Friday, January 5, 2007

Food Destinations: Bari Foods

Food Destinations is a food blogging event that occurs every few weeks. My entry for Food Destinations #4: My Favorite Gourmet Gift Shopping Spot is quite obvious to anyone who grew up with me in Chicago.

Bari Foods in Chicago, IL is the place my family has been shopping for special foodie treats for as long as I can remember. Located in "the old neighborhood", as my grandma would say, you can not beat Bari for fresh Italian meats and cheeses. Even though we live a half an hour away, my mom would drive down to get some goodies for every special occasion or party that we had when I was growing up. And she still does! We all do even though we have moved to various places. You wouldn't expect anything special when walking in the store for the first time. I think it only has three isles. But keep walking because all the magic happens in the back - at the meat counter.

They are an original butcher shop. Not like the butchers at a regular supermarket or Whole Foods. They are the real thing. And in America, this is a novelty. They have a wide varitey of fresh meats, including their own homemade sausages and meatballs. Their meat is so good that my grandmother, even though she was financially restricted because she lived off her social security checks, would treat herself to their lamb chops a few times a month. She could get lamb chops someplace else much cheaper, but that were never near the quality of Bari's lamb chops.

Our family's normal order from Bari includes a big container of their olive salad, hot pepperoni which they slice for us, soppresatta, salami and sometimes prosciutto. We spread these out in an antipasti arrangement with some additional cheese and crackers. And of course my mom buys all her parmigiano-reggiano in a chunk right off the wheel which we shred ourselves. Actually, my sister is the one who is still usually tasked with the shredding - hee hee.

In addition to their amazing meats, Bari Foods offers interesting imported Italian groceries that YOU CANNOT FIND anywhere else. They have a variety of olive oils and pastas. They sell some of their own foods like homemade marinara sauce, meatballs, and ready to go meals in the refrigerated section. For the gourmet food lover, you can find things like Cipriani's egg noodles, anchovy-stuffed olives, and all sorts of Italian and Mediterranean food items.

I didn't discover it until I was an adult, but Bari also makes and sells fresh Italian sandwiches in the back. Don't even try to go there at lunchtime without expecting to wait. You can get the obligatory Italian "sub" and hot meatball sandwiches, their own special sandwich creations or anything you want since they will custom make something for you. They offer a 9-inch and a 12-inch in version of every sandwich and the prices are much cheaper than chain sandwich shops.

Oh yeah, and next door is D'Amatos Bakery. Fresh Italian bread, pizza, cookies, canolli, tomato bread . . . You can smell the bread baking blocks away! They supply most of the Chicago restuarants with fresh bread. I have had a feast many-a-night by making a quick stop at these two shops.

Bari Foods
Neighborhood: Near West Side
1120 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 666-0730

To read about other bloggers’ favorite gourmet gift shopping spots check out mango&lime for the round-up of posts shortly after the January 6th deadline for submissions. There are usually entries from all around the world.