Bari Bada Bing

Michael Nagrant / 06.01.06

This article first appeared in the Chicago Journal
prosc and mozz

Bari’s prosciuttio and mozzarella

If Tony Soprano dropped by looking for a good sandwich, I’d take him to Bari Foods.

Bari is an Italian gourmand’s dream, its narrow aisles brimming with crinkly bags of durum wheat pastas, silver tins of San Marzano tomatoes, and glass-jar kaleidoscopes of pickled peppers, capers, and carrots. If you can resist the mesmerizing golden river of olive oils and make your way to the back of the store, you’ll be rewarded with a deli case filled with ruddy salamis, fat speckled coils of Italian sausage, and ivory logs of provolone. A mini sports museum hangs over the counter, featuring jerseys of Michael Jordan, Cubs’ pitcher Mark Prior, the White Sox (yes, signed by the entire 2005 world champion team), and an inscribed photo of Blackhawks legendary goalie Tony Esposito praising Bari’s giardiniera.

At the deli, old men sporting plaid fedoras and sinewy contractors in paint spattered overalls rub elbows, jostling for position. There’s a tension when you step up to place your order, as a group of guys in white aprons slicing meats and sawing open crusty loaves of bread with machete-sized serrated knives eye you suspiciously.

The submarines are worth the glare, and at five bucks, an incredible value. If Chipotle’s burritos are as big as your head, then Bari’s subs are like Popeye’s forearm. The ratio of meat and cheese to bread is important, and the yeasty fat loaves Bari uses from D’Amatos bakery next door can withstand any amount of piled meat. You can choose from a variety of condiments, but if you like spice, take your cues from Esposito, and get a dollop of the fiery giardiniera. It’ll leave your lips and tongue zinging with fire.

My favorite sub is the Italian, a combination of pepper-flecked Mortadella, translucent provolone, Genoa salami, and a paprika-streaked Capacola ham (or “gabagool” in Tony Soprano’s Neopolitan dialect) that lends the edges of the sandwich a neon orange glow. Be careful, though—Capacola is to Tony Soprano what the Madeleine cookie was to Proust. Unlike Proust, who wrote the seven-volume novel Remembrance of Things Past more than 14 years after munching on a cookie, Soprano has panic attacks and is induced into murderous binges over spicy Italian meat. Soprano would be wise to try Bari’s Prosciuttio and Mozzarella sub instead. The salty lean prosciuttio and creamy slices of mozzarella are flecked with sweet-anise-tinged basil, and best of all, no one gets whacked.

Bari Foods is located at 1120 W. Grand Ave. Hours are 8 a.m. -6:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. -6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. Phone is 312-666-0730.