Tis the season for al fresco dining, BBQ, grilling and picnics…and Hungry Hungry Hinden loves a nice picnic with his gal. We decided to be tourists for an afternoon and instead of taking our picnic to a park we went to Navy Pier. Granted it may not be as “romantic” as a nice grassy field, but it’s definitely more exciting and you kinda feel like you’re on vacation yourself since you’re surrounded by nothing but tourists.
Turned out to be a perfect day for a ‘nic.We have our go-to spots when it comes to a picnic as well as regular dining. Bari Italian Grocer (1120 W. Grand Ave.) and D’Amato’s Bakery (1124 W. Grand Ave.) do what they do better than anyone else in the city. Since they’re neighbors “the move” is to share a couple sandwiches from Bari (to-go only) and then swing by D’Amato’s next door for a slice or two of their unique and irresistible Focaccia style pan pizza. Yes.
Their pizza is an Italian cousin to Pequod’s (earlier post) due to the slightly caramelized crust. It’s different though. Much much lighter than P’s, their Focaccia style crust is a nice twist on typical pan pizza. You can usually get away with splitting a slice as they’re fairly large. Great quality pepperoni or sausage come atop the slice and they’ll happily warm it up for you as well. I CANNOT go to Bari without hitting up D’Amato. Don’t pass up on their other baked goods too. Fantastic bread and sweets made daily.
Their cannoli, as you’ll soon see, are also some of the best I’ve come upon in the area. You can get them regular or chocolate dipped; for about a quarter more total, why not get chocolate dipped…right? Exactly. We purchased a slice of pepperoni and ate it in the car on the way to our picnic…it didn’t stand a chance. The cannoli, however, which we opted to grab for dessert we forcefully put away for the proper time.
For years myself and many many others agree that Bari houses the city’s finest cold Italian (and possibly non-Italian) subs in the city. Let me clarify. I cannot say who has the best “sandwich” in town because there are way too many different genres of sandwich: hot sub, cold sub, deli sandwich, ethnic sandwich – there are too many.
Bari starts their sandies out with the perfect style of bread for this application. Crispy on the outside and super soft inside. The bread holds together well and provides that perfect crispy crunch in each bite while giving way to a soft center housing the fresh ingredients.
Of course, the quality of their ingredients is undoubtedly some of the most premium you’ll find around town but that’s not all that makes their sandwiches stand out. The care and attention to detail while assembling the dish is the separating factor. The perfect ratio of ingredients and layering of toppings is achieved after decades of service to Chicago land.
The Italian is a must – Mortadella – a finely ground mixture of heat-cured pork sausage that incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat – often from the neck of the animal. Mortadella is a staple in Bologna, Italy. Next, Genoa Salami – the original Genoese sausage is the salame genovese di Sant d’Olcese, which originates in the hilly interior of its province where pigs could be easily maintained on acorns, chestnuts, and hazelnuts of the local Mediterranean woodlands. Genoa is the American version of the original cured meat. Last, we see beautifully sliced Capicola – a thinly sliced Italian ham usually from the pork shoulder, dry cured.
They finish the delicacy with sharp provolone cheese , their house secret Italian seasoning and your choice of mild or hot giardinira – I often opt to mix the two “creating” a medium spice.
The second sandwich we ordered was the Caprese, add prosciutto. Fresh soft mozzarella, hand picked basil leaves, creamy, unctuous prosciutto, combined with tomato slices just the right thickness and, of course, Bari’s seasoning blend are brought together to create what I believe is their second best sandwich. Again, the proportions of ingredients combined with smart layering and fresh product is the key here. The texture of the prosciutto combined with the mozzarella is chewy and totally unique to this particular sandwich.
All of this combined with the love of sandwich making – it is an art – brings forth a killer cold sub of fantastic layered rich flavors, mixed textures, spice and seasoning. Plus, it’s somehow light enough that you don’t feel as though you just consumed a foot long submarine. No need to speak anymore. Just go there and get them yourself.
Leave the gun, take the cannolis. One of the most famous lines in cinema history is just that because of how true the statement really is. There aren’t many better ways to finish a meal, especially one on the go, than with a fresh made cannoli. The trick to the best canol is to not make it too sweet. There should be some nice savory qualities of the ricotta. Whether dipped in chocolate or no, Bari’s are top notch. Why not, you’re already there – get one.
Go to Bari and get a sandwich this week. I swear, it will be one of the best you’ve had. Parking is a pain. Sometimes you can double park on the side street, but use caution. There are lines during peak hours so, as I often do, go after lunch for the quickest service. They proudly sell for home cooking some of the finest house made sausages available. Their meat selection isn’t shabby either…Wow, all this talk of sandwiches had made me hungry. Time for lunch…