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Friday, November 2, 2012

Graziano Brothers: 100 years, 100 flavors, 100 things to try.

Graziano Brothers, a south-side Italian grocery celebrating 100 years of business this past April, is well known around the city for their fresh ground pork sausages, with andouille, garlic, sweet, and their most well-known and popular: medium hot.

Graziano's sausages have been available in a number of Metro chain-grocery meat departments for quite some time, but how many people have ever visited their small Italian grocery on the corner of Jackson and South Union?

Several decades ago I shopped at a mom-and-pop Italian grocery on E. Fifth called Italian Importing where City Bakery now resides. After they closed I gravitated to Graziano Brothers. When I moved downtown seven years ago I started frequenting Graziano's more often, and have come to depend on them for a number of staples including deli meats and cheeses, roasted red bell peppers, olive oil, meatballs, breads, lasagna sheets, and San Pellegrino sparkling water, just to name a few.

Graziano's offers one of the best selection of spices in the Metro, sold in bags of varying sizes, and a darn sight more affordable than what's sold at either the chain or hip-and-trendy spice shops in more affluent environs. And it should go without saying that Graziano's also sells a wide variety of pastas, tomato products, and tasty Italian sweets.

When the weather is pleasant and free time plentiful, I've enjoyed simple lunches from the various items one can buy there. On one occasion when I piled up eats for a meat and cheese tray I was particularly smitten with the hot salami. A little more chewier than pepperoni I suggest ordering it sliced thin. Pretty good in a sandwich or on its own, I would snip it up further for a zesty pizza topping.

Graziano's is also known for their spiced green olives. I can eat a bowlful. I'm also fond of their oil-cured black olives, but they're a little hardcore for most palates. I like to use them as vegetarian alternative to anchovies.

On a recent visit I picked up a trio of items for lunch al fresco: spiced olives, thick-cut link pepperoni, and Il Tarallo, a cracker-crisp breadstick. Briefly boiled before baking gives these savory breaksticks a unique texture that's hard to describe but a joy to nosh on.

I highly recommend a visit to Graziano Brothers. You never know what you may find, that like I, you cannot imagine being without.

Clockwise from top left: Pepperoni, hot salami, garlic salami, smoky cheddar; Spiced green olives; Link pepperoni; Il Tarallo.

Graziano Bros. Italian Foods on Urbanspoon

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