too along with cold pasta. With this recent heat swing and early start to spring now is a great time to recommend their cold pasta which is just that. So simple yet so refreshingly good and this even fills you up unlike a salad.
Another addition the Saccamenos added on when they over ISB was the 'Friday Lunch Special' which is available once a week and will make your Friday an even better than it already is just because it is Friday. They offer sandwiches and if you like them on Facebook you can see what they plan to serve a couple days ahead of time. Whenever I can, I make ISB my Friday lunch stop and I don't even have to check FB to see what they're serving. It's a guarantee it'll be good. Take for example their breaded steak sandwich special.
Chicago style breaded steak sandwich
I wasn't sure what to expect the day I saw this on the special board but I knew they wouldn't let me down. This was what all breaded steaks should be like. Instead of being drowned in marinara this is much classier. Cubed steak is breaded with made in house Italian bread crumbs and fried. That goes on some fresh baked house bread and then they add on some tomatoes soaked in a vinegar dressing and of course hot peppers aka giardiniera.
Also great are the tuna salad sub which the man who put me on this place claims "the best tuna fish sandwich from a restaurant I've had in Chicago" and the Friday lenten special potato pepper and egg sandwich. Pictures from LTHforum.
However as good as all these are and as good as the new creations will be I cant get enough of their prime rib sandwich. They take freshly shaved prime rib meat and add that into a perfect baked bun for this job which comes dipped in gravy and served with a side of horseradish cream. It's a little different from an Italian beef but not by much. The prime rib is so tender and so full of flavor pairing it with their bread makes this sandwich one of the ten best in Chicagoland. Period. Come to think of it, Italian Superior bakery is one of the best 'Chicago Style' spots out there. Period. We as a city are lucky to have it. I suggest you add them to your regular rotation.
Prime Rib Sandwich from Italian Superior Bakery
Italian Superior Bakery
933 South Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60612